Bringing Us Together Through/In Texts

Watching Parables In Iteration: A Closer Look At Octavia Butler, helps answer how I have developed and deepened my habits of thinkING this semester and move on as “independent life” free from the constraints of the course. The first thing I noted from the panel was the shared experience of having read and understandING and putting to use what Butler offers in her text: truth and change. If I had not read Butler’s work before watching the video, I think I would have been left confused as to what these people were saying on leading and how important it is to find texts like Butler’s. But as a reader and sometimes analyst of Butler’s work, thinkING habits learned through the text have been brought to my life. One detail I seem to bring up in many of my reflection pieces for English courses is how I am able to transfer what is in the text to my life. Across the many times I have had the pleasure of being given some sort of academic opportunity, leadership is always brought up. Questions like “What is a good leader to you?” or “tell us of a time you had to lead a group of people.” While these questions seem to be normal for us, I think they relate to a flaw of ours, we are hierarchical. Because of this much of the leading we have seen is rarely selfless. One of the forms of leading I liked most is bird flocking. Associated with migration, flocking can also happen for predation and foraging benefits. Yet, what is important to me is how who leads is somewhat interchangeable and there is no issue because they are selfless enough to understand they all share a goal, a destination. While I have been working on being and thinking more independently, I have also learned about us and how we need to hold ourselves accountable and think of how dependable we could actually be towards each other. In times like these were we**(**While the pandemic is a public issue I wanted to centralize the issue a bit more because of how bad we as a country are doing.) as a country we are battling a pandemic, a text like Lillith’s Brood offers words and worlds that mirror our current and possible future situations we may get into if we let our hierarchical tendencies get in the way. 

Another practice the panel seems to focus on is empathy. I found this particularly interesting considering how a few years ago the word was rarely mentioned as a form of practice. In basic terms empathy is described as the ability to understand and share someone else’s feelings. Empathy has always been something that I continue to practice and I encourage others to do so as well since it brings more social and emotional awareness to others. When thinking further about timing I could not help and ask myself  why empathy is something that people seem to care about now and figured it  has to do with our situation/cycles we experience. Times like these call us to put these practices into effect; some are finally realizing these two characteristics; leading and having empathy can bring us together. It is as if they must coexist for there to be a possibility of change. If we shift our focus on habits, as stated in the course syllabus:

First forget inspiration. Habit is more dependable. Habit will sustain you whether you’re inspired or not….Habit is persistence in practice. Forget talent. If you have it, fine. Use it. If you don’t have it, it doesn’t matter. As habit is more dependable than inspiration, continued learning is more dependable than talent.”–Octavia Butler, “Furor Scribendi”

  To do something for a long time one is somehow structured to continue what one has begun. Habit alone seems to be quite rigid when one thinks of it, but the growth experienced is unmatched. When asked “What brings people together?” Many of us thought of one sharing a positive experience, negative experience or trying to help someone which can be selfless to a certain extent. 

Another discussion point brought up in the forums is the need to slow down, sit with the information, think about it and then take it somewhere else. If there are two things that we can share and learn and give to others is empathy and how to lead and collaborate with each other. In simple terms, Butler‘s text tells us “Hey you need to be your own person, you need to make your own choices but you need to understand that even while you do those things alone you are part of a bigger experience and that’s the experience you see in your lifetime and those that come after you use to learn. Both course epigraphs make similar points too. The first one talks about leading and the second** talks about nurturing which requires empathy. 

 I think an issue many of us face is that we think we are alone, and in essence we are. We live our independent life and we make our “choices” but we need to remember that  people around us contribute to our lives even in the smallest way.

**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

Our collective human experience is what (tends to) brings us together. The question alone brings me to think of the undertones of “bringing” and “binding”. By definition, to “bring” is to take or go with (someone or something) to a place and “binding” is an obligation that cannot be broken.  But if we were to look at these terms in an abstract way, “bringing” becomes a word that ties well with the idea of working together, to add to what already exists. “Binding” on the other hand, relates to lack of freedom and movement . Bringing and binding people together offers a both/and to us in the sense that it has us “feeling complicated, harmonious, full of (im)possibilities, contradictory, inspiring, disturbing, complicated, and simple,” situations as Dr. McCoy mentions in the syllabus. In my time taking this course, guided by this question and some of Butler’s work, I have learned that bringing and binding people together can be a beautiful yet difficult task. Although many of us like to think we lead an independent life, it is still dependent on the actions of others. In Dawn, Lilith is given the role to lead other humans, to bring them together to work and learn a new life. Joseph, one of the group members claims that they “chose [her]-someone who desperately doesn’t want the responsibility, who doesn’t want to lead, (and someone) who is a woman” (Butler, 157). To begin, Joseph’s comment is insanely misogynistic in the way he ties lack of responsibility and lack of leadership to being a woman. However, his comment gives more reason to show why Lilith is chosen to bring people together. Although Lilith does not want the responsibility, which is mainly due to fear of messing up with the Ooloi and the humans, her “lack of leadership” is actually a form of decentralized leadership these humans are not used to. Instances like these, remind us of the work we have to do ourselves. Bringing people together requires us to look at each other but to also look at ourselves. 

In Adulthood Rites, Akin’s dream to have both the Ooloi, Oankali, and humans live a harmonious life seems a bit naive at first. To think that they could coexist with one another appears to be a difficult thing for all to do which makes it harder for them to prosper as a collective, and that’s another issue. In her essay “Nobody Knows the Trouble I See” Reagon claims that “moving between the two worlds, pushing and forcing them to hear and accommodate each other. them to know that in reality —although they are worlds apart and opposite in many ways —they are also through their history intertwined, so that there will be no future if differences continue to be used as instruments of oppression and inequity,” (pg. 116) whih is what Akin is trying to show in Adulthood Rites. In other words, when bringing and binding people together one cannot solely look for similarities and think otherly of those who are different from us. Again, our independent life is a collective experience that we somehow all work in. When N.K Jemisin says  Butler was “willing to hold up that mirror and say take a look in the mirror and see how bad we are, [telling us] let’s not be that bad” she was trying to say that although this mirror may be painful to look at, it gives us a form of the truth but not all. We may think we know it all, and even when we think we do, we don’t.

In regards to course concepts of harm and care, “The Training Floor” in Dawn immediately comes to mind. Earlier on in the course we had a forum dedicated to the concepts of harm and care where many of us made a conversation about disinformation and the harm it causes to others. In times like these where disinformation is being spread everywhere, it is important to slow down and think of what we choose to share with others. Curt, one of the group members from Lilith’s group is one that causes harm to others due to the spread of misinformation on Lilith and the Oankali. As a result, Lilith’s “thought  [them being on Earth rather than a spaceship] would not leave her alone no matter what facts she felt she knew. What if the others were right?” (Butler, 207) The relationship Lilith formed with the Oankali took a lot of time to form, mostly because of mistrust. Her own assumptions (personal misinformation) made it difficult for her to trust them. Curt “was angry and afraid and in pain” (Butler, 224) just like Lilith did earlier on but she now begins to question those who she worked with to establish a relationship. Currently, I am working on a research paper for an English course and came across an essay by Rebecca Solnit, “Woolf’s Darkness: Embracing the Inexplicable,” and came across a few lines that tied in perfectly with this situation:

Often enough, we don’t know such things even when it comes to ourselves, let alone someone who perished in an epoch whose very textures and reflexes were unlike ours. Filling in the blanks replaces the truth that we don’t entirely know with the false sense that we do. We know less when we erroneously think we know than when we recognize that we don’t. Sometimes I think these pretenses at authoritative knowledge are failures of language: the language of bold assertion is simpler, less taxing, than the language of nuance and ambiguity and speculation.

