Parable Series by Octavia Butler Conversation 3: Parable of the Sower Chapters 9-25

Well I think ( and you may disagree) but good music and art transcends gender norms. Through art we can tune into the life worlds of others who are of a different gender, race, orientation, etc. After all half of a man’s ancestors are female. Half of a woman’s ancestors are male. It would seem that deep down inside we can slip and slide in and out of many different kinds of identifications. As you mentioned previously, there is a spectrum of masculine and feminine qualities and some go for the extremes or can move around a bit depending on who they are with. That’s why reading and writing can be so liberating and probably why we spend so much effort thinking about aesthetics and culture. When we read we can go into another world, become someone else.

I am very aware that this remark by an ex-lover is not good evidence for anything but his remark triggered a felt sense of something that is accurate. Even if I have never had children, I have a deep soul level response to children. Men can nurture, too, and I am glad to see that happening more often in our culture. Gay men and women have been at this social transformation for a while now. And as some philosopher said it is more important that a statement be interesting than true. I think what Tony said was interesting.

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True for you. Yes, indeed, I believe that you have a black woman deep inside of you, too. As evidenced by the warm and welcoming way that you have responded to my rants and raves on IC. I feel like, of all the folks I’ve engaged on this platform, YOU “get me” the most.

I believe that YOU and I, JohnnyD54, (Yes, YOU!) could develop an everlasting, soul-mate type of friendship in the real world apart from this platform. You’ve got the type of soul that I’m drawn to and desire to befriend. I could embrace you as BFF material.

May I ask for your hand in deep friendship? YES or NO
(please check one)

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Your comment made me wonder (or wander into another train of thought)

I wonder if I have a “white man” living deep inside of me"? Hmmm? Hmmm? Let me think about it…

…Okay, I do have a white male living deep inside of me but NOT a white female. I can relate better to the former population than I can, the latter. In fact, I can’t relate to white females at all. Only on the level of being a woman, but not that of a “white” woman. With all of that “Soccer Mom” malarky and Botox. Black really don’t crack.

I have a white man living inside me because they took root there when I was over-exposed to them in the Ivy League Halls of Academia. As a philosophy major at William and Mary (Considered Major Ivy League to SouthEast Coasters - a parent’s dream school!) I unconsciously absorbed some of the language, expression and argumentative mannerisms of white men.

UPon observing the subtle power plays that white men use to impose their will upon others via the available resources of academia (in which, I too, had been given access upon successful completion of my Battle Royale!)_ , I conscientiously and deliberately studied the ways in which white men communicate in the world to affirm their inbred sense of “melatonin - free” status. I wanted a piece of that and adopted it as part of my armor in the realm of real world intelligentsia. It has served me well (and others, too).

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Mind YOU, Before you respond to my invitation for “real world friendship”, I must warn you that this is the type of friendship whereby, you can call upon this person to contact a Bail Bondsman to arrange and acquire the funds to bail your friend out of jail, in the event that a grave misunderstanding arises, which could result in an unwarranted arrest.

(I already have a secret stash of “bail cash” stowed away, in the event that this happens. Hence, when I make my one phone call, I could just give you the details on how to acquire these funds to bail me out)

And I would do the same for you, of course. That’s the ultimate test of true friendship. Someone willing to bail you out of jail if you mistakenly get arrested for something. Right? Wouldn’t you agree?

Can I get a witness???

What about an “Amen”?

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YES! I whole heartedly accept!

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Amen, sister, I am there for you. When other friendships are all forgot, ours will still be hot!

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Now this is getting complex. I like your ruminating upon such an odd question. As we get out of school and the family systems that shaped us we can begin to change our ways of relating to our past(s) when we were told the way things are.

I will tell you a wierd story. My father, who died a few years back, was an awful man, cruel, bigoted, mean southern white man. I detested him. But I saw once a very odd thing. My parents ran a store that catered to local folks, what they called a resale shop, full of good deals. A black lady, came in one day to shop, with her small son, who took a strange liking to my father. The little boy climbed all over my father, who received the child’s affection, in a kind and gentle manner. I was kind of shocked to see this little child melt the rough behavior of my mean father. So even a mean racist pig can have a moment where he let’s down his guard. The wierd thing is that this boys mother became a regular customer and every time she visited , her son ran up to my Dad and wanted to play. They bonded!

Now I know that this is not a deep story, for my father remained a cruel and intolerant man but underneath all of that he could not resist the innocence of that little kid.

Did Daddy have a little black boy inside of him? I imagine that he did and that is why I can forgive him ( a little bit) for the cruelty he frequently expressed towards just about everyone. I think this is the real tragedy of our lives, is that we freeze into false identities that come out of long dead past and dont pay attention to reality.

