Parable Series by Octavia Butler Conversation 1: Introductions to the Parables and the “Talents” of Octavia Butler

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(Douglas Duff) #21

Added YouTube timestamps at top of the thread (and below here). I wouldn’t mind any feedback on this (add/subtract; more/less details, etc.). It takes a little time to put it together, but it is worth the effort, even if only a couple of us review the recording (perhaps only @johnnydavis54 and I!!) .


YouTube Recording timestamps:

0:01 : Participants first thoughts/reactions
17:00 : Geoffrey provides Butler’s biographical and other background information
37:00 : Comments from others on Octavia Butler
48:15 : John compares/connects Butler to recent Erin Manning reading group discussion themes
55:20 : Dona discusses writing style of Parable of the Sower
59:01 : Mary’s Introduction
1:05:52 : Begin discussion of Sower (limited to first few chapters); relevance to current American trends; Butler as “master of extrapolation;” prophetic quality to text
1:10:01 : Katina’s Introduction + discussion of Infinite Conversations/Cosmos Collective and Gebser Reading Group
1:22:58 : Continue discussion of prophecy; “what is prophecy for?”
1:28:56 : Walter Bruggemann’s three qualities to prophetic voice
1:31:41 : Quotes from the text
1:35:47 : Suggestion to supplement video conversation with comments on the Infinite Conversations website.
1:37:36 : Butler’s use of Christian themes. Is Christianity insufficient? What is Butler saying about religion? How did Christianity contribute to Sower’s (and America’s) society?
1:53:30 : The minority groups and Christianity’s failure to support; Jesus’ parables; Christ as a performance artist; “Where are we supposed to go?!”


The timestamps are also listed within the Youtube recording, so you do not have to come back here to reopen the page. just click the “show more” button under the video/Infinite Conversations Icon on the YouTube page:

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(john davis) #22

Good work, Doug. Thank you.


(Katina Press) #23

Some of these words…you took right out of my mouth!

It sounds like your are pondering one of my favorite, age-old questions posed among the poetic stanzas of the Psalms. In other words, your above quote very eloquently and authentically echoes the same question raised by King David in Psalm 8: “_When I consider thy heavens, the work of thy fingers, the moon and the stars, which thou hast ordained, what is man that thou art mindful of him? And the son of man that thou attend him." You’d better believe that God wants change! Heaven is not stagnation. Peace, harmony and joy are not limited to the “realms of tranquility”.

Again…what happened to empathy?

The loss of empathy from human nature could be a necessary adaptation to the world 's high-tech, multi-generational preference for digitized and depersonalized forms of communication; void of human physical contact, physical interaction and even the human presence.

Especially if one considers the “two-factor theory of emotion” developed by Stanley Schachter and Jerome Singer in the 1960s (also known as the Schachter-Singer theory), which proposes that our experience of emotions depends on two things: physiological arousal and our cognitive interpretation of the arousal.

Our increased intimacy in interaction with machines (at the expense of inter[personal] and [physio]logical human intimacy) is robbing human communication of one of the most necessary conditions for the “arousal” of human emotion; that is, access to physiological engagement. Almost like, the less we engage our social animal on a physiological level, the less relevant certain human emotions become to one’s survival , even to the point of becoming a barrier to survival.

In response to such an environmental shift, our species may “weed out” intuitive responses to human behavior, such as “empathy”, from the human emotional gene pool, in favor of a more relevant distribution and spectrum of phenotypes observed over time.


(Douglas Duff) #24

Without knowing the direction Lauren takes her religion and followers (literally to the stars?? I cannot imagine this within the first few chapters…), I do agree with staying put and solving our issues here before venturing out.

We see Lauren and her father displaying their differences related to this in Chapter 3:

“Space could be our future,” I say. I believe that. As far as I’m concerned, space exploration and colonization are among the few things left over from the last century that can help us more than they hurt us. It’s hard to get anyone to see that, though, when there’s so much suffering going on just outside our walls.

Dad just looks at me and shakes his head. “You don’t understand,” he says. “You don’t have any idea what a criminal waste of time and money that so-called space program is.” He’s going to vote for Donner.

Lauren is seeking hope. And, for a young girl, she displays a healthy concern for humanity, intuits the psychological benefit of such stellar programs, especially from within the nasty climate they reside. Yet, as the father states, to pursue such things is to pursue pipe dreams. In our current world, I personally can only imagine further/future space exploration as opportunities ultimately benefitting the already wealthy to bank on mining asteroids, space tourism, space politics…couldn’t Elon Musk invent some super-biome in the deserts or Antarctica where humans cannot survive and run experiments there? Couldn’t our best minds find ways to make the earth habitable in case of environmental disaster? Create temporary communities with temporary governments to support refugees? etc, etc.

I, currently and realistically side with the father…yet…at the end of the chapter…he does not vote for Donner…I guess when there is no hope in the political/social realm, or almost no hope at all, there is hope in the stars, right?


(john davis) #25

Your comment, Katina, reminds me of a previous Cafe conversation about Jordan Brown’s documentary on the negative effects of technology. We discussed the film with the director and it may be of interest to you as it covers a lot of information about our loss of empathic skills and the dulling effects of flat screens on our cognitive capacities. We, at the Cafe, and in our study groups, want to use the technology for a different purpose. The link to the movie can be found there. I highly recommend it.