Solnit perfectly describes our habit of giving into information and ideas due to the fear caused by not having an answer. I understand that not knowing things can be scary, but filling in the blanks can cause more harm than good, especially under circumstances like Lilith and Curt are in.

Being able to welcome change is difficult for many people because it forces us to let go and make room for what is needed at the time. Instead of fearing change and being changed, to be different or become different should be a sign of growth and potential adaptability. Butler describes this dilemma in Adulthood Rites comparing the Oankali to humans when it comes to difference. While the “Oankali crave difference. Humans persecute their different ones, yet they need them to give themselves definition and status” (Butler, 329). Change is what allows us to evolve as species and beings. To deny change is to deny the continuation of us existing. Akin makes sure to point out that “Mars isn’t for anyone who doesn’t want it. It will be hard work, risk, and challenge. It will be a Human world someday But It will never be Earth. You need Earth” (Butler, 231 ). In other words, Akin is telling him that although Mars is different from the home he is used to (Earth), it is where they are given the space and the opportunity to keep growing and changing. Staying on Earth will put them in a path that leads to their destruction. 

Oftentimes, we only acknowledge change when it is easy to see. We forget that we are responsible to find ways to change and that we are changing more often than we think we do. Imago, Jodah believes that “no part of me [Jodah] is more definitive of who I am than my brain” (Butler, 331). Our brain which appears to be some sort of mass stuck inside our head is much more mobile than we think it is. It looks to learn the unknown, to move forward and to adopt necessary changes when needed. 

Though the world Butler creates seems to be different from the one we are currently in, what’s happening in the text is a mirror of what happens here. Given the circumstances, we are doing the best we can. If anything, this year has shown us how much we need each other, even while socially distancing. Modernity (change) allows us to connect in other ways to continue to work and tackle issues handed by life.

Works Cited

Butler, Octavia E. Lilith’s Brood. New York :Aspect/Warner Books, 2000.

Solnit, Rebecca. “Woolf’s Darkness: Embracing the Inexplicable” Men Explain Things to Me. Updated, Haymarket Books, 2015.

ENGL 431 Final Reflective Essay: Slowing Down, ThinkING for and About a Better World

One of the major course concepts that is new to me and I know many of my peers is the rebranding and new meaning of what we know as thinking. Thinking or the more appropriate way to write this word in this class, thinkING takes on a whole new meaning. ThinkING is not the thinking we know. It involves so much more and has been the driving force behind so many of our posts and Beth’s responses to them. We think all the time about whatever is on our minds but to truly engage in thinkING involves so much more. It is to SLOW DOWN as Beth has preached to me so many times in response to my posts. To slow down and unpack your thoughts and lay them out for the reader in the most understandable way because what is writing if it is not comprehendible and doesn’t provoke the reader to do some of their own thinkING as well. I can say that this new definition and understanding of thinkING is what is going to free me and yet always tie me back to “the constraints of the course.” 

In my own independent and personal life, especially in a year full of chaos and uncertainty, the world seems it has been moving at an unprecedented rate. Every day there are new headlines in the media we watch or listen to, every day there are always online class assignments to attend to, and every day is unlike no other days in previous years. There is a different feeling about this year. How we long for it to be over, how it has moved at the speed of light and yet taken so long. Most every day this year my mom and I watched the news. The news has been ever changing this year, so many new headlines, so much drama in America. Amidst all this, the one thing that remained consistent was the death counter on the right side of the screen. Each day it rises higher and higher with no end in sight as we continue to break American daily death records. The continuous growth of that number is what has made this year so mentally taxing for so many people and their families. That number is what made people wish that this year would end as quickly as possible, and for me it has flown by. Flown by just like that to the tune of 312,000 deaths in the US with weeks left till the years end. That number is what makes the concept of thinkING so important to me as I proceed in my “independent life.” No longer can I sit around and be a bystander to the horrors of the world especially ones that hit so close to home such as the defacing of the George Floyd and Breanna Taylor memorials on Geneseo’s campus. I will no longer turn my back on horrors that taint our world as this pandemic has been, as the murders of Breanna Taylor and George Floyd were, and as the former President claiming abundant widespread fraud in the election is, along with so many other horrific events this year. It is my civil duty to partake in thinkING, to slow down and look at the bigger picture in everything in my life to make the best decisions and educate the people around me. It is vital for me to have my own opinions, to unpack my thinkING while providing evidence that only strengthens my case and assists others in understanding me. As I move on in life free from the constraints of this course, I will never forget the importance of slowing down in a world that always tempts you to go through the motions and turn a blind eye to the injustices in it. This course has also taught me to engages in thinkING in all aspects of life.  

ThinkING about our central course question, I have learned a tremendous amount about what binds and brings people together. This is particularly true when thinking about how beings that are completely unrelated and don’t share a plethora of commonalities are able to come together and coexist in peace. It is not always the most challenging to bind and bring people who share many common attributes together such as the students in this classroom and mostly throughout our campus. We are brought together in this class through a common interest in literature, writing, and independent thinking. We share commonalities in that we all attend the same college and need this credit for our eventual degrees. For these reasons and the understanding and forgiving community that Beth and all of us have formed, we are bound and brought together as one which is beneficial for the success of all of us as it creates the best learning environment possible. This environment we have created has taught me a lot about binding and bringing people together in that it is not the most difficult to do when so many people share commonalities in their goals and interests.  

In Dawn, the first novel in Butler’s trilogy, so many of the humans awoke by Lilith choose to resist the Oankali and their endeavors for the gene trade and control over human’s genetic makeup for the betterment of their eventual survival on Earth. This resistance by the humans leads to many deaths among them both administered by the Oankali and self-inflicted deaths once they become “resistors” on Earth. It is after so many resistors are now on Earth living lifestyles of savages stealing children and raiding villages that Gabe who had resisted the Oankali from the start begins to warm up and bind to the Oankali-human born Akin. Throughout the entirety of Dawn Gabe was never trusting of Lilith let alone the Oankali. This proceeds into Adulthood Rites as he doesn’t trust an infant Akin saying “what I want to know, is just how unhuman he is (Pg. 350).” This quote from Gabe embodies the problems that arise when trying to bind and bring people or person and Oankali for this matter together. This problem is at the core one about understanding and effort. Gabe puts in minimal amounts of effort to get to know Akin, who he really is, where he came from, and why he is there to name a few curiosities he should be feeling. Instead, Gabe almost attacks Akin with this comment and focuses strictly on the two’s differences rather than their similarities. In other words, he makes it an emphasis to point out what separates them rather than what brings them together. This is the easy route when meeting someone new or encountering someone who which you do not share many similarities with. Gabe immediately tries to establish power over Akin by pointing out why he should not be treated the same as humans. This occurs time and time again in our society today particularly when people do not share the same race, religion, sex, or sexual orientation as us. Throughout the remainder of Adulthood Rites, Gabe is forced to engage with Akin, get to know him, his intentions and what makes the two of them similar. Gabe learns that Akin is not violent in his intentions and that they both desire a better life for humankind. It is ironic that the thing that primarily binds them together is almost the same thing that Gabe says sets them apart. Akin is not entirely human so how is it possible that the thing that binds these two together is the desire for a healthy humankind? I think the answer to this lies in what makes humankind so unique being their ability to adapt, understand, and accept while disregarding differences.  

