(Only tenuously related to the movie of that name, which, by the way, is extraordinarily touching and contains a marvelous non-comedic performance by Robin Williams.)

     “I will take my life into my hands, and I will use it.” – Jim Webb

     I’ve been in a contemplative mood these past…let’s see, now…hmm…well, for quite a while, really. It’s an opportunity many people don’t get, what with the terribly trying business of earning a living, taking care of a family and a family home, and dealing with the Sturm und Drang of life in an ever more complex society. I’m one of the fortunate few who actually have some time for contemplation. The consequences have largely been recorded here, and at my previous sites.

     The miracle of human consciousness, like most things we get gratis, is generally underappreciated. Other Terrestrial creatures don’t have it. They have something else we don’t get to enjoy: a Now that stretches from birth to death, without abstractions, predictions, or anticipations. C. S. Lewis captured it in a memorable passage in That Hideous Strength:

     Mr. Bultitude’s mind was as furry and as unhuman in shape as his body. He did not remember, as a man in his situation would have remembered, the provincial zoo from which he had escaped during a fire, nor his first snarling and terrified arrival at the Manor, nor the slow stages whereby he had learned to love and trust its inhabitants. He did not know that he loved and trusted them now. He did not know that they were people, nor that he was a bear. Indeed, he did not know that he existed at all: everything that is represented by the words I and Me and Thou was absent from his mind. When Mrs. Maggs gave him a tin of golden syrup, as she did every Sunday morning, he did not recognize either a giver or a recipient. Goodness occurred and he tasted it. And that was all. Hence his loves might, if you wished, be all described as cupboard loves: food and warmth, hands that caressed, voices that reassured, were their objects. But if by a cupboard love you meant something cold or calculating you would be quite misunderstanding the real quality of the beast’s sensations. He was no more like a human egoist than he was like a human altruist.

     There was no prose in his life. The appetencies which a human mind might disdain as cupboard loves were for him quivering and ecstatic aspirations which absorbed his whole being: infinite yearnings, stabbed with the threat of tragedy and shot through with the colours of Paradise. One of our race, if plunged back for a moment in the warm, trembling, iridescent pool of pre-Adamite consciousness, would have emerged believing that he had grasped the absolute, for the states below reason and the states above it have, by their common contrast to the life we know, a certain superficial resemblance. Sometimes there returns to us from infancy the memory of a nameless delight or terror, unattached to any delightful or dreadful thing, a potent adjective floating in a nounless void, a pure quality. At such moments we have experience of the shallows of that pool. But fathoms deeper than any memory can take us, right down in the central warmth and dimness, the bear lived all its life.

     Human awareness renders that state unavailable to us. Some people think it can be entered with the use of psychotropic drugs. This is a misconception, though widely believed. But the effect of those drugs is to impede awareness, either by diminution or by hallucinatory bombardments. And such is the burden of awareness – yes, it’s a miracle, but even miracles have their downsides – that many come to cherish those impediments, those hallucinations, and the seeming removal of cares they produce.

     We are what we are. We cannot be something else, whether greater or less. The gift of human awareness has a price: We are required to use it, and our rational faculty, to come to grips with life under the veil of Time, to understand its potentials and perils, and to cope. As the gift is great, the price must be high…yet few people ever consciously agree to pay it.


     This column has been much on my mind since I read it. The author, a Catholic priest, is greatly concerned with the loss of the sense of sin. Well he should be, for the concept is as vital as breathing to the conduct of a decent human life. But he misses an important aspect of that loss, one the Church has, ironically enough, facilitated with its earlier methods and teachings.

     For centuries, sin has been operationally defined through Church teachings, and the indoctrination of the young in those teachings. Anyone raised with the old Baltimore Catechism might remember a sense that “anything not mandatory is forbidden” that it inculcated in its victims. The lists of prescriptions and proscriptions seemed endless…as did the absolute and utter necessity of weekly Confession. After all, with so very many things required or forbidden, it was guaranteed that one would slip now and then. One didn’t want to trip and fall in front of a bus when not in a state of grace.

