Inconceivable Yet Real

     Writers of science fiction, fantasy, and horror – the three main speculative genres – face challenges that don’t trouble mainstream fictioneers. We’re supposed to strive to be original, constantly looking for a new conception, a new scientific or technological development, a new evocation of wonder or terror. The flattest and least refutable of all criticisms of a work of speculative fiction is “It’s been done before.”

     Yes, yes, you’ve heard me rant about the shortfall of originality in spec-fic more than once. It continues to be among my frustrations, as a reader and a writer. But the above is just a lead-in for a quite different subject.

     Our great limitation arises from what we are: our human nature. Being embedded in it as we are, everything we see and everything we imagine must be filtered through it. That renders concepts a great distance from our nature misty at best. If we can glimpse them at all, it’s “through a glass, darkly:”

     When I was a child, I spake as a child, I understood as a child, I thought as a child: but when I became a man, I put away childish things. For now we see through a glass, darkly; but then face to face: now I know in part; but then shall I know even as also I am known. (First Corinthians 13:11-12)

     And today, approximately the midpoint of the annual Lenten season that precedes the Passion, Crucifixion, and Resurrection of Our Lord, is a good time to reflect on that darkness of our vision.


     The Catholic liturgical cycle is, of course, designed around the Gospels. The synoptic Gospels of Matthew, Mark, and Luke are its backbone. Within the three-year cycle is a calendric cycle that embeds all the great events of Christ’s time on Earth, including the terrible events of His Passion and Crucifixion.

     Probably the greatest obstacle to accepting the Christian faith is our human inability to understand why He, the Son of God and fully as divine as His Father, accepted such an awful fate. The recent movie The Case for Christ captures that obstacle in a memorable scene:

     Note that the skeptical Lee Strobel, ably played by the underappreciated Mike Vogel, can’t quite wrap his mind around the proffered explanation. His human nature – in particular, our built-in aversion to pain and death – obstructs it. We wouldn’t accept such a fate; why did Jesus? Love on that order is almost completely beyond our conception.

     Almost. For we are capable of it. It’s one of the little hints we get that we are not meaningless accidents of biochemistry.


     Love, as I’ve written before, is a heavily overloaded word. We speak of “loving” so many different people, creatures, and things, of such diverse natures and relationships, that the word’s import becomes elusive. Yet it is massively important, especially in regard to our relationship with God.

     We are told that God loves us, and that we should love Him. But how? What does the love of a Being infinitely beyond our conceptions of existence, a Being of whose nature we have only the faintest and foggiest glimpse, really mean? How does it relate to our “human loves” of spouse, friends, pets, cherished possessions, favorite pastimes, and so on?

     I’ve come to see this as one of the greatest challenges of human life. For we know, despite our preferences, that we are not the center of the universe. We sense our incompleteness. We yearn to be part of something larger, something with greater longevity than ours. It’s the key pressure that drives us to do just about everything we do: our awareness that each of us must die, and that the world will go on spinning without us.

     We are aware…yet we cannot fully accept it. We yearn for meaning that persists, even if our bodies do not. How, then, can we cope? What makes it possible for us to live, work, and endure when the inescapability of death will ultimately render all our strivings and sufferings irrelevant?

     The answer lies in the mystery of love.


     The late M. Scott Peck, in his first and best book The Road Less Traveled, approaches love in a fashion that generalizes it across all its overloadings. Love, he says, is the willed extension of self. But extension why? Extension how? In contemplating those questions, the many variant uses of love gradually become comprehensible.

     We “extend ourselves” into whom and what we love by making them – their needs, drives, priorities, and general well-being – integral to our own concerns. Even our metaphoric “love” of a pastime can be seen this way. For example, I “love” the game of chess, so I work to understand it better, to become better at it, and when the opportunity arises to extend my love and appreciation for it to others in the hope that they’ll come to love it, too. If you’d like to see the reverse of that coin, the late Bobby Fischer, once the world champion of chess, decided shortly before his death that contemporary practices had “ruined” it, and so turned away from the game as it had been played for centuries in favor of a randomized version called Chess960.

     I deal with love in just about all my fiction. Here’s a little from what I think is my best novel:

     “Fountain, dear,” Ray said, “I think you know how you do this. I think you’ve told us already once…well, some of us. Would you tell us again, please?”
     “Certainly, Father Ray,” Fountain said. “It is in the food.”
     “But if it is in the food, dear one,” Ray said, “why is it that none of the rest of us can do what you do?”
     The question seemed to trouble Fountain. She frowned slightly and looked off in obvious thought.
     Ray felt the approach of a revelation.
     “I think,” Fountain said after a moment, “it is in how I love the food.”
     Larry peered at her. “I love food plenty, Fountain. I’d rather eat than…well, than most other things. But my cooking can’t compare with yours.”
     She grimaced gently. “It is not the same, my lord. “You have said that you love food, but what you meant was that you love to eat. That is different from loving the food for its own sake…for what it is.”
     “How do you do that, dear one?” Ray murmured.
     She grimaced again. “It is like when I came to know my lord,” she said. She reached for his hand and pressed it briefly to her lips. “You must know a person to love him. Once I knew my lord, I could love him. It is the same with food. You must know it. You must offer it your trust and ask it to show itself to you: all it is and all it can do. Once you know those things, you can love it for itself—and it will love you in the same fashion. It will teach you how to call its powers forth.”
     “Gran Dio lassù,” Monti murmured.
     Around the table, all eyes were wide and fixed on the young futa.
     Fountain smiled fleetingly. “When I tasted the unclarified Malbec, I knew at once that it could be far more than it was. It could love us. So I spoke to it. I gave it my trust, told it that I would love it if it would show itself to me, and it did. I saw the treasures it could give to us, and I praised it for itself. I told it that Mr. Lundin loved it too, even if he could not tell it so as I did, and that it could fulfill his dearest dreams.” She raised her glass. “I am pleased with its response. What did Mr. Lundin say, Father Ray?”
     Thank You, God.
     “Fountain,” Ray said in a formal tone, “you have succeeded in every respect.” He saluted her with his glass.

     Fountain, a futanari cloned from another such, learned love the hard way: through its opposite, extreme sustained abuse.


     Still, the ultimate need – the comprehension of the love of God and how to love Him as we ought – requires more thought. For if God is in us — and He is; that’s what it means to have a soul – we are already intertwined. But though He is infused in us, we must learn to reciprocate. It comes neither naturally nor easily.

     To love God means to adore Him. Adore is a word we don’t hear too often these days:

     1. to worship or honor as a deity or as divine;
     2: to regard with loving admiration and devotion.

     The Latin roots of adore mean “to pray to.” Prayer is much more easily comprehended than love. To pray is to submit oneself to Him: in effect, to set one’s own will aside and to embrace His will in its place. For thus and only thus can we demonstrate to God our “loving admiration and devotion:” “Not my will, Lord, but Thine be done.”

     Note what Jesus said in His prayer in the garden at Gethsemane:

     And he came out, and went, as he was wont, to the mount of Olives; and his disciples also followed him. And when he was at the place, he said unto them, Pray that ye enter not into temptation.
     And he was withdrawn from them about a stone’s cast, and kneeled down, and prayed, Saying, Father, if thou be willing, remove this cup from me: nevertheless not my will, but thine, be done.
     And there appeared an angel unto him from heaven, strengthening him.
     And being in an agony he prayed more earnestly: and his sweat was as it were great drops of blood falling down to the ground.

     [Luke 22:39-44]

     The love of the Son for His Father is made explicit here.


     It seems we’ve come back to the Passion. That’s appropriate, seeing that the commemoration of those events is only a few weeks away. If love was Jesus’s reason for accepting such a horror, what interpretation will such love bear?

     It’s in the contemplation of this question that the acceptance of the Christian faith must begin.

     We are told that His sacrifice of Himself was to redeem us from our sins. But redemption of that sort requires cooperation from the sinner. We must achieve contrition for our sins, repent of them, and ask for God’s forgiveness for them. So in that sense, His torment and death only did “half the job.”

     But the larger significance of the Passion lies in its completing event: Christ’s Resurrection. For in returning to the world of the living after having been executed in the most excruciating fashion – note the roots of the word excruciating, Gentle Reader! – He exhibited divine mastery over life and death: the ultimate demonstration that divine authority resided in every word of His teachings. We lesser ones, not gifted with the power to defy death, can rely upon them.

     Did He not say to His apostles that He is our friend?

     This is my commandment, That ye love one another, as I have loved you. Greater love hath no man than this, that a man lay down his life for his friends. Ye are my friends, if ye do whatsoever I command you. [John 15:12-14]

     In learning to love God in His Three Persons – to adore them, pray to them, and humbly place the divine will above our own – we become His friends. We achieve “the willed extension of self” into the divine. We complete the circle of love.


     As I said at the outset, our human nature as project pursuers makes this a difficult concept to absorb. Perhaps we can’t comprehend it fully while we live. Our hope – mine, at least – is that we’ll get there when we die, as we must, each and all.

     For now, enjoy your Lent. Yes, I know it’s a strange valediction for a penitential season, but it’s what I have to offer. And anyway, isn’t it appropriate for the conclusion of an essay about love?

     May God bless and keep you all.


    • Bill on March 7, 2024 at 8:40 AM

    Thank you Fran, for reminding me of the love , which we often don’t think about in the rush of everyday life.

    • Bill on March 7, 2024 at 8:59 AM

    Thank you, Fran, for your essays on the subject of religion. I wrestle with my Catholic faith and my role in God’s plan  daily, and I find as I age the subject becomes more important  to me. I welcome your perspective and comments. The occasional reminder that God loves all of us, in spite of our faults, makes the current reality easier to face.

    • Roll-aid on March 7, 2024 at 11:44 AM

    Thank you very much.  This came at exactly the right time and place.


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