The relationship between these two comes to a climax when a fellow resistor just like Gabe named Gilbert Senn threatens to shoot Akin when he finds Gabe and Akin laying in the field close to Gabe’s freshly burning home. Gilbert Senn points his rifle at Akin to which Gabe pleads to Gilbert, “if he dies, we all die (Pg. 513).” In the end, Gabe stands with Akin and not against him. Even in the absence of Gabes wife Tate who had become very close and protective of Akin, Gabe chooses to understand Akin for everything he is and everything his intentions show he is for. Akin is for healthy humankind. Gabe like Tate wants the opportunity to have children whether that be on Earth or Mars as an Oankali experiment. In the end, Gabe and Akin are brought and bound together standing for the same thing. Gabes and Akins relationship is the ultimate testimony in the idea that binding and bringing people together involves commonalities, understanding, acceptance, adaptability, and in a sense, time.  

Slowing down my thinkING this semester, I have learned that the concepts of both harm and care are not so set-in stone. This means that ‘care’ is not always actual care and ‘harm’ may not always be harm. In other words, one person may think they are providing care but to another person, this care is seen as harm. This concept works both ways as sometimes causing harm may be considered care to another person. This concept of harm and care is played out in our world today usually due to misconceptions of reality. For example, following the shooting and killing of Jacob Blake in Kenosha, Wisconsin by police, 17-year-old Kyle Rittenhouse drove from Illinois to Kenosha to in his mind help Kenosha police handle protesters and protect property using an illegally owned AR-15 style rifle. In Rittenhouse’s mind he was providing care for the police and small business owners; however, the reality is that two people were killed because of Rittenhouse’s blindness to the situation and lack of empathy. Blakes actions that day were nothing short of harmful and should not be confused with any sort of care that the protesters were showing towards Jacob Blake and his family. This situation shows the misconceptions between what is harm and what is care that our society and the Oankali and resisters in Butler’s trilogy often replicate.  

In Butler’s trilogy, the main problems that arise when talking about the concepts of harm and care relates to the concept of consent. The Oankali are avid about the gene trade as it is as important to their species as breathing is to humans. For this, the Oankali preach that this trade is a positive for humankind and that they are caring for the humans. The primary discrepancy here comes when consent is disregarded, making a thing that the Oankali view as care appear to the humans as harm. In the case of Lilith, Nikanj impregnates her without her consent with a child incorporating Josephs sperm along with that of several Oankali. This occurs soon after Joseph is tragically murdered intriguing Nikanj think about Lilith’s mental health. Nikanj tries to comfort Lilith telling her, “you’ve been very lonely (Pg. 246).” For Nikanj, she feels as though she is caring for Lilith giving her a child to keep her company and comfort her while her fellow humans are resisting on Earth. Lilith on the other hand is immediately opposed to this newfound pregnancy saying to Nikanj, “I’m not ready! I’ll never be ready! (Pg. 246)” She is completely opposed to the idea of raising a child alongside the Oankali but over time she warms up to the idea more and more as she continuously strives to understand Oankali life and their goals for humanity. Lilith exclaiming that she will never be ready is almost assuring that Nikanj did the right thing as Lilith may have never actually had a child had she not been unknowingly impregnated by Nikanj. This instance in the trilogy exposes why the line between harm and care is so foggy. Over the course of this semester, I have learned about the misconceptions between harm and care both through Butler’s word and real-life scenarios that play out every day.  

ThinkING about my aptitude to change, I believe I have been in the habit of preparing to change and be changed for some time now. Ever since the beginning of the pandemic, the world has been tilted on its axis. How we live, what we can do, who we are able to see, where we can go, and our overall physical and mental health has all been affected. In the beginning of the pandemic all of us were asked to give up what we know and who we know ourselves to be. My teammates and I were forced to not compete for a national championship and to evacuate school immediately. I, like much of the world was asked to stay home to flatten the curve and assure the health of those who are known to be the most impacted by this disease. One of those people is my mom who is diagnosed with polycystic kidney disease and is awaiting a kidney transplant. So, I did. I stayed home and watched the world transform into what we know it as today; a world decimated by a disease both in terms of the health of millions and economically speaking. We returned to our colleges but not as we once knew them. My season was canceled again, all my classes were forced online again, and the social atmosphere was nothing like it had been. In a sense we have been groomed to change and the idea of change has become something that we do not have a lot of control over in this day in age. Nothing can ever improve without change. This idea is one that the Oankali believe to be true just like I do.   

The Oankali rely on change to live. They rely on changing humans to the benefit of both species. For this reason, they explore and promote the need for humans to warm up to the idea of change. Humans are routine dependent. We enjoy our routines, daily activities, and uniform ways of doing things day in and day out. We also don’t like to engage in the idea of changing our thinking or opinions on things. Humans are naturally dependent on a systematic way of life which is one of the primary reasons for the pandemic causing so much discrepancy over mask-wearing for example. It is also a main reason for the depleted mental health of so many people. We as a species aren’t always prepared to change and we for sure weren’t when the pandemic started, and many people still aren’t.  

In Butler’s trilogy, even after a world war where all of humanity was almost destroyed, the remaining survivors continued to put their faith in humanity and the way that they live. The resisters couldn’t give up the distant memory of how their life used to be, the routines they had, and the way humans ran the Earth. Refusing to believe that the Oankali were truly trying to help them, the resistors talked behind Lilith’s back about their beliefs of the Oankali. Lilith “heard disbelief and questioning, threats and cursing, honor and disgust.” The resistors couldn’t get themselves to believe that the life they once had was gone forever. Humanity is always afraid of change especially when there is a possibility of changing for the worst. The resisters were promised a healthier species of humans, a more civilized and more understanding one. This was nowhere near enough for so many of the resisters as they couldn’t find it in them to try to understand the Oankali, their culture, why they’re here, and their motives. Throughout the trilogy, I sympathized with the Oankali and tried to picture a world in which they were the good guys. Seemingly not surprising to me given the knowledge I have learned through events like the pandemic about the human species, this was not that difficult to do. This series had me rooting for the Oankali to restore humanity in humanity. To fix humanities biggest flaws and create a more understanding, accepting, and overall healthier species both physically and mentally. This semester has taught me to slow down and constantly partake in thinkING about my life and the constantly changing world to be the best citizen and person I can be for myself, the people I hold closest to my heart, and the world.  

Self-Isolation and Self-Discovery:Giving the Similarities Between Care and Harm a Positive Spin.

