Building a Better World

What I love most about human beings is the ability for us to change our minds. When we learn new information, we can use it to change the way we think and create something even better. New ideas, art, poetry, relationships, inventions, and so much more are made possible by the fact that we learn and grow. What I dislike most about human beings is the downright stubbornness to change our minds when faced with new information. We think that our opinions are right and they become close to us. When they are challenged, we feel personally attacked. When this happens, there is no room for change—for love, for growth. 

When I was first asked to reflect on what the most interesting/challenging strand of how Jemisin is using geological concepts to get me thinkING about the ideas of power and justice, I had only finished the first book of the trilogy. I had just met the characters and was introduced to the world for the first time. I had chosen to write about orogenes and their ability to quell earthquakes and how this power was controlled by those who decided they were in power. That isn’t to say that I am no longer interested in this strand, however I did not have the whole story. In my original reflection, I was focused on destruction and the prevention of destruction when in reality, orogenes are much more than that. Orogeny isn’t just a superpower in a trilogy, it exists in our own world! Orogeny is the process by which mountains are formed on the earth’s continents. This process includes the destruction of existing crust AND the creation of new crust. The destruction of what is existing and the creation of something new. Sounds a little reminiscent of Alabaster’s view of the world. This world that our characters live in cannot keep existing as it is with murder and hatred and enslavement. It is not enough to keep quelling earthquakes and pretending everything is fine. It must be destroyed and rebuilt. 

One of the most shocking things that was revealed to us in the trilogy was that the hatred towards orogenes and the world that enslaved them was built on a lie. According to Stonelore, Father Earth didn’t always hate life. The lorists say, “He hates because he cannot forgive the loss of his only child” (The Obelisk Gate, pg. 103). Orogenes are blamed for flinging the moon away in pursuit of harnessing the earth’s power. After generations of hearing this story, stills, or people who don’t have the power of orogeny, have grown a sense of hatred for the people they fear. Orogenes are not just the cause of the Seasons, but its remedy as well. They can sess danger and quell earthquakes and it is for this reason that they are turned into tools. All of this is turned upside down when it is revealed how the moon was actually lost. 

To briefly sum up what actually happened: 

Long ago there were two groups of people: the Niess and the Sylangestine. The Niess believed that magic could not be owned and let it exist as it was in the form of art. This angered the Sylangestine who felt as though this was a waste of magic and were upset that despite this, the Niess had more efficient magic. The Sylangestine convinced themselves that the Niess had to be different somehow–that they had different sessipinae and eventually, that they were not human at all. To keep up with the lie they had crafted and built their lives upon, the Sylangestine carefully engineered those with special sessipinae and utilized them as tools. A group of these engineered people felt as though they should not be tools any longer and halted the extraction of the earth’s power by redirecting the obelisks. In the process of this, the moon was flung away. 

To know that everything you have been told your entire life is a lie, to feel as though you have been betrayed by society and everything you know must be earth-shattering. However, once this curtain is pulled back you have to make a decision: to continue on as things are or destroy everything you know to be true and rebuild it. 

After finishing the trilogy, it is clear that LOVE is an essential part of this story. As Nassun discovers her powers and tries to understand the world, she learns many hard lessons. One in particular is that love can be conditional. She tells her father moments before killing him, “‘I wish you could love me anyway, even though I’m bad’” (The Obelisk Gate, pg. 387). Sometimes, love isn’t enough. Her own father, someone who raised her, took care of her, played with her, and laughed with her could not ultimately love her for who she was. He wanted to change her and in the end he paid the price with his life. For Nassun, destruction is the only way she thinks things can be changed. 

After the moon was flung away from earth, some people felt it would be easier to continue living a lie and treating orogenes as tools. For them, this idea was stone solid and would not be changed. In response, the earth was cursed with the Seasons and along with it destruction and disrepair. At the end of The Stone Sky, Hoa tells Essun, “‘Orogeny…was never the only way to change the world’” (396). The world was changed because of growth, because of change, because of love. It was never about forcing orogenes to use their powers in a certain way or harnessing the earth to suit one’s personal needs. People should be able to exist as they naturally are. 

Looking back at my first essay, I can safely say that it isn’t good. But it was an idea and instead of looking at it as finished, I got to come back to it, expand upon it, and (hopefully) make it better. I get to finish the trilogy and see the whole story. I get to change my mind and I get to build.

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