One problem which recurs from time to time in intelligent science fiction is the absence not only of religion, but even of religious yearning. Science fiction in its more morbid manifestations is existentialist or nihilistic, taking for its basis the tragic presumption of man alone in a meaningless cosmos. More often than not, science fiction is idealistic to the point of utopianism. Science fiction can also, at times, be very attuned to human nature while being rather oblivious to science. Rare is the science fiction which is at once scientifically engaging and profoundly humane as literature. One such work is Stanislaw Lem’s Solaris. Solaris is a worthwhile book because it spans the breadth of the limitations of human understanding as well as penetrating the nature of the unknown—perhaps even the unknowable. The book takes readers on a philosophical journey by way of a meeting with the Other that is forever out of reach, and therefore cannot take place, though we as humans require it in order to be happy. Solaris, or more specifically, the Ocean, is the book’s main protagonist and antagonist all at once—a kind of Godot. Yet, rather than wait for him, as man does in Beckett, Lem has humanity go to him (or it) in a futile attempt that ultimately reveals how far we as individuals are, not only from the Other, but from ourselves. As such, Solaris has much to teach us about God, man, and the political.
Lem’s decision to craft the Ocean of planet Solaris as his protagonist and antagonist makes for a main character who is alien, yet also familiar to us. It is not at all unheard of that the Ocean should be thought of, as Lem seems to conceive it, as Life itself. This analogy is well established in our Christian tradition of baptism in water, but it is even more profoundly established by science. Lem’s plasma-goo, which brings forth symetroids and mimoids—vast, awesome creatures of embodied mathematical abstractions—is actually not at all far from what scientists know our Oceans to have done in bringing forth protozoa, not to mention the variety of underwater life which constituted humanity’s evolutionary ancestors.
When Lem describes the symetroids crafted by the Ocean of Solaris in laymen terms, he asks us to think of architectural notions, from ancient to modern, the latter growing out of the former in a sort of mathematical water-show. We marvel only for a moment before recalling the bilateral symmetry (i.e homo sapiens) and radial symmetry (i.e. Echinodermata) of Earth’s ocean-originated phyla or the segmented construction of such phyla as the Annelida and Anthropoda. The organisms which originated in our Ocean, ourselves included, are no less examples of mathematical complexity than those brought forth by the Solaris Ocean. Lem’s symetroid is no less alien, when we think about it, than the notochords of our own Earth oceans. What seems to make the Ocean of Solaris unique is the appearance of conscious purpose behind its creations. Yet this is never definitively proven in Lem’s fictional account. Likewise, those who propose the notion of an “intelligent design” in Earth’s Ocean life (and life in general) remain incapable of offering definitive evidence for their claims.
Insofar as the randomness of evolutionary processes seems to be a matter of settled science on Earth, the yearning for intelligent design persists insofar as we humans tend to long for a meaningful universe. This longing for meaning is evident amongst the crew of the Solaris station in Lem’s work and the scientific data in Lems’ fiction is ambiguous enough so that the origins of the Solaris Ocean are unfathomable. Thus, the question of whether the Solaris Ocean itself is intelligent is left open (irrespective of the question of whether it was designed or also the result of random selection).
The similarities between Earth’s Oceans and the Ocean of Solaris are not, it would seem, unintended. From a literary standpoint, however, the Solaris Ocean manages to do what Earth’s oceans have ceased to do: make us wonder at the life-giving colossus in our midst. The Solaris Ocean, because it appears a more unitary and self-conscious being than our oceans, is marvelous in a rather exaggerated way. Yet this exaggeration serves a laudable end—it allows for a kind of consolidation of the scientific questions surrounding the secrets of matter and the spiritual questions regarding the mysteries of the soul and psychological consciousness. Lem’s fictional Ocean is a literary construct which manages to bring together those areas of human inquiry which have, for the most part, become separate branches or spheres in modern learning: the scientific and the religious—with everything in between them. The Solaris Ocean is at once metaphysical and physical, at once matter and apparent spirit. In this sense, it is of course less like Earth’s oceans and more like us—the human species.
