The Sky Is Solid
Once there was a child named Donovan Baylor, and Donovan was the most handsome child in all the world, and his mother would sit him in her lap on the rocking chair and tell him that he was destined for great things. She said that he could do anything he wanted and to never listen to anybody who says, “You can’t.”
And as Donovan grew up, those around him discovered that he was not only the most handsome child, but also the smartest and hardest working. He would stay up late studying for school, never once slacking, and he always got the best grades. And he never listened to those kids who called him a teacher’s pet or try-hard, or anyone who told him, “You can’t.”
And when Donovan grew up, he became a businessman like his father, and he found that he was not only the most handsome, smartest, and hardest working man in all the world, but that he also had a mind for business. He could see opportunity where others could see only failure, and he would stay up night after night planning for his next business venture. He never had time for a family (for that would only limit him), and those around him wondered if he ever slept. And still, he would never listen to anyone who discouraged him or tried to put limits on him, and especially not to anyone who told him, “You can’t.” And whenever anyone would tell him, “The sky is the limit,” he would only smile and say, “Not for me.”
And soon, Donovan was the richest man in the whole world, and his empire stretched from one horizon to the other. He had everything he could possibly want, and he lavished money on the poor, donating millions for people to get an education so that they too could be without limits.
Yet for all this success, Donovan still wasn’t satisfied. There was something more calling him. He could feel it. All his life, he knew he had to justify his existence, to prove he was worthwhile, that he could do anything. And he’d done more than anyone had ever dreamed, but it still wasn’t enough.
Then an idea came to him. A crazy, impossible idea. Just the kind of crazy and impossible idea that Donovan Baylor thought would work.
He put together a presentation and called together his investors, his board, key political figures—anyone he might need—and he explained his plan.
“As you all know, my empire has expanded from one end of the Earth to the other, and there’s no market in the world I’ve not conquered. But there’s still more I can do. Higher heights I can reach.” He motioned to the screen behind his podium where an image appeared, blueprints for a tower, impossibly tall, breaking through the sky into Heaven itself.
“Gentlemen, I propose that we build a tower, miles high, all the way to Heaven, where we can open trade negotiations with the angels and grow our business to fill the whole of creation.” Donovan was smiling, but to his surprise, the audience laughed. For all the learned people of the world knew (as had been proven) that the world is flat and the sky is solid, an impassible barrier that no one could ever cross to get to Heaven. And one by one, the investors shook their heads and left until Donovan was alone in the room with one other man, who Donovan didn’t remember inviting.
But still, Donovan wasn’t deterred. He knew better than to listen to their objections, to anyone who believed in limitations or barriers, and especially anyone who says, “You can’t.”
“It won’t work, you know,” said the other man in the room.
“I suppose you’re going to tell me Heaven is unreachable, too?” Donovan asked.
“Oh, it’s not unreachable, but the way to Heaven isn’t through a tower.”
“I’ll carry you. I’ve been there, and I can take you there. You’ll never make it on your own.”
Donovan laughed. “You’re just another naysayer. Another person saying, ‘You can’t.’”
“I say neither, ‘You can’ nor ‘You can’t.’ I simply say, ‘I can.’”
Donovan shook his head. “You’re crazy. And even if you were telling the truth, I wouldn’t want any part of it. I’ve worked for everything I have, and I never take handouts.”
The man looked disappointed, but left anyway.
The next day, Donovan began gathering materials for his tower. No investor believed in him, so he had to finance it from his own fortune, and he soon found himself enjoying the challenge of having to stretch his money and do what others thought impossible. For he was the most handsome, smartest, and hardest working man in the whole world, and he knew better than to doubt it.
He began construction on the tower, and soon it was the tallest building in the world. He labored on it for years, hardly thinking about anything else, but devoting every resource in his arsenal to his tower until he felt like he could touch the sky. And very soon he did, for after another year the tower reached the sky-vale, the firmament in which the stars hang fixed. It felt like stone, coarse rock.