(Katina Press) #26

I feel like I just re-opened a bag of cookies that are still fresh.

Thank you so much for the link to Brown’s movie. I’m looking forward to viewing it this evening. Is it akin to Booker’s “Black Mirror” themes? I have a begrudging regard for technology as a means to enhancing my access to reality beyond that of three dimensions, but not as it’s replacement.

I love sci-fi movies, too! I was absolutely tickled by Spielberg’s “Ready Player One” as I viewed it for the first time last night. It came across as a dark, well-animated horror story.


(john davis) #27

I just saw Black Panther last night. I loved it. Last year I was swept away by Moonlight. As bad as things are I find these films are working with shadow forces of our human nature and they are hugely successful with audiences . I sense that the yearning for liberation runs deep in our popular culture.I dont think Butler had any movies made from her novels which surprises me as she seems so cinematic to me. I do appreciate writers and film makers who wrestle with the collective shadow. And someone mentioned there is golden shadow as well, all of that good stuff we ignore about our selves and each other and project onto others. We repress and project our holiness onto sainted characters or lovers or gurus as much as we project our darker shadow aspects onto others and falsely accuse. Butler, I sense , is working at the edges. We need to embrace all of it!


(Katina Press) #28

I was up all night with that documentary you sent me!!! Shouldn’t we begin a movement against what’s happening in our 3-D world?

I feel like the 3-D character in the book “Flatlands” trying to exist in a 2-D world (notice I didn’t say, “fit in”). This is a progressing form of human enslavement by the cultural ABCs, isn’t it ?


(Katina Press) #29

Yeah, I heard that “Black Panther” was very inspiring. I’m looking forward to seeing how they handle “Black Klansman”.

The parallel lines of fiction and nonfiction run too closely at times, since discovering this community. Esp after viewing “Stare Into the…” documentary and then a smooth (coincidental, is more like it) segue to Butler’s dystopian, sci-fi novel. Coincidence, indeed.


(Katina Press) #30

Yes, there are parallels between the sci-future that Butler fictionalises in her novel and the sci-present documented in Brown’s “Stare Into…” report.

Now I see how empathy is “weeded” out of the human nature , as it is sown into generations of 2-D delusional, screen culture junkies, so distracted with ourselves that the brain’s neuroplastic pathways have rendered us completely unable to ever even imagine what its like to feel what “others” feel. Like “The Spectacle” predicted.


And then it gets Weirder...
(john davis) #31

Yes I know how that feels. I’m glad you see connections between Jordan Brown’s film and Butler’s novel ( which has plenty of strange loops and paradoxes). We missed your presence at the reading today. I hope you can make it next time!


(Katina Press) #32

You all ROCK! I overslept from being up all night about that film. Then, was surprised to see how few people care!?!!!??!


(Katina Press) #33

Because I certainly do! Butler must have had some OT training to introduce the theme of “shaping god” as a new form of religion “of the future”. Yet, the Israelites were judged all throughout the Old Testament for “shaping idols”. That is, human hands carving out a wooden tool to represent his (externalized) image of a god. What we also call, “idolatry”.

And yet, we continue this pattern today, even in its expression of our relationship with technology. A mere tool we’ve created from our minds to shape an image of god (or man in his own image). Screen culture are like armies in training for the overthrow of the apriori status of the 3-D world as we know it.


And then it gets Weirder...
(Maia ) #34

I can’t seem to find the discussion from 8/15, this morning, is that because it isn’t up yet? Thanks!


(Maia ) #35

Yes, I can’t wait to see Blackkklansman! But it might be awhile for me…since I can’t attend movie theatres and Ntflx could take a year to release it. When you see it, come back here and let us know what you think/feel? Thanks.


(Maia ) #36

I loved Moonlight, too. Was shocked that a lot of people didn’t get it at all, and or were offended, etc.

“We repress and project our holiness onto sainted characters or lovers or gurus as much as we project our darker shadow aspects onto others and falsely accuse. Butler, I sense , is working at the edges. We need to embrace all of it!”

Yes. Working at the edges is a deep skill we all need to cultivate…while…embracing all of it, as you say.


(Douglas Duff) #37

I’ll have the recording up tomorrow. I only have a personal cell connection by night. Good to know that you are following along! Feel free to join us for the next discussion in a couple weeks; we love your insights here (on the site) and would appreciate the additional dynamics you’d bring to this text in particular. Have you read Octavia’s work?


(Maia ) #38

Have read some of her work many many years ago when I co-owned a feminist book and record store. Have to confess financial (as well as physical) limitations since then have kept me from so many great reading (and other experiences), but I am going to try to get to the library… :slight_smile: Thanks for your warm invitation.


(Maia ) #39

Want to let you know that I enjoyed the conversation…missed out on the very last part due to internet disconnection. Will catch up soon. Can’t attend, as I said before, due to illness (unpredictable), no camera/mic set up, no program for that, and much much prefer audio interactions, voice minglings, listening… I find video distracting rather than enhancing! I know, that’s weird. But want you to know it’s not lack of interest here that I don’t join you all. I just ordered the book from library, not sure when it’ll come, maybe AFTER all the discussions are done and archived! Anyway, I’m cheering you on!


(john davis) #40

Thank you, Ariadne, for your support and your contributions. Let’s keep this thing going. We have high hopes!