The human species longs for a meaningful universe while existing in a universe which unfolds before them as random evolution. This appears to be a paradox, a conflicted situation. It appears thus due largely to a misunderstanding of the concept of random selection in evolution—random selection, so far as I understand it, is not meaningless, nor is it meaningful. Random selection is precisely that: random. It is random in the sense that the weather is random as opposed to the activity of a jet engine. The weather functions according to a comprehensible pattern, the origin of which was not consciously constructed, thus it is the result of random causes. The jet engine functions according to a comprehensible pattern that was consciously constructed, thus it is a result of deliberate intelligent design. Both phenomena have patterns and function in accordance to the laws of nature; the one was designed, the other randomly caused. The one has intention at its core (man’s intention), the other has no such thing at its core. What perplexes us, of course, is that from an evolutionary process without intention, there could arise human beings who in fact have intentions, conscience, spirit—Mind—and who themselves long for their own origins to be intentional, for that would make humanity, suffering, and death ultimately meaningful in the scheme of things.
At this stage, it may be that those who espouse some variance of the Intelligent Design theories may protest my resolute dismissal of their claims on the basis of scientific consensus, while some theists may find fault with my emphasis on the randomness of evolutionary process as settled science implying that there is therefore no God, since biology rather definitively demonstrates that there is no Intelligent Design inherent in nature. To the first point, I respond only that for the sake of argument, and as a non-scientist, I defer to the accepted scientific consensus that evolution is random, without purpose and clearly not based on Intelligent Design. I will not proceed to argue the point for lack of competence, preferring to defer to the scientific community. That said, it seems to me, as a philosopher, that to strike Intelligent Design from the realm of the possible does not therefore conclusively “disprove” the existence of a supernatural Deity.
In fact, the flaw of Intelligent Design is that it predicates the existence of God on the truth or untruth of a scientific argument. It commits the hubris of presuming to not only deduce God from logos, as the ancient Greeks did, but make Him tangible and perceptible to us in a like manner as we make aspects of the natural world tangible and perceptible via chemistry or paleontology. It risks, in a word, making God closer to us, less alien, less distant, less Yonder. Thomas a Kempis’s Imitation of Christ beckons here: “When thou think’st I am far from thee, I am often nearest, And when nearest, I am furthest.” We should, after all, recall that it was the women—those held by the prejudices of their time to be least rational, least capable of logic, who saw the Risen Christ first. They, not the men for whom the supernatural required the humility of suspending rational inquiry in favor of faith in the unknown, were first to see Christ return. Emamnuel Levinas, in Le Temps et l’autre, hints at why this may have been so, when he meditates on how the woman is the bearer of the phenomenon of the mystery of death and the future (meditations we shall return to momentarily, as they are pertinent to Lems’ female antagonist/protagonist—Harey). Be that as it may—the point remains: the scientific teaching that biological evolution is a process of random selection, precluding the possibility of “Intelligent Design” distances us on a practical level from the Divine, yet in this distancing we awaken to our longing for Divinity, for meaning. As such, ratio fails us, leaving only fides—a terrifying prospect which spells fluctuations between hope and despair in our everyday lives. Random evolution does not therefore imply the heresy of atheism. If anything, the findings of modern science, pointing as they do to what Tielhard de Charden described as a nousphere evolved out of a biosphere risk the heresy of pantheism, not atheism. Yet here too, a bit of thought rescues us from pantheism: Lems’ Ocean is not God (for numerous obvious reasons), and it is only “symbolic” of God, or a metaphor of God to the same extent real human individuals are. If anything, the Solaris Ocean is made, as we are, in the image of God. Because it is an image made in a different form of “personhood” (conscious Ocean, not conscious animal), it might teach us to experience God in a new way, like the Holy Spirit teaches us a new aspect of God invisible to us in Christ. To attempt to understand this is to experience the aforementioned hope intertwined with despair.
It is just such fluctuations between hope and despair in their everyday lives that the crew of Lems’ Solaris, confronted by the Mystery of the Solaris Ocean, experience. Such is the experience of Lems’ crew that the Mystery of the Ocean becomes better understood as Mystery, with no solution in sight, so as to ultimately become almost interchangeable with the Mystery that Christianity hoped it would be our lot to probe in the Yonder after Death’s defeat. As readers, we may be inclined to consider this a literary achievement on Lems’ part, insofar as he has crafted a character—the Solaris Ocean—capable of evoking such thoughts. Yet the real achievement of Lem is that his Solaris Ocean, in the fact of being so very alien, is actually so very local, so very similar to our oceans, our world, and our Mystery. Because our ocean, much like our daily bread, is routine, known, made our own through ritual and habit, we tend easily to forget the mysteries of both water and bread. Lem, to my mind, does not so much create a mysterious fiction, as he re-paints the mystery of our own Earth ocean. But just as the Ocean remains a mystery to us, we—in Lem’s Solaris—appear to be a mystery to the Ocean. The Ocean, whether we see it clearly or not, is the Other for whom we are the Other. How Lem characterizes these other Other, the humans, through the persons on the Solaris Space Station, is of equal import as how he characterizes the Solaris Ocean.