If my goal is to inform you, I would be wasting all of our time telling you this semester has been different. Not different like the transition from freshman fall to freshman spring, when you gain the rejuvenating feeling of the returning to a place you now know as home. Not different like the transition (I could only assume) from senior fall to senior spring, when you have the bittersweet combination of gratitude and anxiety. These “differents” are expected and a right of passage of the life we have all selected as college students. This different was not expected, it was not welcomed, and it was not anything that we accepted as a “part of life.” This was a forced different; one that tested our will-power, our discipline, our self-awareness, and our perspectives. I, for one, learned a lot about myself, and used the forum posts (that I did not disappear from) as an outlet to share these findings with all of you. While the tone was seemingly pessimistic and self-deprecating, as Dr. McCoy noted with a comment “How can I support you in being less mean to yourself?” on our eighth forum post, the message was more my attempt at noticing, sharing, and hopefully providing an outlet of solidarity for my peers. In a time that is full of differents, any opportunity to find something that is the same would serve as a great life preserver.

In the beginning of the semester, as we started the trilogy, we meet Lilith as she reviews her routine in the empty room. I understood her life of repetition, days blending, and losing track of time, but I had no sources to allow me to empathize with her. Shortly after this, I became a contact of COVID-19 and immediately understood. Some days, a 24-hour day felt like five times that; other days, 24 hours felt like two. I tried to keep busy, but some days it just did not seem worth it. When there is no end in sight (two weeks feels like quite a while when you are stuck in one room), any kind of work you put in to benefit your future self, such as exercise, homework, or even proper diet feel like a waste of your energy if you will seemingly never reap the benefits of that work. Some days, motivation is high enough to exercise, complete a few long projects, do some work online, and clean the one room you can remain in. Other days, you feel defeated, lethargic, and unmotivated without seeing the purpose in this work you are doing. Of course, her time in isolation and wondering was far longer than the two-week period, but during that time I was able to reflect and draw a few more thoughtful connections between our modern day and the social situations within the trilogy. Unfortunately, the biggest thing I noticed was the similarities we shared for fear of the unknown.

The second child Lilith has within the trilogy, Jodahs, is the first mix between Oankali and human. For this unknown hybrid, Jodahs is exiled and cast out. The reason for this exile, and most exiles, is fear or anger. These negative sentiments breed fear within societies with the knowledge that exile is possible, and an option. While this caution is sometimes warranted, the fear of it is what drives the society, not the reason for it. Currently, we are in a time in which people live every day with the risk of being temporarily exiled if they contract COVID-19 or even come in contact with someone who has contracted the virus. Caution is obviously important, but fear is driving a majority of the population. This fear was able to be preyed upon by media and politicians to drive their agendas based on these emotions. This brings me back to our discussion of disinformation and harm, information and care, and more specifically the link that differentiates propaganda, misinformation, and disinformation. (Disinformation infographic). In a time that has so much varying information coming from varying sources with varying validity, the part of the aforementioned forum that speaks the most to me is about care. The lack of human connection in exile and isolation is detrimental to our health. With the knowledge that we could potentially be sent to isolation, whether in our homes or a hospital, it should be so that the available human connection (whether virtual or socially distanced) would be accepted with open arms and even sought after. Instead, at least from my noticing, there has been an overall lack of that genuine, positive human connection.

                This semester has been by far my hardest semester. I began this piece speaking of how different this semester has been for us. I, unfortunately, have taken the path of negligence, lethargy, and absence, and for that, to all of you, I apologize. Throughout my self check-ins, the hardest part was evaluating my interactions with my peers. Due to my absence and passive observation of the class, I did not provide any of you with the energy you deserved. Thank you to those of you who chose the path of discipline and hard work, I hope to once again join you there next semester. The entire semester, I have been trying to figure out why this semester has been so difficult, and only now, whilst concluding this piece, I have finally figured it out. My life, like many of our lives, is great. I am lucky enough to be in a healthy, productive, prosperous relationship with my partner, I have the unconditional love and support from my family, I am blessed with a healthy and able body to keep myself active, and I have truly been able to notice my own happiness and growth. When we were exiled from each other, told to keep to ourselves for the greater good, and to no longer see some of the people for whom we have the most love, major parts of this great life were taken from me.

Our second forum of the semester discussed the similarities in the etymologies care and harm share. As we read within the prompt: “Ward remarked ‘Care can exist as violence./Violence can exist as care’.” Until recently, I did not understand how this could be possible; how could you care for yourself to such a point that it could cause harm? I now, final understand. I care about my family, who I was unable to see for thanksgiving because of the fear of infecting them with the virus I had come into contact with; I care about my education, which had its best part, the human interaction through learning and growing, taken away this semester; I care about my friends, many of which I have not been able to see for months as a part of the responsibility we all share to limit our circles. Because of the amount of care through which I live my life, it becomes harmful when a good majority of it is taken from me through means out of my control. When these things were removed from my life, I chose to shut down and just barely crawl to the end of the semester. For this path, I am grateful, for I now know what I need to do to avoid this in the coming years. For this prompt, and this opportunity to explore my own emotions and thought processes with our literature and dialogue as the medium, I am further grateful, as it has helped me in discovering and thinkING about myself and my perspectives with a new light of optimism and hope. This different semester has significantly added, and somewhat overwritten, my original text. With the require time, effort, and care, I hope that my palimpsest will soon reveal the traces of my old writing once again.

Changing Myself Through Changing My View of Others: Running Towards Independent Life

How do you view others? Are you conscious of how you judge the actions of someone you don’t know, especially someone who looks different from you?  I think we would all like to think we view everyone the same, that we don’t discriminate, that we don’t judge others, that we are willing to accept differences.  Before the semester began, I felt secure in my belief that others’ outward appearances couldn’t outweigh the significance of their actions.  But, when I tried to sympathize with the Oankali in Octavia Butler’s Lilith’s Brood, I arrived at the realization that appearances did matter. They mattered a lot.  They mattered so much that I was unable to acknowledge any potential acts of care on their part. I have learned to come to terms with myself and alter this perspective.  Earlier in the semester, I centered my Goal-Setting Essay on using a growth mindset this semester to be open to change.  In that essay, I wrote, “As the semester continues, I want to emphasize the importance of really getting to know people, beyond just what they look like.”  I set this goal at the start of the semester, not knowing where the final destination would lead me. Now having reached the end, the destination I didn’t know I was working towards revealed itself within the text.  This semester was one of growth and change.  The lens I use to understand others changed through reading Lilith’s Brood, as I realized the importance of focusing on others’ actions and intentions, instead of focusing on outward appearances. 

