Fatima’s Final Self-Reflective Essay

The most crucial point to remember is that the person you were, in the beginning, was the foundation block for where you are now. Each and every piece of information I have learned in this course, has strengthened my outlook on the realistic world and Butler’s fictional world.  This course has pushed me to really look at myself as a student, peer and scholar about how I think and write.  The “constraints” of this course have, as a matter of fact, been utensils that have opened up a new realm of skills and understanding.  Through the course’s emphasis on textual evidence and reflection on one’s self, through the ING, I have seen growth in my writing and in my train of thought.  Throughout my academic years, I have taken lengthy notes in the books or articles that I read, because I deem them important.  For the most part, I will highlight or note a section because I find that there is symbolism, foreshadowing, or a lesson behind it that the author is trying to get at.  Evidently, this course has strengthened that practice of mine but also has made me more aware of the “how.”  How is this piece of text relevant or crucial to me?  How does it stand out from all of the other pieces of text that I have read.  I believe that when you learn something and attain knowledge, the most beneficial action to do is to take the lessons and try to apply them to your real-life situations. This being said you have to remember that it will not play out exactly the same as it did in Butler’s fictional world, so take it with a grain of salt.  Personally, I try to apply this belief to how I go about the classes I take in college, and every moment of my life.  As we go on from one minute to the next of our life, we are growing and adapting and changing.  We cannot be the same person as we were the day before because each moment we learn something new, and can make the intention to apply that lesson into our everyday life.  We take the chances to push ourselves into a new unknown.  By stepping out of my comfort zone, whether it be with the material I read or life choices, I am saying that I have acknowledged that there will be a challenge and that I am ready to conquer it.  

My throughline for this essay is that you are not who you were yesterday, because you are constantly changing and growing with each interaction that you have and every class that you are in.  The choice to do something can be a life-altering thing because each choice you make leads you to a new storyline.  You change and grow with every choice you make.    It is important to be aware of your interactions with others and respect the people you come into contact with, because if you cause harm to someone then that harm will come back to you in a similar way.  The central question for this course (What brings and binds people together?) has taught me to be more aware of my interactions with others, to focus on the details of a conversation or action, and see how they coordinate and apply to one another.  Each and every moment of my life will shape me for the future.  The core concepts of “harm” and “care” apply to our everyday lives, especially with today’s political and social climate.  It is essential to be kind to others and to accept other’s points of view and to realize that there are different stories for one idea/event/question.  I believe that with the concepts of “harm” and “care”, the concept of respect plays a huge role.  My respect for someone plays a huge role in how much I care for them and look out for them.  If you do not respect someone then you will cause them harm, whether or not it is intentional, and you will tend to care for them less. The central course question has taught me a great deal in regard to how relations work and how the people we meet, we meet for specific people.  The concept of trust and faith goes hand in hand with “binding people together.” You cannot bond with someone if they are not trusting of you or if you are not fully confident in their company.  For people to be bonded together, there needs to be a sort of glue that does that.  This “glue” can be their shared opinion, experience, or belief.  Many people are brought together through their common faith and use that as a way to keep themselves connected.  In my experience, when I see a fellow Muslim in a crowd of unfamiliar people, I feel a sort of ease because I know that I can at least engage with them on a topic that we both share: our faith.  Similarly, I believe that the “To the Forum” posts that are a part of the course, has allowed me and my classmates to form a bond.  Through the frequent posts, I am able to gather and understand how my peers are understanding the prompts and the material for the course.  Even if we are composing different opinions, we are all bonded through the posts.  It is a space for us to feel comfortable, safe and respected.  I feel as though these three concepts go hand in hand with the concept of consent that we have touched upon in this course.  In order to obtain someone’s consent one must first be able to feel comfortable and safe amongst the other person’s presence and space.  It is crucial to note that it is an honor and privilege for someone to provide you with their consent.  Through conversation, the individuals will be able to form a bond which leads to stronger trust.  Essentially, having common beliefs, experiences and ideas help to bind individuals together as there is a space of similarity.  I often feel safer with someone and am able to bond with them better when I have something in common with them.   The feeling of trust plays a huge role in giving or denying consent.  If an individual forms trust and a bond with another then they feel vulnerable and at ease with the other person.  In “Metamorphosis” in Imago there is a power present which characters have to constantly struggle with to figure out their “choices, desires and needs” as Beth says.  Ooloi have power over other creatures with their differing abilities and strengths.  One character that displays the power and uses it for her own advantage is Jodahs who makes changes to Marina’s body so that she can bear children, which was a desire that Marina Rivas had but not something that she consented to.  Jodahs narrates, “I discovered that I had slightly altered the structure of her pelvis during the night.  I hadn’t intended to try such a thing.  It wouldn’t have occurred to me to try it.  Yet it was done.  The female could bear children now” (Butler 582).  Jodah took advantage of the trust and bond that the two shared to go ahead and make a life-altering change.  It was not its body to decide if the body can be altered to bear children or not.  I have come to the understanding that who I am today will be different from who I am tomorrow because of the choices that I and others make, similar to how Jodah made a decision for Marina without her consent.  