The distinctions between the men on Solaris space station are critical to understanding what appears to be one of the key teachings that Lems’ work presents on the subject of humanity and the Other. Kris Kelvin is described at one point by Snaut as the one who made public his intimate affairs, the emotional extrovert as it were (conversation, p.247). This sensitivity of his, this tendency towards expression, contact, empathy and extroverted emotivism—all of these appear to be the particularly necessary ingredients for an appreciation and openness to the Other. This in turn appears to be the aforementioned key teaching of Lems’. This may seem to suggest that the being of the Other is perhaps an extension of generally empathetic psychological traits—in fact, in the case of the “visitors” on Solaris, it certainly is. We are explicitly told on many occasions that the visitors are corporeal manifestations of the crew’s subconscious yearnings and conscious memories. The issue is not “what they are”, but “why they are”. Are they means of probing and controling, an extension of the living Ocean used for utilitarian gain by it? Personally, I particularly fancy the explanation offered by crewman Snaut, towards the books’ end, that the “visitors” are actually gifts, fulfillments of the crews’ most intimate longings and loves. I find this explanation compelling not because I insist on the Ocean’s benevolence, but because it would go a long way in explaining why Kelvin, recieving that which he most yearned for—to see his dead wife again—was unable to accept the gift when it appeared and in fact, under circumstances of absolvement from sin, immediately and without hesitation sinned anew. For human nature is such that part of what makes our intimate longings so strong and resolute is the impossibility of their actually coming to pass. This impossibility shields us from having to confront, even theoretically, the possible negative consequences of our idyllic fantasies coming into being. The Ocean, to my mind, remained unaware of this paradox of human nature, wishing to gift the crew as a means of making contact, unaware that such gifts would actually be cause for the greatest distress. Or, if even the Ocean were aware of the consequence of these gifts, perhaps their form was made in such a way that they demanded surrender of the soul in order for them to be accepted. In this way, the Ocean’s gifts were like Christ’s gift of redemption and everlasting life. If true, it is no doubt a gift, but its’ mysterious—rather insane—nature and the fact that to accept it is to forever let go of the known—this makes it a gift that few can really ever accept. Even Christianity acknowledges as much; thus the grace of faith, wherein even the capacity to accept Christ’s gift is itself a gift. Kelvin, speaking metaphorically, has the grace of faith in the form of his psychology of empathy.
Here, Snaut’s insistence on amoralism, on their peculiar situation being “beyond morality”, is understandable, and the parallels to Christianity again clear. The Christian, after all, must accept and rejoice in the sojourn of Christ through death; must in effect cease to consider death bad and life good, but rather see death not as inevitable evil, but only a possible evil. Death becomes evil when we make it so by choosing it; in Christ, death becomes the final step to everlasting life, and the two concepts – so ostensibly contrary on the scale of moral alternatives, become complimentary. Kelvin’s resolve to stay, to be with the third manifestation of his wife after losing the first two, is as radical an application of love as that of the apostles who find themselves closest to Christ once Jesus becomes something entirely different from man in the resurrection (which is not the same as a simple rise from the dead, as in Lazarus’ case). Yet though it is not the human Christ who is risen, it is the same Christ who was loved – for the apostles, that is enough. Likewise, Kelvin knows his wife was not and will not be his original wife from Earth, but it is the same Harey who was loved, even though she herself demands to be loved as a unique person, not as a risen memory. Snaut understands this all as beyond the pale of morality; Kelvin as the prelude to absolute love. To the jews, whose morality could not cope with Christ, the absolute love of the apostles likely seemed equally “stupid” as Kelvin’s absolute love of Harey seemed to Snaut.