So they’d been right, those who had told him the sky was solid, but Donovan wasn’t deterred. He could do anything, and he knew better than to listen to anyone who said, “You can’t.” So Donovan assigned drillers to drill through the sky so that he could continue building his tower. Yet the sky-vale was tougher than he anticipated, and his strongest drills snapped, and his hammers shattered without ever cracking the rock.
Yet Donovan was undeterred. He instructed his engineers to build stronger drills and uncrackable hammers, and he assigned workers to labor, day and night, hoping to break through. But even then, only the smallest pebbles (more powder than rock) came loose from the sky.
But Donovan kept working. It’s only a matter of time, he told himself. I’m the most handsome, smartest, and hardest working man in all the world. Nothing can limit me. Yet he soon found that the sky didn’t care how handsome he was, nor how smart, nor how hard-working. It didn’t matter how sharp of tools he constructed nor how many engineers he hired. The sky was too strong, and nothing could break through.
Decades passed, and as an old man, Donovan found his youthful optimism fading. Where it felt before like he could never fail, now it felt like he couldn’t succeed. Where before he’d ignored anyone who said, “You can’t,” now the constant drilling and hammering on the sky above was like a chorus of “You can’t, you can’t, you can’t.”
In all these years, the workers had only made a dent, hardly a foot, and Donovan knew that if the sky was thick, he wouldn’t live long enough to see his project complete.
And he found himself (though he could hardly say why) thinking of that man he’d seen so long ago in his conference room. The man who’d told him that he came from Heaven and could take Donovan there. It still seemed crazy, but one day Donovan sought him out.
He was sitting on a mountainside with a group of his followers, and Donovan approached him, nervously. Donovan didn’t expect the man to recognize him, but he did instantly, and sent away his followers so that he and Donovan could be alone.
“You said you knew the way to Heaven,” Donovan said.
“No, I said I am the way to Heaven.”
He stared for a moment, then said, “Please take me.”
The man motioned for Donovan to follow, and he led him to the Tower, then said, “Send your workers out. All of them. Even those drilling on the top.”
“But the drilling hasn’t stopped for 40 years,” Donovan said. But the man just stared, and Donovan relented. He grabbed his phone and gave the orders for the tower to be emptied of every single person. “Now what?”
To his surprise, the man didn’t answer. Instead, his face started to glow, becoming brighter than the sun, and clouds wrapped around him. Donovan stared, slack-jawed, his eyes burning with a wonderful, pleasant burn, and he fell to his knees, face on the ground. And behind Donovan, the tower began to shake and wobble, and it finally collapsed, as if bowing before the Man Who Came From Heaven.
Donovan didn’t feel worthy to look upon that face—as if one glimpse would fell him—but look he did, and what he saw stunned him more than that the light and the clouds and the brilliance and the fallen tower.
The Man From Heaven was smiling at him.
And suddenly, Donovan saw (though he could not say how), the whole of the sky, and he realized that the vale he was hammering at was not a couple feet thick, like he’d expected, but miles and miles thick, stretching on for what seemed like forever, and he knew that he could have labored for a thousand years and never broken through, could have expended every drill on earth and not have made it. And even if he had, beyond that barrier was another, twice as thick and three times as hard. And another beyond that and another…
And Donovan would have despaired, except that one glance at the Man Who Came From Heaven (whose face still glowed above) stopped him.
“I’m sorry,” Donovan said, “for thinking I could ever do it.”
“But you’ll take me?”
The Man smiled.
“Soon, my friend,” he said. “I’m going away now, but I’ll be back. Very soon, I’ll be back, and I’ll take you to where I am. And don’t doubt, but know that I am coming for you.” And with that, the Man lifted from the ground into the air, up and up, passing through the sky-vale like it was vapor.
And Donovan smiled. And from that day forth, he wouldn’t say, “You can’t” or “You can,” but instead, “HE can.”
Matt Hollingsworth is a Christian and a writer for Farragut Life magazine in Tennessee. His blog is available at https://jmhollingsworthblog.wordpress.com/.
Artwork: The Flammarion engraving, unknown artist. First appeared in Camille Flammarion’s L’atmosphère: météorologie populaire (1888).