Likewise, I have learned a great deal about our course concepts of harm and care that I had not known or absorbed prior to taking the course.  It is essential to remember that you are not who you were yesterday, because you are constantly changing and growing with each interaction that you have and every class that you are in.  It is important to be aware of your interactions with others and respect the people you come into contact with, because if you cause harm to someone then that harm will come back to you in a similar way. The harm you cause on someone cannot be reversed and is interchangeable.  Similarly if you express that you care for someone then that also is something that is interchangeable and one that will change their lives forever. If an individual is harmed than that clean slate will get marks on it and the result of those marks will stay.  No matter how hard you try to even out the wrinkles from the paper, the appearance of the paper will be different.  I have also learned that harm and care go hand in hand, and what I mean by that is that if you care about someone then you will do your best not to cause them any mental, physical or emotional harm.  One moment in Imago that this idea is practiced is when Jodahs expresses its concern about not wanting to cause Aaor any harm.  Whilst speaking to Nikanj, Jodahs says, “I don’t want to keep being dangerous, hurting Aaor, being afraid of myself” (Butler 571).  Due to its charismatic and kind nature, Akin is aware that it is hurting others, such as Aaor, and accepting that is hard for it as it does not mean to do so.  What is also crucial to note here is that it wants to change and stop hurting the people around it.  Jodahs’s intention to stop hurting others and being aware of how its actions impact others is an important lesson.  The concept of  karma works in such a way that the harm you cause onto others comes back to you.  The harm you cause is also a reflection of who you are and it is especially a reflection of yourself, if you do not change after becoming aware.  

Furthermore, this course exposed me to the concept of disinformation and allowed me to be more educated on the term and how it is present in our everyday lives.  The conversation about disinformation, under our course concept of harm and care, has helped me to put into words what I have been seeing frequently in our society in the past and present. According to the Wayne State University Library System website, “Disinformation refers to intentionally disseminating false information… It’s designed to manipulate the audience by either discrediting conflicting information, or supporting false conclusions. A common tactic is to mix truth with false conclusions and lies.”  Reading this article and the corresponding chapter of Dawn, I received a clearer perspective on the difference between disinformation and misinformation.   For instance, when Lilith wakes up some of the humans and debates with them as to where they are, where the Oankali has told her they are, a ship, or not.  Throughout the first book of the trilogy, Lilith has grown to trust the Oankali but her conversation with  Joseph, Tate, Leah, and Celene, starts to make her doubt what she already knows.  The individuals stated earlier believe that the Oankali are not indeed helping the humans solely because the Oankali are aliens and are different on the outside and inside.  These individuals did not believe in Lilith and believed that she was involved in harming them.  Their accusations and spread of disinformation started to impact Lilith as she started to doubt everything she knew about the Oankali and her experience on the ship.  Lilith asks herself “What if– The thought would not let her alone no matter what facts she felt she knew.  What if the others were right” (Butler 207).  The mix of truth and false information is dangerous because it could lead an individual to questioning what they already know.  The harm of disinformation is that it makes individuals doubt what they know and start to believe in misleading information.

