0
Books Consciousness Culture

The Prescient Wisdom in Octavia E. Butler’s Book, Parable of the Sower (1993)

Octavia E. Butler (1947-2006) was an African-American science fiction author, who was widely recognized and respected for her unique and powerful presence within the sci-fi genre.

I first heard about Butler’s book, Parable of the Sower (which is part of the Earthseed series) during the final season of The OA when it is mentioned in passing during a scene with Kingsley Ben-Adir’s character in a bookstore.

SOURCE: The OA Pt. II, Episode 2: Treasure Island

Since then, it has been recommended several times by people whose opinions I trust, so I finally started to dive in. Needless to say, I have been completely in awe of how wildly prophetic the pages are, and dumbfounded at the fact it came out in 1993.

Experiencing this book feels as though it was a sacred channeling from Butler, perhaps a warning about the times to come, perhaps a glimpse into what is actually happening in the time now.

Parable of the Sower follows the story of a young woman named Lauren Oya Olamina, who has something called “hyper-empathy”, which is the ability to feel the pain or sensations of people.

Set in the 2020s, society has collapsed due to climate change, growing wealth inequality, and corporate greed. Nothing is safe. Water is a precious commodity. People murder and steal. Life is riddled with rotting corpses, as the maggots of death are part of daily life in this future scenario.

Yet, Lauren believes that the destiny of humanity is to travel beyond Earth and live on other planets. That “Earthseed”, as she calls it, is what is preparing us for our place amongst the stars.

“That’s all anybody can do right now. Live. Hold out. Survive. I don’t know whether good times are coming back again. But I know that won’t matter if we don’t survive these times.” – Octavia E. Butler

Butler’s commentary on life, death, “God”, humanity, and a very familiar future present, is unlike anything I have read. Since we are in a space of lockdown and quarantine, if you’re looking for something to experience and dive into, I HIGHLY recommend this book and can’t wait to devour more of the series.

Meanwhile, here are 10 quotes from Parable of the Sower that offer prescient wisdom for our highly-pressured times.


Octavia Estelle Butler signing a copy of Fledgling after speaking and answering questions from the audience.

Released under the Creative Commons “Attribution Share-Alike” 2.5 License by Nikolas Coukouma.

God:

“All that you touch
You Change.

All that you Change
Changes you.

The only lasting truth
is Change.

God
is Change.”

– Octavia E. Butler

Civilization:

“Civilization is to groups what intelligence is to individuals. It is a means of combining the intelligence of many to achieve ongoing group adaptation. Civilization, like intelligence, may serve well, serve adequately, or fail to serve its adaptive function. When civilization fails to serve, it must disintegrate unless it is acted upon by unifying internal or external forces.”

– Octavia E. Butler

Your Teachers:

“Your teachers

Are all around you.

All that you perceive,

All that you experience,

All that is given to you

or taken from you,

All that you love or hate,

need or fear

Will teach you–

If you will learn.

God is your first

and your last teacher.

God is your harshest teacher:

subtle,

demanding.

Learn or die.”

– Octavia E. Butler

Prodigy:

“Prodigy is, at its essence,

adaptability and persistent,

positive obsession. Without

persistence, what remains is an

enthusiasm of the moment. Without

adaptability, what remains may

be channeled into destructive

fanaticism. Without positive

obsession, there is nothing at all.

– Octavia E. Butler

Intelligence:

“Intelligence is ongoing, individual

adaptability. Adaptations that an intelligent

species may make

in a single generation, other species

make over

many generations of selective

breeding and

selective dying. Yet intelligence is

demanding.

If it is misdirected by accident or by

intent, it can

foster its own orgies of breeding and

dying.”

– Octavia E. Butler

Drowning:

Drowning people

Sometimes die

Fighting their rescuers.:

– Octavia E. Butler

God as Creator // Destroyer:

As wind,

As water,

As fire,

As life,

God

Is both creative and destructive,

Demanding and yielding,

Sculptor and clay.

God is Infinite Potential:

God is Change.

– Octavia E. Butler

The Non-Dual Nature of God:

“God is neither good nor evil,

neither loving

nor hating.

God is Power.

God is Change.

We must find the rest of what we need

within ourselves,

in one another,

in our Destiny.

– Octavia E. Butler

The Disintegration of Stability:

When apparent stability disintegrates,

As it must—

God is Change—

People tend to give in

To fear and depression,

To need and greed.

When no influence is strong enough

To unify people

They divide.

They struggle,

One against one,

Group against group,

For survival, position, power.

They remember old hates and generate new ones,

They create chaos and nurture it.

They kill and kill and kill,

Until they are exhausted and destroyed,

Until they are conquered by outside forces,

Or until one of them becomes

A leader

Most will follow,

Or a tyrant

Most fear.

– Octavia E. Butler

Power:

All struggles

Are essentially

power struggles.

Who will rule,

Who will lead,

Who will define,

refine,

confine,

design,

Who will dominate.

All struggles

Are essentially power struggles,

And most are no more intellectual

than two rams

knocking their heads together.

– Octavia E. Butler

DISCLAIMER: I do make a small commission from the affiliate links to the book if you choose to make a purchase.

You Might Also Like...