One way I learned to change the way I viewed others was analyzing the ways characters were brought together throughout the trilogy. Gabe and Akin were brought together, despite their best efforts not to be.  In Dawn, the group of humans didn’t take the time to understand each other or the Oankali. This resulted in many of them dying, or leaving the Oankali to become resistors on Earth. Many of these resistors were not at peace and turned to kidnapping as a source of hope for the future. Gabe is an example of a character who learned how to bind with others eventually, even though he resisted for the longest time. Gabe was extremely distrusting of the Oankali and Lilith for the entirety of Dawn.  In Adulthood Rites, he continues to be wary of the Oankali.  He doesn’t trust Akin.  When first meeting Akin as an infant, Gabe says, “What I want to know, is just how unHuman he is” (Butler 350).  Instead of trying to find common ground, Gabe focuses on how Akin is different, just as he always has done with others.  Gabe is forced to spend a lot of time with Akin.  He is forced to understand that Akin does not have bad intentions.  He is forced to learn that they have a lot more in common that he would like to think.  By the end of their time together, the two are so close that Gabe chooses to perform Shakespeare for him. Gabe has learned how to bind together with an Oankali.  He even saves Akin’s life.  When Gilbert Senn pulls a gun on Akin, Gabe stops him by saying, “If he dies, we all die” (513).  Gabe’s words stopped the killing of Akin. Gabe learned to lower his guard, and actually get to know Akin for who he was, instead of focusing on their differences. The arc of this relationship taught me that others deserve the benefit of the doubt.  If you resist attempts to understand others based on rumors or stereotypes, without making an honest effort to get to know them, you are harming yourself and others by refusing an opportunity for connection and understanding. 

Butler shows us again and again how characters need to be brought together in order to survive, especially those who have different beliefs.  Gabe became binded to Akin due to circumstances out of his control- he would not have chosen to.  It’s worth considering other circumstances of how people are brought together.  In this post-apocalyptic world, there are many different groups of people that feel differently about what the future should look like (sounds familiar-right?). The only way forward, towards finding peace within all groups and finding a solution, is for people to be willing to understand how the other groups are living, make an attempt to understand and reconcile. 

Tino showed me that people can be brought together when one is brave enough to follow their inner voice. Tino leaves behind everything he knows in an effort to get to know those he has been taught to hate.  Even though he risks being outcast from his family, Tino feels he needs to understand how the Oankali are living. He feels like he’s missing something.  Instead of going about his life, dissatisfied, Tino actively chooses to get to know the Oankali, even though he’s fearful.  Tino was nervous to meet Lilith and Akin in the forest for the very first time. He doubts whether Lilith is human and has hesitations toward baby Akin, saying, “I just don’t know what to make of you” (Butler 270). Tino is nervous, but he doesn’t shut them out completely; he’s willing to give them a chance and follows them to their village. Tino is welcomed by the Oankali and is asked to tell his story. The Oankali are desperate to learn more about him and Humans, in general. Akin is slightly nervous about Tino, wondering, “Will he try to steal someone?” (Butler 275) but Dichaan reassures Akin. This initial interaction is key to consider because despite the hesitation on both Akin’s and the Oankali’s side, both parties have a mutual interest in getting to know the other.  They both know the possible risks of being together, but they are willing to put differences aside, and put their desire to get to know each other first. This is incredibly important to understand- the circumstances will likely never provide a situation to get to know someone without any risks or potential for failure. That’s just not plausible, especially if the other person is part of a group you were raised to distrust. But this is when getting to know one another is even more important. 

Throughout Adulthood Rites and extending into Imago, Tino finds a home with the Oankali.  This transition isn’t easy, by any means, and there’s some hiccups along the way.  Tino has a hard time getting comfortable with Nikanj and trusting it to touch his body, “Tino drew back a little in revulsion.  God, the Oankali were ugly creatures. How had Human beings come to tolerate them, so easily” (Butler 292).  Tino changes his mind, little by little, by trusting Lilith and allowing Nikanj to touch him.  Eventually, Tino finds his place in the village tribe.  At the very end of Imago, when the Oankali arrive in a shuttle to help, Jodahs recalls, “The first person I spotted in the small crowd was Tino” (Butler 737).  I thought this moment was immensely significant. Tino has learned and been brought together with the Oankali fully, to the point where he is willing to risk his life to help Jodahs.  Tino finds his new family among the beings he was originally repulsed by, because he was willing to open his mind and let down his guard.  Tino is an example of how even though there may be hesitation to break down your walls and make an effort to get to know someone, it will be worth it. Moving forwards in my life, I will be sure to keep Tino’s arc in mind when I am faced with the opportunity to get to know someone I have heard bad things about. Tino’s journey of learning to understand the Oankali and live happily with them impacted the way I view others, especially those I have preconceived notions about.  If Tino can learn to follow his intuition, even if it means going against everything he had ever been taught, then why can’t I?

Part of the process of changing the lens I use to view others involved coming to terms with the overlap between harm and care. At the beginning of the semester, when we reviewed the etymologies of these two words,  I found it hard to believe that the roots were nearly identical when I thought they were polar opposites.  It was hard for me to realize that despite our best intentions, there is a potential for actions to cause harm in the end due to circumstances out of our control.  Conversely, actions viewed as harmful immediately, sometimes may end up transforming into acts of care. I learned that the relationship between harm and care is never as clear-cut as we would like it to be- for better or for worse.

One example of harm and care blurring is when Nikanj impregnates Lilith without her consent. When I first read this at the end of Dawn, I was outraged. I was still hoping for Lilith to return to Earth and start a new life with other humans, away from the Oankali. I was furious that Nikanj would take it upon itself to make a decision that was not its to make.  I do still believe that this was partly harmful because Lilith did not explicitly agree to being pregnant, as Lilith immediately says in response, “I’m not ready! I’ll never be ready!” (Butler 246).  But I can also see how Nikanj was trying to act with care, as it tells Lilith, “You’re ready now to have Joseph’s child… I mixed a girl to be a companion for you.  You’ve been very lonely” (Butler 246). Nikanj was trying to help Lilith in her loneliness and it wanted to give her a reminder of Joseph. Even though it took time, Lilith finds peace and contentment with having construct children, despite  once saying she would never be ready. Nikanj gave her a push that she was later grateful for, as she tells Jesusa in Imago, “[Nikanj]made me pregnant.  I didn’t think I would ever forgive it for that…I’ve accepted it…There’s closeness here that I didn’t have with the family I was born into or with my husband and son” (Butler 671). This example demonstrates how an act once seen as causing harm, Nikanj acting without Lilith’s consent, changed over time to be seen as an act of care, as Lilith was given family and connection.

Another integral theme to consider when attempting to understand the relationship between harm and care is the influence of disinformation.  This concept is more important than ever to understand in our world today.  It is extremely fitting that Lilith’s Brood contained these urgent themes of harm/care and the role of disinformation in 2020, the year of COVID and political turbulence.  I was able to better understand how harmful disinformation is in our world, by being able to understand how disinformation caused such negative effects in Butler’s world.  

We saw disinformation thrive past the point of no return towards the end of Dawn. The humans were unable to trust anyone and bind together, resulting in extreme harm for all.  The other humans did not believe that they were not on Earth, or even that Lilith was human.  Despite Lilith’s best efforts to convey she was on the human’s side, that she was put in a position she didn’t want to be in, Joseph told her, “Some people aren’t laughing…That new man…didn’t think you were human at all” (Butler 147).  Lilith tried to tell the truth, but those who did not like her position of power spread rumors about her to cause problems. This tactic worked without fail.  By the end of the book, the group of humans had broken into factions, each as scared of the other as they were of the Oankali. 