Additionally, I believe that I am in the habit of getting “prepared to change and be changed”, I have adopted an attitude of constantly wanting to grow, and a crucial way to grow is to experience change and be in unusual and uncomfortable situations.  My throughline is that the choices you make can either help you to grow, through change or hold you back.  With this in mind, I want to travel back to one of the first concepts the course exposed me to: growth mindset versus a fixed mindset.  In his youtube video, entitled “Growth Mindset Introduction: What it is, How it Works, and Why it Matters” Trevor Ragan defines a growth mindset as the belief “that skills and intelligence are grown and developed” and this means that individuals aspire to grow and are proficient in a skill because they have practiced reaching that potential.  Also, this mindset pushes me to think about how I am always growing and that I should never stop learning because I think I have mastered a skill.  However, I should keep pushing myself to learn more because everyday new information is being created and discovered.  What we know today could be different tomorrow.  Whereas the term “fixed mindset” is defined as the belief “that you’re not in control of your abilities”  and that you are born with your skills and knowledge, and you do not have to learn anything new.  I believe that in my academic years I have witnessed myself go from a fixed mindset to a growth mindset, as I used to believe that I was naturally gifted in my classes as I would excel in them.  The notion that I was naturally gifted to understand different concepts, formulas, and terms in different subjects was present.  However, at some point, I switched to a growth mindset when that “natural talent” did not work for me as I got to higher levels of education.  I started to struggle with grasping certain mathematical concepts and saw my self-esteem decreasing because I no longer had that natural talent I once had.  What this led to was me working harder than ever to develop my skills and understanding of what was being taught in my courses.  In regard to Butler’s trilogy, I had changed my perception and liking towards the trilogy itself and the characters. For the longest time, I was not fond of science fiction as a genre, as I would get confused by the different terms, scenarios, and the “world” of the books.  But as I went through this course with an open mind, I found that the way Butler writes with avid detail and allowing the reader to “see” the characters, changed my view on science fiction.  I grew fond of the world that she created and the characters in the trilogy. Although Jodah and Jdahya’s appearances were unsettling when I first interacted with them, I looked past that and really looked at who they are on the inside. The sympathy and compassion that they have for humans is heart-warming, and something I believe our society needs to work on.  We should be accepting of others no matter their outside appearances; the only thing that should matter is how they respect others and the choices that they make.  

On a similar note, I believe that with the current difficult times with the pandemic, it has been a time of adapting to change.  Quarantine was something that I never had experienced before, and having gone through it for months, gave me a new perspective.  I was able to adapt to the change and understand that there are things that you have to do for the greater good of you, your loved ones, and strangers.  Quarantine and the pandemic have changed how I view a person’s impact on another person.  Each person should feel like they hold responsibility and should not let their selfish reasons be a reason for another person to suffer.  In Dawn, Jdahya talks about the trading concept which is a practice that I believe is similar to what we as a society are going through right now and what we have to understand.  It explains, “We must do it.  It renown us, enables us to survive as an evolving species instead of specializing ourselves into extinction or stagnation” (Butler 40).  In order to make sure the species does not go extinct, Jdahya and others like it understand that sacrifices need to be made and that small tasks will add up for a better outcome.  By trading parts of themselves to others, they are making sure that all of them stay safe and complete their tasks for the rest of their kind.  This practice is similar to what we are going through right now because this narrative is what has been put into place so that we as a species protect one another as much as ourselves.  If each person does their part then it will help the population as a whole.  

Fatima’s Goal Setting Essay

By reading and working through the epigraphs it really helps me to set some goals and critical questions that I would like to work through.  My desire to improve my writing and the way I think critically is an aspiration of mine through this course as Octavia Butler’s writing is unique and different from the other pieces of works I have read.  I would like to work through the question of how can I put aside my assumptions about the characters and plots aside, whilst reading, to better understand Butler’s writing style?  Why do I feel connected or disconnected to the topics that Butler brings up in her novels?  How can I improve the concepts and skills that I already feel as though are satisfactory?  

