Independent Life: An Act of Creation in a Tumultuous World

“I chose a spot near the river. There 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. I planted it deep in the rich soil of the riverbank. Seconds after I had expelled it, I felt it begin the tiny positioning movements of independent life.” –Octavia Butler, Imago

Over the course of this epigraph, Octavia Butler succinctly describes the act of creation. In the beginning, there is a preparation: Jodahs considers a location to plant the seed, and give it a “thick, nutritious coating.” The process of creation, for Jodahs, involves the implantation of the seed into the rich soil. The result of Jodahs’ efforts is profound: it then ‘felt it begin the tiny positioning movements of independent life.” Jodahs enters this process with an open mind and has confidence that his efforts will produce something fruitful. The role of independence in this epigraph is crucial to note since the definition of independence implies two meanings: freedom from constraints and assumptions being the first, and then self-assuredness as the second. In this course, I initially thought that as a scholar and as a thinker, I always had to be more of a maverick and that the more original and freer from assumptions (as possible) my ideas were, the more valid my own ideas were. The act of creation, in this case, was a glorification of my own ego and need to be different. Over time, I have learned to be more self-assured in my own textual analysis and creative endeavors. I can take into consideration what people think, but because of self-assuredness, I do not have to let each critique be a buffer or a blow to my ego. The act of creation, in this instance, is an expression of self that is meant to be out for discussion and critique. In Imago, Jodahs is a construct, its role undefined in the setting of Lilith’s Brood that has categories of human, ooloi, and those that are a product of both. However, I take on many roles, such as scholar, author, creator, thinker, and future educator. In future discussions, pertaining to this text or otherwise, I hope to further examine the assumptions I have, coming from the roles of scholar, author, creator, thinker, and future educator. I hope to be self-assured and cognizant of my own assumptions, not only to be careful and propulsive in my own thoughts but also to reduce harm as much as I can. 

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“Learn and Run!”–Octavia Butler, Dawn

The sentence fragment of “Learn and Run,” one of the course epigraphs, has a simple syntax: two verbs, present tense, joined together by the conjunction “and.” The verbs “learn” and “run” are not in present progressive (with the suffix -ing, indicating that the action is still occurring) form. In actuality, the pairing of these two verbs: one verb associated with the mental, intangible, and the other associated with the physical and tangible, has far more complex implications. We can see concrete demonstrations of learning, such as assessment performances and other presentations/portfolios. While these are debatable and dependent on certain cultural constructions of acceptable learning, these are the current tools we have at the moment. We can also use the verb ‘run’ in a metaphorical sense. When two verbs have so many associations, the choice to put them together, as Octavia Butler did, is deliberate and intentional.

In the statement “Learn and Run,” these present tense verbs are joined by the conjunction “and.” The “and” conjunction does not offer an opportunity for comparison, affirmation, or negations between one action or another. When there are no opportunities for comparison, there are no opportunities to look to the past or the future. Since there is no opportunity to look in either one of those directions, linear progression, binaries, or anything of the sort are not applicable. Instead, the sentence fragment “Learn and Run” indicates a focus on present circumstances. Learning and running––in whatever form or journey possible, will shake us out of fear and comparisons and point us closer to our own truths.

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Recursion, Feedback, and Friction in Lucille Clifton’s “surely i am able to write poems”

surely i am able to write poems

celebrating grass and how the blue

in the sky can flow green or red

and the waters lean against the

chesapeake shore like a familiar

poems about nature and landscape

surely     but whenever i begin

“the trees wave their knotted branches

and…”     why

is there under that poem always

an other poem?

–– Lucille Clifton

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The Aftermath of a Threat and a Call to Action

It feels appropriately recursive that I end my time posting with the same topic that I started with: the topic of homelessness in Victor LaValle’s Big Machine. I predicted in my last post and in conversations with other people that the homeless people would play an important role in the unfolding events, and I was right.

