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Opening Salvo

Finding Ourselves

by James M. Kushiner

In Never Let Me Go, a novel by the Japanese-British writer Kazuo Ishiguro (and now a motion picture), children at a boarding school in the beautiful English countryside are raised with ­little contact with the outside world. The truth about the origin and identity of the students of Hailsham School is veiled.

But by picking up on subtle clues and hints dropped in guarded conversations, one might begin to figure out that the children are all human clones, whose sole purpose is to become, after reaching adulthood, sources for organ "donations." After three or four such donations, a clone would "complete," that is, die.

In the course of their schooling, the students of Hailsham undertake many art projects, which are then sent away to a "Gallery." Years later, the purpose of the Gallery is discovered; the authorities believe that an examination of the students' artwork will help them find the answer to a much­debated question: Do clones have souls?

Thus, just as P. D. James's The Children of Men is not so much about a dystopian future of global infertility as it is a commentary on modern attitudes toward sex and children, so Never Let Me Go turns out to be not so much about the issue of human cloning as about the way our society educates students to think about themselves—especially their souls.

The students are simply never taught that they do, in fact, have immortal souls. They are treated as intelligent biological objects. Their health is looked after—they are given precise dosages of nutrition and vitamins—but only for the sake of their future "donations." They are taught the mechanics of sex, but because they will never marry or have children, they are confused about what sex is for, and their teachers do not help them understand.

Hailsham students are subtly indoctrinated to accept their sad fate. From early on, they are carefully prepared, with small bits of information they cannot fully understand, to see themselves as donors. They are, in the words of Kathy, the narrator of the story, "told and not told" when they are young about their future place in society. They learn just enough to go along with things, a step at a time, as they approach and then enter adulthood, accepting in turn each new aspect of their sad fate, right up to their last breath.

In much the same way, children in the secularizing West are being taught—though perhaps not in so many words—a soulless, and consequently spiritually destructive, version of themselves. Being taught that science is how we discover the only objective truths we can know, and being encouraged to pursue lifestyles that assume there is no life after death, they eventually arrive at the unspoken conclusion: Human beings are material objects and no more. Still, many feel a sadness that there is no more to life than satisfying carnal appetites and exercising a bit of creativity to amuse ourselves before we die.

The truth that we have souls, that we are a little lower than the angels but higher than the beasts, has been closeted away from students. Instead of learning from Moses, Paul, Augustine, and Dante, they are presented with the revelations of Darwin, Freud, and other secular prophets who have supposedly unmasked the sham of outdated religious beliefs. One of those beliefs is that we each possess an immortal soul.

Salvo magazine helps readers both get and keep a grip on the precious truth that we were made by God for moral purposes that have eternal consequences—that we each have a rational soul and the ability to think with a moral imagination, to exercise self-control, to develop virtuous habits, and to contemplate with wonder and gratitude our own existence and the world God has made. You, reader, have a soul. Take hold of that truth, and never let it go. 

—Jim Kushiner

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