The humans were unable to bind together because disinformation was swirling; any potential acts of care would have fallen flat due to the lack of trust.  There was so much disinformation about where the Humans were being kept, that it drove the characters to commit the most extreme act of harm.  Kurt killed Joseph because the emotional climate caused him to act in unimaginable ways, as Nikanj explained, “I don’t believe he meant to kill anyone. He was angry and afraid and in pain” (Butler 224).  Kurt’s confusion does not excuse his murder, but, it does shed light on why he may have done it.  When you are in an environment where you have no idea what’s true and what’s not, when you don’t even have a single person you can trust, everyone becomes an enemy.  This is why Kurt felt compelled to kill Joseph. This is why polarization and “fake news” has threatened our democracy and our nation this past year. Disinformation prevents any motivation for care and opens the door for harm wide open.  In every action, in every person, there are elements of harm and care. There is no instance of one and not the other.  Once one comes to terms with this, it becomes possible to have an open-minded perspective and understand one another. 

As I learned how to focus on others’ actions and intentions, instead of their outward appearances, I realized my thoughts, my perspective, who I was as a person was changing along with it.  Looking back, I know that I was not open to change or to be changed when the semester began. I didn’t take the time to see anything from the Oankali’s perspective.  Even though I knew the Oankali saved humankind from going extinct, I still clung to thinking it was the Oankali’s fault. Why? Because it was easier.  Easier than admitting humans were at fault.  If I admitted this, I would have had to admit I was part of the problem.

I didn’t understand what it meant for the Oankali to “trade.” I thought they were choosing to force the humans to stop reproducing naturally, even though this quote (that we discussed in class many times) makes the necessity of this trade very obvious: “We are as committed to the trade as your body is to breathing”  (42).  Even though we discussed that the Oankali don’t actively choose to trade with other species, just as humans don’t choose to breathe, I didn’t like them.  They made me uncomfortable.  I was focusing on their outward appearance, instead of trying to understand them on a deeper level.  This happened slowly, but I began to understand and like the Oankali by the conclusion, without me even being actively aware of it.   

I know that I reached a greater awareness and ability to understand, I know that I changed, because by the end of the novel, I was rooting for the Oankali. I was rooting for Aaor to be restored to his healthiest form and find mates.  I was rooting for Jodahs to mate successfully with Jesusa and Tomás.  I was rooting for the resistor colony to sympathize with the Oankali and join them, instead of turning away from them.  If I read Imago with the perspective I had when I read Dawn for the first time, I can say with certainty I would not have been rooting for the Oankali.  Reflecting on this transformation of thought, I realized I shifted my perspective because I focused on the Oankali’s actions and intentions, instead of their outward appearances. 

The supporting materials used to augment our reading of Lilith’s Brood forced me to come face-to-face with my willingness to change.  I was asked to engage deeply with materials that would challenge what I had been spoon-fed my entire life.  Growing up in a small-town suburb with a predominantly White population, I never had to think about racial issues very much.  In fact, I don’t ever remember having a conversation about racism in school. Reading From Here to Equality forced me to come to terms with concepts that I have had the privilege to be unaware of for my entire life: that white privilege is extremely prevalent, that racism continues to affect society in extremely harmful and pervasive ways, and- the hardest thing to come to terms with- I am part of the problem.  Darity and Mullen break down the issues of racism and discrimination that are unavoidable for Black Americans, in a way that I had never encountered before.  Normally, history books prefer to gloss over racism, to create the facade that discrimination ended when slavery was abolished.  From Here to Equality had such a profound impact on me because it clearly illustrated how the evils of the past have still not been corrected; that Black Americans continue to face obstacles in society because those in power have not stepped up to make the system equitable for everyone. As the authors plainly explain, “The story of America could have been one of inclusive democracy.  But it was not.  At key junctures, when America could have separated slavery from blackness…it hardened those distinctions and intensified the institution” (Darity and Mullen 92).  It might be easier for White people to believe that racism is not real and that societal conditions are the same for everyone, but this is just a blatant lie. 

But even after coming to terms with the reality of racism, there was a part of me that was reluctant to see myself as part of the problem.  I have always thought of myself as someone who treats everyone with kindness.  But, as noted in Jerry Kang’s “Immaculate Perception” TedTalk, Timothy Wilson remarks, “We are strangers to ourselves” (8:15).  I did not actually know myself or where I stood with these issues.  I had thought that because I was not a racist person, there was no way I could be seen as accountable for the racial issues in society.  I didn’t think I held any biases towards people of other races, and I was comfortable with that train of thought.  If I believed that, then I wouldn’t have to reexamine everything I have learned. But, after watching Kang explain that we hold biases we are not even consciously aware of, his statement,“We are the problem” (13:10) resonated strongly with me.  It continues to resonate with me.  I had to be willing to acknowledge that my brain works in ways I am not conscious of. That my brain might jump to assumptions that I don’t decide to make.  I had to really look at myself, realize that I don’t know myself, that I am part of the problem, and come to terms with this.  This wasn’t easy.  This Aha! moment didn’t simply happen in an instant, it spanned the entire semester.  As each piece fell into place, this realization became, slowly but surely, more clear. I have learned to be okay with not knowing exactly who I am.  I have learned that I have to be ever-vigilant of myself and my actions, ready to correct my implicit biases.  I used to think I wasn’t biased toward others.  Then, after reflecting back on my reading of Dawn, I knew that I was fully capable of disliking others simply based on their appearance.  Reflecting on my growth this semester of learning to love the Oankali, I know it is possible to change the way I think about others.  But, it takes time.  It takes effort: honest, real, raw, authentic effort.  I have to be willing to let my walls down and truly see others for who they are, not who I think they are at a first glance.  

Moving forwards, I want to carry this understanding with me. Am I willing to really notice others?  I want to really, truly get to know people without needing to put them in a box based on their appearances.  I am part of the problem, but I have the power to be part of the solution.   Butler’s world has taught me that it is possible to love those who were once our enemy, that true understanding can be reached if we are willing to admit our own faults and biases.  I feel I have grown immensely this semester in how I view others. But, simply acknowledging this growth is not enough.  I am embarking on a journey of independent life, free from the walls of this semester, but I need to carry this journey with me, into every aspect of who I am. I have learned.  It is now time to run.  

Works Cited 

Butler, Octavia E. Lilith’s Brood: Dawn — Adulthood Rites — Imago. Aspect/Warner Books, 2000.

Darity, William A., and A. Kirsten Mullen. From Here to Equality: Reparations for Black Americans in the Twenty-First Century. The University of North Carolina Press, 2020. 

Kang, Jerry. “Immaculate Perception.” YouTube, 28 Jan. 2014, www.youtube.com/watch?v=9VGbwNI6Ssk. 

Final Self-Reflective Essay

“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

Something that I found myself having to learn this semester was how to adapt to new and different environments. This pandemic has taken a toll on every individual and has affected everyone differently; it has taken away so much so quickly, which can be a lot for people to handle at times. With everyone experiencing these struggles and stresses, it can absolutely bring and bind people together. I have noticed this binding in my personal life by observing social media and the people around me. I also learned that it is incredibly important to care for yourself and others at a time like this; mental health matters just as much as physical health does. This is something I absolutely struggled with myself, living on a college campus during a pandemic is a big change and something that took a toll on my mental health. I realized that there is still room to grow, despite the changes that had been made to everyday life and learning. My growth through this semester has been different than any others, and after this class is finished I will take what I learned and move forward with that. In Octavia Butler’s trilogy Lilith’s Brood, people can be bound forever to the Oankali species. This kind of binding is not so different from binding we may see in our society today; people with similar struggles are brought and bound together and so are the humans and the Oankali. The Oankali version of care is also much different than how humans care for each other and themselves, and that is something I found interesting in today’s circumstances as well. For myself, I learned that growth does not happen unless you do something to encourage it. You must water the seeds that you plant in order to see growth and change; without water a simple seed cannot grow.