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Bloodchild and A Wrinkle in Time

Octavia Butler’s piece Bloodchild disarmed me when I first read it. The way that T’Gatoi would speak to the narrator was something that disturbed me, and the idea that the male narrator would end up carrying an egg for T’Gatoi, in a situation where the affirmative consent was unclear, frightened me deeply. What made the story more concrete in my head was the thesis that this story was not about slavery, but was drawing from an post-apacolyptic future where aliens landed on Earth and humanity had to negotiate with the aliens on Earth already. Bloodchild could be based in past events and conflicts, such as colonialism, but the vision is ultimately based in a future, a time far away from now.

Bloodchild is futuristic both in content and authorial vision, but throughout reading Bloodchild and Big Machine (which I have talked through in depth in the linked posts above), I have been thinking of the very first science fiction/fantasy novel that I read long ago. This novel is A Wrinkle in Time by Madeline L’Engle.

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Disarming the Audience

I said that my next post would continue the epic saga of homeless people in Victor LaValle’s Big Machine, but I think that post will percolate for a little while more while I write out this post. Percolate, or to bubble and warm up, is an SAT word that is a very useful word to know. The SAT, however, was a test created by upper-middle class white men to admit people with similar backgrounds into college. I will be talking about some of those examples in this next post.

In Imperceptible Mutabilities, Susan-Lori Parks uses a character called “The Naturalist” to serve as a narrator for the confusing plot. Instead of blending in, the character, with his white skin and holier-than-thou attitude, stands out amongst “them roaches” (Parks, 29) that he has been studying. This character archetype is incredibly familiar to many of us, and in my group, we discussed characters like…

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A Threat and a Call to Action

If you are reading this post and recalling whether there was a post with a similar title to this, you are absolutely right. This post is a continuation of my previous post, which happened to be my first post on this blog. Like the fractals, the figure of the homeless person returns in full force to the pages of Big Machine, and this permutation of the homeless person rears its head in a unique way.

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A Response to Maria Papas’ Post “What Wall Are You On?”

I admit, Maria’s post “What Wall Are You On” piqued my interest because of the mention of the words “Queer Eye.” I’m a fan of this show because I enjoy seeing the Fab Five completely transform someone else’s life, especially someone who has not been taking care of themselves. Each Queer Eye episode is fairly formulaic, with a car ride, a brief description of the subject the Fab Five is making over, the Fab Five interacting with the subject and offering their advice, a party or reunion that’s planned for the “reveal” of the transformation, and the Fab Five cheering from their couch, watching their television screens.

Since I was able to sum up Queer Eye episodes in one (albeit long) sentence, I believe I can pinpoint a beginning, middle, and an end. Perhaps a transformation breaks up the recursive patterns of low self-esteem, low confidence, and insecurity. However, can transformation effectively conveyed in a format where there is a beginning, middle, or end, admittedly an evolution? Should a transformation need certain kinds of empirical proof (such as a weight loss, a haircut, a teeth fixing, a home renovation, a new job?) in order to be valid?  Continue reading “A Response to Maria Papas’ Post “What Wall Are You On?””

Empowerment in “How Could Anyone”

I have been going to a Lutheran leadership ministry for four summers. It is only a week long, but each time I go it feels like a year. One of ways in which I remember the ministry is by creating a playlist of some of the songs that we sing. Some of these songs include “Lean on Me” by Bill Withers, “Hallelujah” by Leonard Cohen, and “How Could Anyone” by Libby Roderick.

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A Tale of Two Tributes

When I was flipping through the anthology, I noticed in Ntozake Shange’s poem “my father is a retired magician” that in the speaker’s idolect, certain graphemes are omitted from words, even though they make certain sounds. The title of the poem allude’s to the speaker’s father, while the poem is also dedicated to Shange’s siblings Ifa, P. T., and Bisa. Within the poem, the words with omitted graphemes are smaller, common words, often recognized as sight words.

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