Crewman Sartorius, on the other hand, is quite different: unmoved to accept his gift. That said, we should not be too hasty to paint Sartorius with the brush of disatatched, dehumanized atheist-materialist-scientist. In fact, we cannot, because above all, Sartorius himself, like the Ocean, remains a mystery. We do not know the nature of the “gift” he recieves; we certainly know he does not wish to make it public knowledge. This does not necessarily mean his “visitor” is unwelcome, rather, it means that the depths of our intimate subconscious are intimate and subconscious for a good reason. It would be pleasant to assume that deep within every human lurk yearnings of the noblest sort: for the return of true love, for God, for beauty. If Hobbes and Freud have anything to teach us, however, it is that the nature of man, the content of the Id, is by no means something we wish to see embodied. When such embodiment occurs, we may as well recieve the trenches of World War I or the gas chambers of Auschwitz as we would recieve the goddess Athena. The one glimpse of Sartorius’ visitor we get is of a straw hat (conference, p.168), not to mention the intimations of childlike, simple behavior. These glimpses are too little, however, to come to any conclusions about the “visitor”, let alone about Sartorius’ psychology. Yet we should not therefore conclude that Sartorius is by nature a closed, introverted man. The Solaris space station is, after all, a professional institution, not a lounge.
This brings us to the political construction of the Solaris space station. The station has a political structure because there are human beings living on it, which by definition is a political phenomenon. The character of the regime on the Solaris space station is twofold: formally, it is likely classified by Earth law, probably under the rules governing the life of “the Institute” that is so often refered to in the book. Informally, because the station is so distant from Earth authorities as to make immediate supervision and enforcement of law untenable, the practical regime governing the station is to be found in the character of its three crewmen, or—to put it in Platonic terms: in their souls. The Solaris space station is then, when Kelvin enters it, ruled by the souls of Snaut and Sartorius, and will henceforth be ruled by Kelvin’s soul, as he becomes a participatory citizen of the regime. To the extent that the Ocean is conscious and attempts to interfere with life inside the regime, it too is part of the regime; for in keeping with the Aristotelian definition of citizenship as possessing practical political power, the Ocean—assuming it is conscious—certainly has such power. This is all the more true, given that while the station is Earths’, the orbit is Solaris’: both invade oneanother, both experience political life in a given space, together. There is, finally, the question of whether the “visitors” are an extension of the Ocean, or, as Hareys’ plight seems to make clear, they are in fact autonomous conscious beings who, though brought into being by the Ocean, are nevertheless independent citizens of the Solaris space station themselves, whose (Platonic) souls also exercise ruling in the regime.
Be that as it may, none of the citizens of the Solaris space station have souls whose contents were not previously shaped. Thus, Kelvin, Sartorius and Snaut, while beyond the immediate control of Earth, retain characters shaped by their duties as Earthmen. For them, the Solaris space station is not so much a fantastically distant realm where they have forever escaped the ways of Earth and can be free to craft a life of their choosing, it is rather not unlike the stereotypical work-place for us. We, on our Earth, leave home routinely to go to work. At work, we behave differently than we do at home. We comport ourselves differently to our wives as opposed to our co-workers. Our friends elicit a different response from us than our boss. It seems, in my estimation, critical to understand this if we are to comprehend the behavior of the crew aboard the Solaris space station. For their relation to one another throughout the story is best described as professional, though under the circumstances we—who have no experience of interstellar work and travel—might say of it: terse, distant, suspicious, cold. Such adjectives are very loaded with emotion and would not be proper as descriptions of common work-place life, where such behavior would merely and properly be termed professionalism. We as readers might be tempted to apply these emotional terms to describe Kelvin, Snaut and Sartorius’ relations. Kelvin himself, in fact, notes at one point, of Sartorius’ tone and manner, that he acts as though he were back at the Institute on Earth (conference, p.166). In Kelvin’s view, given their extraordinary predicament, such behavior is out of place. Perhaps. But it is hardly improper, let alone unexpected, given that all in all, the men are bound by their professional duties. Besides, while the Ocean as a phenomenon may appear novel to us as readers, Lem takes great pains to underscore that mankind – in his novel – has been grappling with it for centuries, and that far from being novel, the Solaris Ocean has become, for people of Kelvin’s time, about as novel as churches in our time: everyone has seen one, their history is long, seldom do they elicit marvel. If anything, one supposes that part of the reason why Lem relegates such a large portion of his book to a detailed retelling of the history of “Solariana” (a sort of “Solariology”) is, beyond the chance to philosophize, primarily in order to make us understand why something as amazing as the Solaris Ocean does not make that much of an impression on the crew. If anything, “Solariology” in Lem’s novel is pretty much at the stage that Christology was on Earth when Nietzsche famously pronounced that “God is Dead”. This is why, I think, the crew reacts with such introvertism, feigned professionalism and general pathos of distance to the appearance of the “visitors”—it is the reaction we might expect of postmodern man to a hypothetical contemporary ressurection: scientific curiosity, psychological alarm,suicide.