I think something that I learned about bringing and binding people together this semester is that everyone is in the same boat. Everyone is struggling with school work, family issues, and the general gloom of a pandemic. This sort of general struggling to do the best we can when times are the hardest is something I have had to learn how to do and also something I have been able to observe for quite some time now. I think that people with similar struggles and issues are drawn together, and this is a common theme that can be seen in  Butler’s trilogy. I also feel as if another binder is familiarity; such as the humans and Oankali not truly being familiar with one another. The Oankali can physically bind themselves to humans, but they can’t understand what it is like for the humans to be going through the gene trade. The humans, specifically the resistors, find it difficult to even be around the Oankali because of their appearance. The resistors take in Akin simply because he looks more like them than the other Oankali. They “liked him simply because he looked like them”(Butler 385). This familiarity allowed Akin to be trusted and accepted by the resistors. In the beginning of the trilogy, Lilith can’t even bear the sight of Jdahya. When she is first introduced to him “she found herself still unable to take even one more step towards him”(Butler 13). She was repulsed by his “alienness, his difference, his literal unearthliness”(Butler 13). This familiarity is just something that the Oankali simply can’t have with the humans, which stifles their ability to bind together. The struggles that the humans have versus the struggles that the Oankali have in the trilogy also offer nothing to bind them to one another. The Oankali can’t understand why the humans would not want to participate in the gene trade, and the humans can’t understand why the Oankali want it to happen in general. 

When I reflect back on this semester I noticed that since all my friends and I were going through similar struggles, we were all willing to help each other as much as we could. Whether it was for a paper, or we had to pack our bags and move into the quarantine hall, we were all there to support. There was this beautiful mutual understanding that we were all trying to grow and learn despite the circumstances, so we all needed to push each other and help each other a little more than usual. This in itself was growth I think; acts of selflessness during a time when it is so easy to be selfish. It was wonderful to watch this happen and wonderful when I realized I had grown from this as well.

Something that we analyzed this semester was that the basic roots of harm and care were not so different. This was interesting to me and I remember earlier in the semester reading the definition of both words and being surprised that they were incredibly similar. Someone may perceive something that is harmful as caring, and vice versa. This is similar to the Oankali seeing the gene trade as something that will benefit the humans, but the humans wanting absolutely nothing to do with it.  “The only thing they can’t do, it seems, is let us alone. Let us do it in our own way”(95). The humans, specifically the resistors, are incredibly upset when they hear the plans that the Oankali have for the human race, yet the Oankali can’t seem to understand why they would be upset; they believe they are saving the human race and the earth from extinction. Something that I am reminded of when thinking of harm and care is the acts of good faith we talked about earlier in the semester. Practicing good faith sounds easy, but when put into practice it can be difficult. These acts of good faith are important in truly understanding that slight difference between harm and care; it is the act of actively thinking about other people and their well-being. I think that this is especially important right now in today’s climate, students from all over are dealing with their mental health in different ways and it is important to check in with friends and family right now. This pandemic has been particularly straining on everyone’s mental health, so practicing good faith along with care is incredibly important right now.

While working at the elementary school I worked at over the course of this semester, I remember having a particularly bad mental health day. In a professional environment such as this one, it is important to remain calm and not let your emotions get the best of you. This day was particularly difficult for me, and one of my second graders had noticed I was a bit off. Even at their age, they realized I needed a break and asked me to sit and help them finish their craft with them. This act of care was in good faith and was extremely helpful to me this day. They did not judge me, just simply offered me a quick break from the stress of the job. Another necessary component to offering care in good faith is doing it without judgement. The second grader did not question me, they just simply offered me a break without any judgement and in doing so they practiced something that will come in handy for them in the future: good faith.

I think personally I have definitely gone through some changes throughout the semester. I learned a lot about myself and the limits my mind and body have, especially with online schooling and living during a global pandemic. I learned it is okay to take breaks and step back from reality for a second to keep my mental health in check. The changes that the humans went through in the trilogy I feel are similar in ways but also incredibly different. Lilith went through a mental change; in the beginning of the trilogy she refused to work with the Oankali and relentlessly found ways to go around them, but by the end she was having their Oankali mixed children and found herself becoming nurturing and motherly towards these children that she swore she would never have. Another character that went through immense change was Akin. They seem to be in some sort of limbo; not quite belonging with the Oankali and not quite belonging with the humans. He looks more human than a normal Oankali would, so they resent him for this and the humans resent him for looking even remotely Oankali.  “No one came for him. No one would take him home or let him go. He felt both unwanted and wanted too much”(365). Akin was trapped, and he was aching for a change. He soon realized that he wanted to look into his human side more, and decided to spend time on earth to learn and grow from them, “I want to know the human part of myself better”(406). It is here he learned that change is an incredibly important part of his growth as one of the first Oankali-human hybrids. Akin was basically a child at this point, and I think he found this limbo he was stuck in very difficult. I have absolutely felt the same way as him before; lost, alone, and unhappy. But when I was feeling this way, I always knew I had to make a change, much like Akin did.

Realizing I had to make a change for myself this semester was a major part of my growth. I was in a “rut” of sorts mentally, and online classes were not good for my mental health. Something that helped me out of this was that I realized everyone is in the same situation. Students are exhausted and lost in their course work, so realizing that we all are in the same situation helped me come out of my “rut” a little bit each day. I made the most of the situation I was in, and decided that enough was enough and I made the conscious decision to add some water and “grow” myself. Once I did this I noticed that my mental health got increasingly better, and my academic growth followed in suit.

Self-growth is not something that just happens when it happens. It is something that you must work for, nurture, and bring out of yourself. My own self-growth this semester taught me many lessons that I will personally carry on in the rest of endeavors at SUNY Geneseo and throughout my life.

Final Self-Reflective Essay

Throughout this semester, I have had a lot of time to self-reflect. How do I focus on key course concepts and relate them to the real world? What brings and binds people together? How have I developed my habits in thinkING? I think that this is the first course that I have taken that puts strong emphasis on the way that I think. Most classes encourage thought, but not necessarily expand your thinking to a deeper and more meaningful level. In terms of academics, the expansion of my thinking process has led me to question what the author is trying to portray and why it is striking my interes. I have learned that my thinking can expand past the initial thought and be more than just a fleeting moment, not only in academics but also in life. By this I mean that when having a conversation, I should not necessarily blurt out my initial thoughts, but present my side of an argument or topic from a more expanded and meaningful way, while simultaneously understanding someone else’s perspective. My thinking can also expand in regards to absorbing information. Instead of just analyzing the information laid in front of me, I can further my thinking process by deepening my thought process. By this I mean further questioning why the information is important, why it was included and how it can be beneficial to my learning and thought processes. 