I think this is what Baldwin meant when he said black people are inside white people and vice versa. Baldwin visited a southern town that had lifted the rule about Blacks being forced to sit in the back of the bus, The first day, he reported, when he got on the bus, he didnt sit in the front. He sat sort of in the middle. He said everyone black and white were kind of shy with one another. He said the atmosphere was like people making up after a lover’s quarrel.

That story makes me want to cry. Sorry if I get a little corny but I think Baldwin was a very deep man, deep as the rivers…

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You got it, Bro! Love Ya’!

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That little boy may have been the key to his salvation! I think that it is a beautiful story and example of how infectious our natures can be, which transcend race and gender.

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Thank you for jogging my memory. I just flashed on that odd story in response to your self-inquiry. It made me loosen up the hold I have on admitting that my father had anything redeemable about him. Hatred is, as someone wise once said, too great a burden to bear. I have tried to lay down that weary load and so maybe sharing this in this forum can stimulate some self-reflections about these huge moral problems we are all of us forced to face. We cant kick this can down the road.

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Thanks for this, Katina, I’ve not seen this powerful dramatisation of Invisible Man before. I agree that considering questions of race, gender, and class in Butler’s work is very important.

I’m going to read the Butler interviews you’ve pointed me to, and hopefully join the conversation tomorrow to discuss Parable.

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We would love to have you!

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When you HATE what you used to LOVE,
And LOVE what you used to HATE,
CONGRATULATIONS!
You’ve changed!

(Earthseed Propaganda Poem composed by “Parable” Reader, K. Press)
(Ahem…just for fun)

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From the Migration Series Jacob Lawrence



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These paintings are real! Esp. the last one with sunlight traced gold around their faces. Are these images pulled from the web or part of someone’s personal collection?

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I saw this series on display at Museum of Modern Art a decade ago. I was struck by the small canvases, post card size, some of them, and yet they had so much power. I got these images from the Jacob Lawrence website.

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I made a real booboo… I forgot to start the recording of the session on Octavia Butler today! So our wonderful words are not going to be kept for posterity! I was distracted at the beginning of the session, and completely forgot! I’m so sorry!

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It was great to meet you all yesterday, thanks for having me, and for agreeing to participate in the research project (which you may choose to change your mind on at any time).

The consent form and more information that I mentioned yesterday, can be found here: Prospecting Futures Online

Ah that’s a shame about the recording, but these things happen! Would people be open to sharing / continuing some of yesterday’s discussion here?

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Below are my spotty notes taken from the session, which I have loosely edited. I have made this a wiki so anyone can edit in their comments, memories, etc. Hope this helps!


In Attendance

Dona Abbad
Mary Thaler
Katina Press
Jocelyne Kiss
Geoffrey Edwards
Miranda Lossifidis
Johnny Davis
Douglas Duff
Marco Morelli


Introductions

(short chat, hellos)

Geoffrey opens with quote from Chapter 25:

Create no images of God.
Accept the images
that God has provided.
They are everywhere,
in everything.
God is Change—
Seed to tree,
tree to forest;
Rain to river,
river to sea;
Grubs to bees,
bees to swarm.
From one, many;
from many, one;
Forever uniting, growing, dissolving—
forever Changing.
The universe
is God’s self-portrait.

Opening Comments:

Doug: notes the flow of the novel; real story with real characters

@ 8 minutes: enter Miranda

9:00 - Mary: loves the trial and error of the characters attempts to situate in the troublesome world.

Geoffrey: the sense of spirit and generosity

Jocelyne: Face of God; Butler’s fighting of the system in the novel as a building of strength, rhythm; where did this expression come from, since raised in Christian milieu? Butler and Olamina develop together in their creation of the Earthseed/God is Change; similar to Sufi belief (I am God)…a building of reality. Butler fighting the system as she fights herself (rebuilds her beliefs).

15:30 - Mary: Protestant God, make no images; is this Animism?
16:30- Marco: Pan(en)theism has an Absolute. The Absolute is Change…very interesting
18: John - limits to Science Fiction; sees as first-rate melodrama, elements of theology, sociological…all of this is in the background, holds the narrative together…the tension of the challenges drives the novel; Lauren giving us a long-term focus, wants others to cooperate. She has to tap into the imaginal side -SF limits her…not fully convinced of the dystopian themes

20:00 - John: Migrating populations, natural disasters and refugees vs settled population’s acceptance/rejection; American issues with this theme; current tensions/stresses…a long history;
Ceremony for the dead; reconnecting ancestors with the living; culture nature divide