Suicide, in fact, plays a disproportionatly prominent role in Lems’ novel. It appears, either as fiat accompli or as a possibility for future action more times than the situation would seem to warrant. The reason for the persistance of suicide in the novel seems to be some form of paranoid hysteria, the intimation or realization by a given individual that they have gone mad and the subsequent desire to end this state of insanity by way of such a desperate measure. I cannot say that this line of reasoning is particularly convincing to me personally; it is hard for me to accept as reasonable that suicide would appear such a promising alternative for so many characters – even the “visitors” – at so many points of the novel. This may be due to my being too in awe of the Solaris Ocean, too curious to pursue its mystery, that despite Lem’s best efforts as a writer to convince me that his characters are less in awe, more in fear of their predicament, I still find it hard to empathize with their suicidal tendencies, or even with what seem to me to be frequent invocations of suicide. In fact, I would go so far as to venture the notion that these suicidal tendencies are less a reflection of a realistic assesment of how people might behave under the settings of the novel, and more a reflection of how plausable suicide might have been under the post-World War II Stalinism Lem inhabited. Dark, dramatic gestures, bleak gestures are, in fact, rather prevelent in XXth century Polish dramatic art of the communist era, and remained so all the way up through the films of Bareja. This morbid, dark humor vanished with the onset of free society; partially because life was no longer as morbid, partially for the insidiously and ironically morbid reason that in capitalist society, morbidity and serious nihilism do not sell. I have no basis in the text of the novel for these suppositions; they should be taken as such. In any event, while I understand that the crewmen of the Solaris space station conduct experiments to rule out halucinations and mental insanity, I remain uneasy with the ease with which suicide seems to exist in their souls as a viable course of action—to any degree.
Ultimately, like all political bodies, the crewmen of the Solaris space station aim for some good. The great political disagreement between them, a disagreement occuring always when men pursue goals together, is the nature of that good. By novels’ end, two schools of thought, two courses of action present themselves: annihilate the “visitors” and return home after giving a thorough report or remain on Solaris—awaiting the Second Coming of the Mystery. This political question is resolved democratically, though not necessarily justly. The visitors are annihilated, but Kelvin resolves to stay and await their Eternal Return—like Nietzsche’s supreme pessimist from aphorism #54 of Beyond Good and Evil, Kelvin seems to emerge from the blackest depths, shouting “da capo“. His sojourn to the Ocean, and the personal experience of the well known phenomenon of the Ocean feigning contact only to break off whereupon it accepts the presence of a stranger; all of this serves to indicate the personal, subjective claim that mystical experience has upon the heart of man. For Kelvin realizes that there is a chasm between knowing and experiencing, and that the experience of what is mundane knowledge makes that knowledge new, exciting and personal. It is very much like love—a phenomenon man knows so well as to be boring, except when he experiences it himself, particularly the love of a woman.
Earlier, I noted Levinas’ Les Temps et l’autre when mentioning Lem’s portrayal of Harey. I now return to this subject fully. It is not for want of sufficient material within Lems’ novel that I propose Levinas’ work as additional food for thought. Rather, insofar as Harey is a fairly concrete character of symbolic content, Levinas’ concept of woman, as he elaborates it in Les Temps et l’autre is a symbolic concept in search of a concrete character. Reading Solaris with Levinas’ work in mind, it is almost impossible not to juxtapose the two. The principle reason for this is becaue Levinas’ concept of woman is, above all, an exercise in futility and mystery—the two principle traits of Harey’s relations to the outside world. The futility of Harey’s predicament is multifaceted. To begin with, she is not herself, or at least she worries that she is not loved for being who she is, but rather only for being a memory of someone long gone. Beyond feminine vanity, this may also actually be a natural character trait on the part of the real Harey as mirrored by her reincarnation on the Solaris Space Station—we do not know. Complicating matters further, she is not the first memory-creature to be so loved. Finally, the physics of her existence are unclear and, as such, it is theorized that she may not be capable of surviving away from the energy field which binds her together—beyond Solaris. Even if she were, she has no papers and, to paraphrase my favorite, most tragic thought Lem offers on the subject of modern man in the entire novel ‘on Earth, without papers, you are not a person.’ Summing up these circumstances, we note that Harey is unsure of her mortality, unsure of her identity, and unsure of her life being meaningful, of her worth, of her deserving love. In short: she is a mystery. As with all of Lems’ mysteries; Hareys’ mysetery is not limited to those like her; it is parallel to the human mystery. Can we not, after all, say the same of man: man is unsure of his mortality, unsure of his identity, unsure of his life being meaningful, of his worth, of his deserving love. Harey, like the Solaris Ocean, is a clearer reflection of ourselves, standing before ourselves—before the human crew, before Kris Kelvin.