The action of physically planting a seed can be connected to how an individual plants a seed metaphorically in order to grow and develop their skills and abilities.  By making that initial decision to want to grow in a new area or an area that you already have some footing in, you are setting yourself up for being a well-rounded and more informed person.  In the epigraph of her book, Imago, Butler writes “I prepared the seed to go into the ground.  I gave it a thick, nutritious coating, then brought it out of my body through my right sensory hand.”  The “seed” that she emphasizes can be connected to when someone makes the intention to learn about a topic that they do not have the fullest understanding of.  In regard to myself, I know that there are many topics, skills, cultures, events, etc. that I do not have the full understanding of.  I may have received a small lesson on it through conversations with others, or through reading a text about it online or through hearing a conversation but I know for a fact that I am not as educated on certain aspects as I am on others.  However, even though I am educated on certain topics or have an understanding of a skill, I do not stop there.  I yearn to continuously learn about everything that has to do with what I already know.  In the event that, I just stop at knowing the basics and being satisfied with what I know, then I am stopping myself from growing and prospering.  Ultimately, I would be failing myself.  For instance, I grew up bilingual as my ethnicity is Bengali, but my nationality is American.  Being exposed to two different languages at once and speaking one at home versus one at school meant that I cannot fully comprehend certain tenses, conjugations or words in the Bangla language, which is considered to be my mother tongue.  Bengalis take a lot of pride in our language as it is the very reason we started a liberation war which ultimately led to our country gaining independence from Pakistan.  We wanted to have the freedom to speak our language, our cultures and traditions without being killed, assaulted or having our land burned down.  Additionally, my maternal grandfather was a Major in the war and he dedicated his life so that his people can practice our language freely.  With all of this in mind, I started a habit of wanting to fully comprehend and speak Bangla so that I can use all of the correct verb tenses, conjugations and understand all of the words. 

Furthermore, I believe that the “thick nutritious coating” can be connected to the individual watering the seed with research, questions and the intention of dedicating their time and energy to expanding their knowledge of the certain topic or skill.  In spite of the fact that I can speak Bangla at a standard that considers me bilingual, I wanted to make it a habit of speaking and learning it so that I am better educated and can benefit in terms of better communicating with others who are from different regions of Bangladesh.  This goes hand in hand with Butler epigraph where she states, “Habit will sustain you whether you’re inspired or not… Habit is persistence in practice… Habit is more dependable than inspiration, continued learning is more dependable than talent.”  Habit is an outcome of practice which means that it is something you do a lot of until it becomes a habit.  Meanwhile, talent can be argued as luck and yes it is possible to develop talent but if an individual has talent then it is more likely that they will not be as driven to do the best work and improve their art, thus the individual will not be showcasing their best work.  By means of relying on inspiration, I would have to wait a long time for a lightbulb to go off rather than just getting started and continuing to learn along the journey.  At the end of the day, I believe that time is valuable and that if I can dedicate my time to growing my knowledge then I would do that than just sit around and wait for inspiration to hit me.  Had I waited for myself to be inspired by how others speak Bangla perfectly or other’s skills, then I would not be as motivated and would have been waiting a long time.  Thus, to give my seed a “nutritious coating,” I watch videos online about how to correctly conjugate verbs and tenses in Bangla and use an app that translates words in English to Bangla.  Additionally, I have found that watching television shows or movies in Bangla, allows me to comprehend the language more.  I feel as though my experience is similar to Lilith’s when she decides she wants to learn the Oankali language, as she practices and listens carefully to how they speak.        

Additionally, inspiration can die out as quickly as it strikes, and relying on talent is not dependable as Butler argues in “Furor Scribendi.”  The concept of inspiration dying out is emphasized with the character Tate Marah in Dawn.  Butler writes, “her real problem seemed to be that she did things so well that she quickly became bored.  Or she did them so badly that she abandoned them before anyone noticed her incompetence (124).”  The idea of fear takes over the drive for inspiration or the need to show off one’s talent.  Tate Marah’s characteristic of giving up so that others do not see that she is “incompetent,” is connected to Butler’s point, in her epigraph, that “continued learning is more dependable than talent.”  Giving up when I feel like my talent is as “good” as I want it to be, is essentially holding myself back from reaching my full potential.  The process of learning is all about making mistakes and taking the time to reach your full potential.  Even when I feel as though I have reached my full potential in a skill or topic, I try not to settle for it but rather push myself to keep learning more.