26:00 - John: Experience with homelessness, finding ways to make it work.
(Doug’s side notes (unspoken): where I lay my head is home; this view is something that we all have…my head is my home; but it is not a conquering, it is a nomadic lifestyle, an exile lifestyle…we are all in exile with genius ideas roaming about the headspace…how do you add people to see your head as the true home…start a religion)

27:30 - Mary: Exodus theme into promised land…the book resists that the promised land is a place…the myths

29:45 - Geoffrey: from the wall —> a road movie, Kerouac-esque ; the real story is in the accumulation of people, the accidents as the way people become known and drawn into the community

…John and Geoffrey discern the main lines of the story (accidents as gateways into relationships or modes of survival)

36: Miranda - what happens in periods of crisis a compelling argument.
Responding to Mary: we do not know whether they will end up in a place, the different encounters

Hyperempathy

36:30 Mary introduces Hyperempathy
John: Mirror Touch (doctor’s book); Lauren able to suppress the conditions when in high violence.
Mary: what does this gift mean?
Doug: same question
Jocelyne: rare condition; links with Face of God, the process that Lauren develops
Mary: Lauren needs people; needs to build the community and perhaps the hyperempathy is the reason

The Genesis Story + Lauren’s various role developments (Lauren is Change)

46:30 - Marco: sees as a Genesis story; not an allegory, but the series as the biblical texts of this religion; Butler proud of the verses, encapsulated essential wisdom. Verses as seeds being planted in the readers mind…the story is accidental, yet Butler showing that the genesis of a new beginning is forged in a situation of intense stress/disillusion (Hell). The need arises to project a future. Lauren is the generator of the seeds, the highest sower providing seeds for other sowers. Theology from the ground up, theology of necessity.

51:40 - Geoffrey: importance of verses; self-confidence developed by repeating expressions of self-confidence; a deep psychological connection to Butler.

Katina: Lauren as Abraham; pick up and find land based on faith. Then Moses….
THe repetiton of verses as a mantra to stay focused on the goal.

John: A biblical character and a crossdresser; (God is Change)
Mary: Harriet Tubman had to cross dress during Underground Railroad

SF or Science Fiction

(take note that Doug used SF interchangably here, meaning either SF (as Haraway describes) or science fiction in general…he did not parse out the actual usage by the speaker until Geoffrey distinguishes the two)

Geoffrey: Do you have a SF problem John?
John: not SF; various threads tie-in to a high-emergency; no technology, more survival
Geoffrey: SF is not just technology
Katina: SF to Butler associated with 14 yo white boys…what is SF? How did the book end up in the genre? (to be heard you have to go with the punches); she had to unwillingly associate with SF
Geoffrey: the movie culture distorts SF. Distinguishes SF with Science Fiction….about social futures.

(she really is planting the seeds, giving us a tangible experience)


SF Group Study Mention

Miranda: A short sociological study, nearly finished, observing online readers (July-December); Goodreads SF group (Annihilation & Sower); found us on Youtube;
Questions?


SF, Continued

Marco: SF opens up the discussion; mentions Haraway’s use of SF; creating futures an interesting theme; Marco is Olamina. Just wants to read! Deep and receive the text, the author
The Road as an example
1:15:00 - John: learned that movie science fiction (AI/tech. Focus) skews the discussion
Katina: Kindred was SF; Butler categorized by past writings; compromised …;Olamina does not have limits of the black divides

John: the is a parable, simple story with a profound spiritual truth.
Geoffrey: history of Butler’s writings.
Katina: Afrofuturism of Butler, Black Panther…the stories are being told!
Jocelyne: hidden identities; difficult to be something other than the mainstream
SF fan; the emotional tones towards female. This is real SF because she stays with her identity (black, female) within SF philosophy; the depth of Lauren’s character and Butler’s strength

(note: Doug was intrigued by the discussion between John, Katina and Jocelyne pertaining to identity, reading preference, etc. so notes are limited!)

Lauren is Change? Will Talents follow the

1:41 -Dona: 1st SF novel, What is SF? A novel? God is change.

Ending left Dona questioning….will there be real change? Will she build a wall? Like father?

Dona: “This is now…this is real. This is the story of us.” (referencing parallels between Sower and living in the Middle East)

Marco: Don Quixote
Genre is ripe with examples to draw upon.
Geoffrey: SF was inspiration
Doug: exercise -insert SF (or chosen label) into Chapter 25’s opening quote:

Create no images of SF.
Accept the images
that SF has provided.
They are everywhere,
in everything.
SF is Change—

Katina (1:49) - the next thing must be different (refering to Olamina’s religion) or it wont be change.
Loves the science, the reality of this…

Closing statements and updates to schedule

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For those interested in Mary’s adventures, here is a clip for a radio interview about the incident that happened and the work she normally does in the North. Redirecting...

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