Some recent events in my personal life have tempted me to place much of my focus on negative aspects of my life lately. Through this post I aim to fight back against that temptation by focusing on one positive aspect of my life, which recently has been reading and thinking about Butler’s fiction.
Okay, before you write me off as a total suck-up, I assure you that is not what I am trying to do here. I’m not here to talk about how Butler’s books are the best I’ve ever encountered or how Dr. McCoy is the most amazing professor in the multiverse. Bear with me.
What I have been thinking about is just how lucky I am to be able to focus my attention, often quite completely, on the texts we have been reading and the ideas they lead me to. I have allowed the abstract ideas that are presented in Butler’s work, formulated in my own mind, and developed during class discussion to percolate through much of my mental capacity as of late. While I do believe that the texts we read and the ideas we work through in class are of great importance and are worthy of our time and effort, I have lately given much thought to the fact that I am unspeakably lucky to have the opportunity to be able to devote so much of my time and mental effort to these subjects. Essentially I am able to focus myself on these things because all of my more immediate needs are satisfied and therefore do not require my immediate attention. Unfortunately, many people are not so lucky.
In another class of mine, we recently learned about the tragic humanitarian crisis that is currently taking place in Myanmar. Rohingya refugees fleeing Myanmar face terribly unsafe conditions, and most have no idea where their next meal will come from or where they will take shelter overnight. For these people, their attention must be focused on little more than survival. When I think about the conditions the Rohingya, and far too many other peoples like them, face in their daily lives, it gives me a sick feeling to picture myself sitting in a heated classroom discussing an alien species as if it’s the most important thing in the world. This is not to say that the things we discuss in class are not of importance, because I do believe they are. What I mean to say is that I think it is important to take the time and care to acknowledge, at least once in a while, how lucky we are to have the opportunity to engage in these kinds of things as many people do not have the chance. Of course my situation is not perfect, but I consider myself terribly lucky to have a university to attend, to have a book to read, to have the ability to devote so much of myself to something rather abstract because fulfillment of my needs is secured. (I’m trying to get myself into the spirit of Thanksgiving, if you couldn’t tell).
While I believe we are very lucky to have the opportunity to study and discuss the things that we do, I also realize that when more immediate issues in our lives present themselves, it can become increasingly difficult to focus our attention on class material. Readings and discussions about Ina or Oankali can seem abstract or arbitrary when you have a more pressing issue going on in your life, especially one that affects your health or well-being. We may not live in Myanmar (thankfully so), but we still face issues that can make the focusing of our attention on class topics rather difficult. Some of us may have experienced this at some point during this or other semesters. I just wanted to point this out, since I feel like some of us may be going through this right now as this tends to be a rather challenging time in the semester for many people. With this being said, I hope everyone has a restful break and finds something to be thankful for!