Saturday, September 24, 2005

Disasters and Talents: a parable

When emotions rule alone,

-----Lauren Olamina Bankole, Parable of the Talents

If readers of this blog have taken a cursory look at my profile they will see that I am somewhat a fan of science fiction and mysticism. It is interesting because I am a student and a scientist. I am a sci fi fan because in such writings I often find a more objective portrayal of our current reality than in the news. It often speaks to someone with a mystical bent and it includes science even if at time the science is often wrong. Writer Octavia Butler is one of my favorite sci fi authors. I recently read the sequel to her Earthseed series Parable of the Sower. It is titled Parable of the Talents.

Parable of the Sower details a young woman's philosophical journey and loss of everything meaningful growing up in dystopian California. Talents is about her work to fulfill the destiny of what she discovered on the journey. By paying attention to objective reality, she discovers that standard organized religions do not and cannot work because they are not life affirming. They do not better the lot of man because they deny god. Sounds crazy that religions deny god right? For her god is just plain and simple change. Most people can't handle this. For the few than can imagine this intellectually, it's still difficult to incorporate in our practical existence. The idea that we must work hard on one direction but always be prepared or willing to change because someone (god) isn't going to come and rescue us from all of life's ills is a difficult one. However it is a necessay concept to put into practice for future existance. It reminds me of a saying by a real life group that experiment in science and mysticism called the
cassiopaeans. They say that:
"Life is
religion. Life experiences reflect how one interacts with God.
Those who are asleep are those of little faith in terms
of their interaction with the creation.
Some people think that the world exists for them
to overcome or ignore or shut out.
For those individuals, the worlds will cease.
They will become exactly what they give to life.
They will become merely a dream in the 'past.'
People who pay strict attention to objective reality right and left,
become the reality of the future."

Getting back to the story:
After discovering that mankind's destiny is to move beyond the earth and populate the stars, the heroine begins to work on herself and help others who choose to develop their talents even if she doesn't know exactly how to begin getting to the stars and she isn't sure she is doing the right thing. It shows that what allows for our evolution is nurture of our talents within the bounds of objective reality here and now on earth. She practices the idea that:

"Chaos is god's most dangeros face
Amorphous, roiling, hungry
Shape chaos,shape god
Alter the speed or direction of change
Recombine the seeds of change
Transmute the impact of change
Seize change, use it, adapt and grow."

Thus Talent picks up where Sower left off so you get to see her struggles to fulfill the destiny in post-acpocalypse California. Here the US has sold the last of it's space shuttles to finance its wars. The average person cannot read much less imagine realistic space travel. The nation is a shell of itself after environmental(due to global warming), nuclear( due to wars) and biological (plagues of pox) catastrophies. The resulting social upheaval makes the recent events in New Orlearns due to hurricane Katrina seem like heaven. There is also the election campain and eventual presidencey of a warmongering christian fundamentalist Texan who knows how to manipulate people's perceptions with his lies. In this society, not so vastly different from ours I must say, it is mostly the wealthy that have a measure of real living; everyone else is just trying to survive. Rape, murders, witch burning (so there are slight differences), kidnapping and actual slavery are rampant. Yes slavery ! and it ain't just blacks. Everyone is vulnerable to enslavement except for the ruling elites or corporate heads. The Texan's goons are the most efficient slavemasters. Their acts comitted in the name of returning the nation to its great christian past are unconstitutional. The blinded believers, including the heroine's brother refuse to believe the horrible acts are commiteed by these christian leaders and their friends. Sadly like we see in today's USA nominally led by a christian fundamentalist Texan, when you're rich and powerful enough and most of the populace is kept scared about natural and man made disasters such as hurricanes and terrorists, the constitution is just something written on a piece of paper. People disappear without anyone knowing.

The book was informative because it shows how easy it is to enslave others or allow ourselves to be enslaved when disasters are happening all around you. The first trap is looking outside oneself be rescued. Such a situation is ripe for manipulation by anyone claiming to have a sure shot solution because we become vulnerable to burying our talents by believing lies. It prevents us from paying attention to objective reality and as such we set ourselves up to become what the cassiopaeans would call a "dream in the past". Lauren Olamina in Talents warns:

"Choose your leaders with wisdom and forethought
To be led by a coward is to be controlled by
all that the coward fears.
To be led by a fool is to be led by the opportunists that control the fool
To be led by a thief is to offer up your most precious treasures to be stolen
To be led by a liar is to ask to be told lies
To be led by a tyrant is to sell yourself and those you love into slavery."
The book shows that our responsibilities are to multiply our talents or lose them if we bury them. To not bury our talents means working HARD on being truly human and being of service to others. It means not holding on so tightly to one thing (beliefs) that in the end it proves to be worthless. When we do this we look for external saviours and we become their slaves. The story shows how people with nothing discover that they have much to give and can be of service if they develop their talents. Also you see how being concerned with serving self is slavery because when we seek to serve only self we end up as fodder for those further up in the hierarchy of self service. We become become "echos of ourselves" or a "dream in the past." Lauren says:
All too often we say what we hear other say
We think what we're told to think
We see what we're permitted to see
Worse! We see what we're told to see
Repeitition and pride are the keys to this
To hear and see an obviouslie
Again and again and again
may be to say it almost by reflex
Then to defend it because we've said it
And at last to embrace it because we've defended it
because we cannot admit that we've embraced
and defended an obvious lie.
Thus, without thought, without intent
we make mere echoes of ourselves
and we say what we hear others say."
Nowhere is this more evident that in today's society led by the spin of a bunch of christian fundamentalist and corporate heads who control our leading fool.


  1. Sounds like a good book, I will have to check out the series sometime.

    Last SciFi book (series actually) I read was Tad William's Otherland, which I thought was pretty good. It was about a consortium of the super-rich who built a virtual reality where they got to be evil Egyptian gods.

  2. Thanks for the info on Otherland. I will check it out. I love sci fi though I practice sci reality. As a student of practioner of science I find it stranger and at times scarier than any science fiction. Octavia has a way with describing post apocalyptic society and it always bear a striking resemblance to our current one.


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