The Need to End All Worlds [for the sake of better beginnings]

The act of reconstruction is a constant performance. To go about rebuilding anything—city, country, mindset, world, language, or person—there must be the original pieces of what was destroyed or, at some levels, taken. Apocalyptic events (or people) can result in such losses, leading to forms of recovery that can take small eternities to complete. Seeing as an apocalypse marks the end of a world, and [re]construction the beginning or continuation of one once established, it is possible to infer that one cannot exist without the other. However, there may be times where an apocalyptic restoration is in order: to build a better product than what was created, and ultimately dismantled (in some cases, some that would have benefited from a dismantling or two), the remaining fragments must be razed to the ground, and a new foundation must be built. This isn’t to say that all things must be destroyed for the sake of their betterment or progression, but it is definitely an avenue that can be chosen. All things don’t always have to come to apocalyptic ends, but they still carry the capacity to do so. As presented to readers in Octavia Butler’s Wild Seed, and accompanied by Andrew Santana Kaplan’s essay “Notes Toward (Inhabiting) the Black Messianic in Afro-Pessimism’s Apocalyptic Thought,” the endings of worlds have heavy consequences, with very little thought into the reconstruction of them if these endings are sudden or these worlds are deeply rooted in the mentality of a forceful majority. And, often, apocalyptic restoration is chosen out of desperation in the aftermaths of these events. But how else can one build a more suitable, stable, [human] home if the old one isn’t burned twice? 

To first focus on the word apocalypse: the end of an established world. Because popular representations of apocalyptic scenarios are often seen to be drastically affecting an entire country or planet, people tend to engage with the word in disbelief, assuming it to be more of an impossibility than a probable event. But a world of any kind will always have the possibility of getting destroyed. Even in the case of Anyanwu, Butler’s main protagonist in Wild Seed, as God-like and immortal as she is, her worlds still had the capacity to end. While the tragedies that led to the loss of her spheres were on a relatively personal scale, it is important to understand that most devistations are felt the most at individual levels. Doro—Anyanwu’s counter throughout the story, and another God-like being she shares the burden of immortality with—and his actions are the central cause to a lot of the pain she experiences, as he continuously breeds powerful beings into existence (with and without her) and kills others to sustain his life. This cycle of creation and taking life is essential to understanding his apocalyptic nature of being. Doro takes individual worlds and creates new ones consistently, doing so to ensure his doesn’t meet a devastating conclusion. However, as he extends this nature in his interactions with Anyanwu, both giving her new worlds to take care of and taking those she cared for already, Doro is faced with the consequence of possibly losing her at the end of the novel, when Anyanwu threatens to take her life in response to the high amount of suffering he forced her to endure for centuries. The taking of her life would have been an act of apocalyptic restoration, in that she was choosing to eliminate one world in the hopes that a new one be built in the wake of her loss and Doro’s guilt for all the pain he has caused. Now, while ending her life would have resulted in the loss of two worlds, hers and Doro’s—as he was heavily dependent on her by the end of the novel: “Sun Woman, please don’t leave me,” (Butler 296) he cried as he realized what a great loss she would be to him—her choice to keep living resulted in circumstantial changes for the both of them, with each of them coming to a compromise about their relationship to one another. This came after the possibility of an apocalypse preceded by several others: a reconstruction caused by too many instances of ruin.

Next: to speak again on behalf of the allowance of being. Kaplan’s essay explores, mostly philosophically, what it means to be in an anti-Black society. He writes that, “In order to this preserve its metaphysical void, the modern World ‘systematically murders [black] relationality…antiblackness is the systematic and global death of this primordial relation [to the Being],’” (Kaplan 74). In other words, to be born Black into an anti-Black society is to be born but perceived as a ‘non-being’ for the sake of segregation and separatism. One of Kaplan’s main arguments is that this mentality, as well as the questions brought about it, are rooted in anti-Black language that was ultimately used to create multi-institutional racist systems. While there has been a lot of recent work around dismantling the foundation of the systems, Kaplan suggests that concepts such as Black faith and Afro-pessimism can offer a way to fully eliminate this ‘original’ language and re-establish new terms on which these systems should be built on. A kind of apocalyptic restoration to assist in, or help begin, the construction of a fully anti-Black world and society. In doing so, there would be an increase in huminization towards marginalized communities and their beliefs. However, doing so would also mean the end of a familiar world to many, even one rooted in anti-Black paradigms. But, this necessary torching of the familiar will benefit all those who have been left to wonder if they are allowed to partake in being

In examining the many apocalypses in Octavia Butler’s Wild Seed, and the proposal of a particular one by Andrew Santana Kaplan, it can be said that change is near impossible without worlds coming to an end. Layli Long Soldier wrote in her poem Obligations 2 of moving through time with compassion, “to understand, to find, to unbraid, to accept, to question / the grief, the grief,  the grief, the grief.” The form and structure of the poem makes it very unlikely that a reader can get through any reading of it without being forced to move through the grief.* Every apocalypse will result in a grieving of sorts, but restoration comes in growing through that, and understanding that grief is a side effect of the world ending.

*This realization was made after several readings of the poem in class and was brought to our attention by Dr. Beth McCoy as a way to get us thinkING about how to move through a lot of the books we will be reading throughout the semester.

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