This word—mystery—may well also serve to characterize the entirety of Levinas’ rumination on the subject of woman, death, future and Other. I shall not go too much in depth herein to Levinas’ ruminations, except to say that they are of such a nature as to suppose that there is something unique about women, as the only creatures in the tapestry of known conscious life to not only be heading towards death, like the rest of mankind, but to also be incubators of the passage from non-being to being, from a kind of death to life. Within the body of a woman, the miracle of creation, of consciousness coming to be from unconscious matter, is played out. The evolution earlier spoken of in Tielhard de Chardin’s meaning—from biosphere to nousphere—an evolution which has played itself out over billions of years in the cosmos, seems to play itself out over the course of only a matter of weeks in the womb of a woman’s body. This phenomenon is not, however, something outside of her, it is not a phenomenon of Other-hood, or Other-liness. For the consciousness of the Other which grows within her is at once a part of her. This experience, unique to woman-as-human, is incomprehensible to man. It cannot be conveyed in words, it cannot be explained, it is totally and forever outside the realm of masculine phenomenology. It is a small secret of the universe known by woman as phenomenon. Woman is not only the being which carries mystery in her body—she is the conscious life who experiences mystery as a physical phenomenon unknowable to man. Just as Jesus passed through Death into Eternal Life via the Mystery of God, so the consciousness that arises within the woman passes through the death of non-being into the eternal life of being conscious—only here the intermediary is not God; distant, all powerful, omnipotent—the intermediary is woman. We might, returning to the above noted subject of the resurrection, adjust our initial thought, according to which the prejudice of the times held that woman—irrational women—were by nature more fit to witness the irrational resurrection of Christ on account of their lower intellect. Perhaps it is not low intellect, but rather the physical capacity to act as a conscious, experiencing incubator for the transformation of non-being into being that gives women the special sensitivity to have been the first to witness the risen God? Perhaps for woman, the Mystery is not “over there” but in them, a part of them—they themselves? Men, like Kelvin at the shore of the Solaris ocean, can only await the apparition of Mystery’s return, like a father awaiting the birth of his child in hospital.
While Solaris has much to teach us about God, man and the political, drawing conclusions from these teachings is as risky as drawing conclusions from the Bible. One is tempted from time to time to compare the novel to Moby Dick, given similarities in context and scope. That said, there are certain conclusions, mainly having to do with hubris and insanity, regularly arrived at on the basis of Moby Dick due to the structure of the story. It is really not anywhere as nearly easy to draw conclusions from Lems’ book. The structure, much like an actual ocean, is too deep. There is always some dark place on the horizon, some impenetrable place. In this sense, Lems’ story may well deserve the homage of being called “Biblical” in its proportions. Like the Bible, it offers us man, the Cosmos and Mystery engaged in a dance macabre wherein hope and despair are the music to which all parties sway. I do not know whether Lem himself would appreciate this comparrison. His characters consider religion in despair, only after exhausting all plausible, rational means – both positivist/scientifc and the limits of psychology. The religious comportment Kelvin adopts is not Christian, though elements of Christianity are to be found in it, just as element of Judaism are to be found in Christianity. Kelvins’ religious comportment is as much a reaction to a concrete phenomenon—the life and death of his wife—as the Christians’ religious comportment is a result of a concrete phenomenon—the life and death of Christ. This is not to demean religion and suggest that it is merely a reaction to the limits of science. Rather, it is to acknowledge the pivitol role of Mystery in human existence, and the necessity for religious sensibility and particularly loving empathy as prerequisites to a truly human life. Insofar as the political life of the Solaris space station disintergrates due to disagreement on this point, we are left to consider the fate of any political community which disavows religious sensibility when pursuing the good.
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