Mercy and love, what makes us human

we call to god
such a small thing we ask!
god you are good
but we don't understand
bear her away
to mercy 

My cousin's newborn, Mercy Joan Mertes, died tonight of encephalocele and spinal cysts.

Despite all odds, when little Mercy came off the respirator, despite breathing trouble and dire predictions, she lived a full day and a half. No baby was loved more with such concentration as family gathered around her. It was as though she fed on love, as babies, in fact, do.

Sometimes, I have a hard time with the soul. Consciousness, the flesh's awareness of itself, is enough for me most days. I wonder what is meant by "soul", some sort of non-matter that occupies matter like a demon or ghost.

Mercy was a child with very little in the way of consciousness, much of her brain was protruding from the back of her skull in a sack. What, in the rationalist's view of things, was she worth?

I am struck by the courage Liesel and Luke showed exhibited in bearing her to term, while many would have dismissed her tiny, sleepy life as better not lived.

C.S. Lewis remarked

“To love at all is to be vulnerable. Love anything, and your heart will certainly be wrung and possibly broken. If you want to make sure of keeping it intact, you must give your heart to no one, not even to an animal. Wrap it carefully round with hobbies and little luxuries; avoid all entanglements; lock it up safe in the casket or coffin of your selfishness. But in that casket- safe, dark, motionless, airless--it will change. It will not be broken; it will become unbreakable, impenetrable, irredeemable.”

As much as they loved, they now feel pain in reciprocal equality. Mercy was always a zero-sum game. She would never love in return, at least, not in a way that they would recognize. She would never absorb the witty conversation around her and write a brilliant book or become a mathematician. No, she was death-bound from birth. Intellect could not be poured into her. Her self-awareness, intellectually, would never flower.

But is consciousness, born of intellect, the root of our humanity?

I am glad that her soul knew love, that mark of God. I believe we are all saved by love, made human by love, and healed by love. We are conscious insofar as we love and are loved. We transcend the rational, the narcissistic self-calculating machine, through love. It is through love, not intellect, that we are able to see ourselves. In fact, bad men are often merely those that cannot see outside of themselves, they cannot love because they are embedded in themselves.

Love is not a finite sum that can be expended, like a bank with money, but rather, in pouring out we are filled up. Love is a muscle that grows through use.

What makes us human is not our intelligence, but our ability to love. And we may love in as much as we have been loved first.

Mercy was a sponge for love, and she will wring herself out when she is made new at the end of time. A short life, but filled with much love.

Mercy gives us an opportunity to love without return, the thing we are supposed to be learning from God.

What a blessing.

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About the Author

Hi. My name is Jeremiah John. I'm a sf/f writer and activist.

I just completed a dystopian science fiction novel. I run a website which I created that connects farms with churches, mosques, and synagogues to buy fresh vegetables directly and distribute them on a sliding scale to those in need.

In 2003, I spent six months in prison for civil disobedience while working to close the School of the Americas, converting to Christianity, as one does, while I was in the clink.