     But the foundation for the concept of sin was neglected more often than not. The student who dared to ask his teacher-nun “Why is this a sin?” usually did so trembling. “God has forbidden it!” was the nun’s usual reply. As those nuns were equipped with fearsome instruments of correction – does anyone else remember those Bolo paddles? – we hesitated to incur their wrath.

     But questions that begin with “Why?” are the most important variety of all. The question “Why is this a sin?” is the key. Without it, the door to comprehension – our gift of rational awareness – cannot be unlocked. And the comprehension of sin as a violation of our human nature and its innate requirements is what We the Indoctrinated were denied.


     Sin conceived as something to avoid because of a penitential consequence is a wrong turning, perhaps the worst possible. It casts God as a prison warden rather than a loving Creator and Father. To make it effective in retarding and preventing sin, the punishment must be terrible and inexorable. Yet what is the inner meaning of the sacrament of Confession?

Repent sincerely, and God will forgive you.

     Prison wardens are notably lacking in the forgiveness department. It’s not their job.

     In recent decades, the Church has shown a belated acceptance of its errors in this regard. Clerics have been told to emphasize God’s love and mercy. Attention has been renewed upon the two Great Commandments that are the indispensable foundation of all valid moral-ethical teaching:

     But when the Pharisees had heard that he had put the Sadducees to silence, they were gathered together. Then one of them, which was a lawyer, asked him a question, tempting him, and saying, Master, which is the great commandment in the law?
     Jesus said unto him, Thou shalt love the Lord thy God with all thy heart, and with all thy soul, and with all thy mind. This is the first and great commandment. And the second is like unto it, Thou shalt love thy neighbour as thyself. On these two commandments hang all the law and the prophets.

     [Matthew 22:34-40]

     Mind you, Jesus wasn’t the first to say those things. They appear in the Old Testament as well, during the Jews’ early elucidation of God’s laws for Man, though in muted forms. But Christ’s delineation of them as the supreme principles behind God’s laws was the heart of His New Covenant. They made possible the Christian breakthrough to the essence of humanity:

1. Be grateful to God for the gift of human life.
2. Treat others’ humanity as equal in importance to yours…because it is.

     Sin becomes comprehensible in that light. To mock God, or to deny Him our gratitude, is shameful. To treat others as mere means to our ends – no better than the beasts – is to deny their concord in humanity with us.

     True comprehension of the Great Commandments is what made the Christian breakthrough possible. They are the foundation of every decent society throughout history.


     The Great Commandments aren’t just dreamy feel-good prescriptions that you’re supposed to wrap around you like a shawl. They are indispensable to decent living and the maintenance of a decent society. Moreover, they are the essential fuel to the operation of the part of our minds that demands awakening today. In what I’ve come to regard as my best and most important book, I wrote:

     “God knew that ten Commandments wouldn’t cover all of it,” he said. “But there are commandments behind the Ten Commandments. Ultimate rules that unite the Commandments and all the other rules that people must live by, if we’re to live in obedience to God and at peace with one another. Even though He didn’t include them on Moses’s tablets, He sort of whispered them through the Ten Commandments themselves.
     “We call those big rules the Great Commandments. There are only two of them, and they seem really simple. But they imply everything else that we have to know to get along well with one another…to have peaceful lives and a peaceful, happy society. All we have to do is think about them…but with a special part of our minds.”
     Ray propped his chin upon his steepled fingers and smiled.
     Now we’ll see if I really have what it takes to do this.
     Larry was looking at him curiously. Fountain’s face had filled with excitement and the anticipation of discovery.
     “Father,” she said after a moment’s silence, “will you tell me the Great Commandments?”
     Ray turned pointedly to Larry. “I’m sure your lord can tell us.”
     This is your moment to shine, big guy.
     “You shall love the Lord your God with your whole heart, and your whole soul, and your whole mind,” he said hoarsely, “and you shall love your neighbor as yourself.”
     Ray smiled and nodded. “Jesus’s very words. And which special part of our minds do we use to apply the Great Commandments?”
     “The conscience,” Larry croaked.
     “Exactly.” Ray said. He returned his gaze to Fountain.
     The young futa’s attention seemed to be elsewhere. Her eyes were unfocused, and her lips were slightly parted. Yet she was plainly in no discomfort.
     Theologians of fifty years’ experience still contemplate the Great Commandments and what they require of us. A twenty year old girl deserves a few moments of silence to kickstart the process.
     Larry’s hand moved toward Fountain’s and clasped it. Fountain returned the clasp. The grip looked very tight.
     “Father,” Fountain said, “who is my neighbor?”
     Thank You, God.
     “Anyone who comes near you, dear. Anyone who comes into your life. That’s what the word means.”
     Her gaze sharpened. “How do I love my neighbor as myself? And what does it mean to think with my conscience?”
     “Neither one is hard,” Ray said, “You start by turning your attention inside you and asking yourself some questions. Suppose you were thinking of doing something to your lord. The first question to ask yourself is ‘Would this hurt him?’ The second one is ‘Would he want me not to do this?’ And the third, which might be the most important of all, is ‘Am I being selfish?’”
     “I could never hurt my lord,” the futa whispered.
     Ray nodded. “I know you wouldn’t do so intentionally, dear. He knows too. But there are things you might do that could upset him. Especially if you were to do them without asking him first.”
     He hunched forward. “You, Fountain, are unique. I know there are other futanari, even some who were trained as you were, but there are none exactly like you, with powers like yours, a lord as special as yours, or a home and family as special as yours. That will make loving your neighbor as you love yourself a special challenge. You must practice using your conscience, carefully and consistently. After a while you’ll find it easier to remember to do so, but it will never be automatic.”

     The awakening of the conscience is the operation critical to saving what remains of our nation…and our world. It’s not a matter of indoctrination, nor of exhaustive, exhausting catechesis. It’s about the two Great Commandments and the three simple questions Father Ray presents to Fountain. It’s about using our human awareness of what would flow from our actions, testing it with those questions, and asking oneself “Is this loving God wholeheartedly? Is this doing unto my neighbor as I’d want him to do unto me?”

     No, it’s not hard. But it eludes an ever larger fraction of Mankind in our time.


     A great deal of contemporary crime has been attributed to fatherlessness. There’s a good argument for it. But to make it a great argument, essentially irrefutable, we must go at least one question further: What is the role of a father, beyond providing some genetic material and an income stream?

     Mothers tend to catechize. It’s all right; it’s in women’s nature, and besides, Mom’s generally busy with other stuff. But Dad has traditionally been the figure who doesn’t just “lay down the law” but explain the law: why it must be so, and why its enforcement benefits everyone. Mothers who willingly undertake that responsibility are fairly rare. “I’m the mommy, that’s why” is a cliché for that reason among others.

     The conscience cannot be awakened without uniting it to our human awareness and our rational faculty. But down that road lie important revelations…and important dangers. The Church is still coming to grips with some of them, slowly and reluctantly. Secular legislators are at least as slow and reluctant to do so.


     The great sin of authorities, whether religious or secular, is arbitrariness. “Because I say so” is not an adequate foundation for any prescription or proscription. It gives rise to an attitude that countervails it in nearly every case: the attitude that what matters is getting away with it.

     Some laws are “because I say so” edicts. Their enactment doesn’t reify any aspect of the Great Commandments or disturb the conscience. People of ordinary intellect are capable of grasping that arbitrary character and dismissing any consideration other than “Can I break this law in a way that would be to my benefit, and get away with it?” Frederik Pohl called this the emergence of the personal ethic:

     “You have or have not violated legislative compulsion programs,” stated the Sirian; and that was the most prolonged session of all. Try as he would, Forrester could not seem to get across the idea of a personal ethic—of laws that one did not violate, because they were morally right, and of laws that everyone violated if they possibly could, because they were morally irrelevant.

