There’s one last thing that death does for us. If it reminds us that everlasting life would be everlasting punishment, it might instead prompt us to think on eternity. The eternal is not just more of the same. It is a perspective outside of time. That makes a big difference, Gray notes, because the hope of eternity does not rest on fantasies that the entire course of human history might be about to change.
Instead, it nurtures a contemplative engagement with life based not on the desperation to hold on to it, but on a compassionate appreciation of what is now. “Hold infinity in the palm of your hand, and eternity in an hour,” William Blake advised. The ultimate limitations imposed upon us by death don’t dissolve meaning. If anything can, they can make it.