     Our laws strive to compel and forbid many things that are morally irrelevant. The consequences of breaking them, apart from any possibility of detection and punishment, have no moral weight. Those laws are broken by anyone who sees a benefit and lacks fear of legal consequences. Alcohol prohibition is probably the best historical example: it was broken so frequently and so widely that it created American organized crime. There are too many such laws on the books today to enumerate them all.

     But in the contrapositive direction, there are also wrongs that are not addressed by the law. (Often they could not, for enforcement would be impossible.) An awakened conscience is disturbed by them. Some would answer God’s love and benevolence with mockery or indifference. Some would treat one’s neighbor as merely a thing to be exploited as if he were a beast or an inanimate object. The possessor of an awakened conscience will be aware that they are sins. Even one who does not believe in God can have such a reaction.

     But the conscience must be awakened before the reaction is possible. Far too many consciences have never been awakened…or have been numbed, perhaps by the suggestion that “Everybody else is doing it; why shouldn’t you?


     This getting pretty long. If I’ve tried your patience, Gentle Reader, you have my apologies. But at the close of one of the most eventful and tumultuous years I’ve managed to endure, it strikes me that no other subject is near to this one in importance.

     I’m pretty sure any reader of Liberty’s Torch has a fully awakened conscience. Without one, how could anyone bear the sententious tripe I and my Co-Conspirators shovel out nearly every day? But our lives are complex enough that I’m equally sure that any reader will also know persons with unawakened or numbed consciences. They might try your patience even more than has this essay.

     Many have discoursed on the pervasiveness of moral hazards in our current milieu: that is, opportunities to do something we “should” know is morally wrong but would bring us a benefit. They do often seem to be everywhere. The awakened conscience reacts against them; the unawakened or numbed conscience embraces them all too often.

     I submit that the great need of our nation and our time is for the awakening of human consciences. The Church has not done an adequate job, which is perhaps the greatest mark to its discredit. But the Church, properly understood, is all of us who believe. Moreover, we have common cause with others whose consciences are awake.

     It’s time for action. Every man of good will – what more concise description of one who understands, loves, and adheres to the Great Commandments has ever been formulated? – must come to see himself not merely as an isolated individual actor but as a resource for others who need his example…and occasionally, his gently expressed disapproval. While an overbearing censoriousness is alienating, openly cleaving to what we know to be right, plus openly disdaining what we know to be wrong, is a mechanism for general improvement.

     Is good example an irresistible mechanism? Hardly. He whose conscience has been “deep-frozen” will resist it easily, perhaps lifelong. But he who is not yet morally awake, yet aware that he has something to learn, some growth yet to achieve, will sometimes be awakened by it. He’ll notice the “birds of a feather” effect. Men of good will keep company with others of their kind. They’re always open to others like them, or who want to be like them. The dissolute and the scoundrels congregate in a darker corner…when they’re not doing their best to fleece one another.

     Pardon the jeremiad. And do have a nice day.


    • gl on December 29, 2022 at 12:45 PM

    I remember the “Baltimore” and the nun’s standard answer to questions. Except I wouldn’t let it go. Why was my favorite word growing up. Finally in 5th grade when I asked that dreaded “why” I got a pink slip to take to my mother. She had a meeting with sister and I was relegated to the corner in the back and could read or do whatever I wanted as long as I never raised my hand again. So the corner seat was mine till the end of 8th grade.

    • Dan on December 29, 2022 at 7:30 PM

    To say that other species are not self aware is disingenuous and untrue.  While the consciousness of other species may not reach our level it exists.  Ask anyone with pets and they will tell you they have distinct personalities and are aware of many things including non tangible situations.  Dogs and cats, competent predators, have an intellect on par with a three or four year old human.  Some even reach a higher level.  Elephants and dolphins have complex societies and distinct communication methods.   No….humans might, perhaps, maybe exist at the top of the intellectual ladder but we are definitely not alone.

    1. Nope. Below the level of the Australopithecines, even the primates had no awareness of separateness, temporal partition, or abstraction. The bondings and limited trainability of the higher mammals don’t amount to self-awareness, which requires abstraction as a foundation.

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