This course has taught me quite a bit about the process of bringing and binding people together. Interactions between human beings with similar mindsets usually result in connection, or a binding or thoughts.  When learning about interactions between people and how these interactions bind them together, it has always been presented in a way that it was a primary source, a story from a person about how they connected with people. In Chimamanda Adichie’s “The Danger of a Single Story” podcast is a reflection of her understanding of how people are torn apart by stereotypes. She says “they had become one thing in my mind” (9:18) in respects to creating a media fueled stereotype of a specific ethnicity. This single minded thinking will not allow people to come together, but rather separates us with our differences. I believe that this has broadened my perspective of bringing and binding people together by allowing me to see how thinking with stereotypes in mind will not allow me to truly connect with people beyond my initial thought of them. Another example of a way that this course has taught me more about bringing and binding people together is the discussion post “To The Forums! 2: Good Faith”. This discussion post narrowed down good faith practices to allow for more interactions with people unclouded by judgements or ill intentions. In the discussion, Beth McCoy includes a long list of good faith practices to keep in the back of your mind that allow for healthy interactions as life progresses. “Acknowledge without shame that which you don’t know. Once you do know that you don’t know something, that is when your responsibility to learn kicks in. ” This quote left in the discussion prompt by Beth McCoy has really changed the way that I interact with people, especially in my new college environment. To be able to understand that you do not understand something allows for room to ask questions and learn. This quote helps in regard to bringing and binding people together because if you do not know something about a culture, a sexuality or how someone identifies themselves, it allows room to acknowledge the fact that you are unaware and then learn in order to better your interactions with people. 

The concepts of harm and care have become more clear to me after taking this course. I have obtained a better understanding of how my thoughts and actions can either inflict harm or care based on how I consciously handle a situation. The To the Forums! 7: Disinformation and Harm, Information and Care discussion post in class allowed me to understand the differences between harm and care. The article that was in the discussion post, “5 ways to help stop the ‘infodemic’, the increasing misinformation about the coronavirus” gave great examples of differentiating harm and care. In the many months that this pandemic has taken over, misinformation about health safety and guidelines could be most harmful. This idea of misinformation connects with my real world adaptations of harm and care. If someone is misinformed in the real world, not just relating to the Corona-Virus, it could cause more harm than care. This basic set of rules when it comes to differentiating harm and care has given me the tools to be able to assess myself before an interaction or argument and be able to approach it in an empathetic and productive way in order to avoid creating a harmful situation. It is better to be informed rather than misinformed. In regards to Lilith’s Brood, I believe that harm and care play a large role in the beginning of the novel. With Lilith’s  lack of information regarding the Oankali, it creates a negative image of their people in her mind, because they are entirely strange to her. 

As I continue on into the void that is my college education, I think I have no other choice than to ‘prepare to change and be changed’. The habit of getting prepared to change and be changed is more so how willing I can be when it comes to change, whether or not I will stick my nose up in reluctance or allow for different views, thoughts and opinions to change my mindset. I feel as if in more recent years it is more likely that students across the country attending liberal arts schools are taking classes, much like this one, that address different types of controversial topics that face the world. Taking these types of classes can be incredibly enlightening if you open yourself up to the idea of learning these topics. This class in particular has allowed me to prepare to change and be changed by giving me a better sense of thought, especially when approaching controversial topics. To use empathy rather than react in a negative fashion. I also believe that the key course concepts circulating in this course have also allowed me to prepare to change and be changed. Ultimately, I feel as if it is very much so either sink or swim. Be progressive with thought, or remain close-minded. 

To Learn, You Must Listen: What Brings and Binds People Together?

Over the course of this semester, the idea of changing ourselves has been a constant weight on everyone. In the height of a pandemic we all have had too much time alone, stuck with our own thoughts. What is wrong? Why do I feel this way? What will make it better? However, change is not limited to our individual selves. We change to become more empathetic; to become better students. Outside the classroom, change and continuous learning allow us to be activists and push equality. The idea is to genuinely care about each other’s experiences in order to reflect on them. Genuine care means to listen and empathize with others; to provide productive feedback and relate through understanding. If we do not understand, then we must continue to listen and hear each other out.

  In ENGL431, the push to change in order to grow with our peers has been emphasized immensely. Through our thinkING and reading Octavia Butler, I have learned a lot about myself. I have learned that change does not come easy. We all theoretically want to change for the better, but obstacles and features of ourselves may prohibit us from quick reactions to new environments. The biggest one I have noticed is the lack of human connection. Gone are the days of going out and seeing strangers, shooting a smile at people or a friendly wave. Now days are filled with silent working and dystopian-esque virtual discussions.  I would not say we have been stuck with constraints in ENGL431 — we have been graced with reminders and motivated by deadlines. We must learn how to push past these difficulties in order to change and become better without the reminders and the caring that is reinforced constantly in class conversations and discussion posts.One needs experiences to reflect on in order to truly grow. To do this, we must not only change ourselves to be more compassionate and empathetic, but we must also listen to the people around us. Our own responsibilities come from how we interact with people and how the individual self must care for others and themselves.

At the beginning of the semester, I remember our very first PadLet post on what it means to bring and bind people together. I can vividly see how eager everyone was to type, to say they knew what the answer was. It is interesting that we all do understand what it means to bring people together, but it feels more divided and distant now than ever before. This goes to show exactly how difficult the growth for ourselves truly is. Octavia Butler’s series compiled in Lilith’s Brood focuses heavily on how connection among one another creates a sense of stability that promotes a positive change through learning and understanding experiences. Let us not forget that change is not always in our benefit — we must create a safe environment that promotes our growth in change, not our downfall. In turn, this will create a positive outlet to learn from others. Dawn, the first novel of the series, begins with Lilith experiencing her third Awakening, alone and confused. Discovering that her consent and compassion have been ripped from her, she feels withdrawn and alone. I can relate to Lilith here — this semester I contracted COVID-19 from my mother. I felt confused, alone, and very similar to how Lilith describes trying to piece together her reality in the opening moments of the novel. These events and experiences can be scary, and can make us want to run and forget. However, we cannot. As we have heavily mentioned in the course, we must rather  “run and learn.” We have to take these experiences in order to listen and talk with others. To share emotions and educate each other and ourselves creates an understanding that promotes change. When these are stripped from us, or we are suddenly seen as different, we lose our ability to change. Once the compassion is gone, there is fear instilled and we become so insulated with ourselves that we lose a sense of individuality.

“His words bit more deeply into her than she let him see. With all the questioning and testing she had gone through, the two and a half years of round-the-clock observation–the Oankali must know her in some ways better than any human being…Of course they knew she had certain practical experiences they considered important”  

Butler. Lilith’s Brood. 91-92

Lilith, here, is describing how she has been treated much more like a test patient than an individual here. She feels alone and vulnerable; but it is important to note that the Oankali still consider her own experiences as something of importance. However, the issue is that experiences are being ripped from Lilith for the Oankali benefit; this is wrong. Her ability to bear a child is considered to be the only  This is not bringing and binding people together — this is using people and creating a hierarchy over them. That is why it is not enough to change ourselves to be open to other people’s experience, we must also genuinely listen and care. If the compassion is lacking, we begin to harm.

Harm and care are both very relevant topics not only in society right now, but also in ENGL431. Our care and good faith in others allows us to create the positive environment for change that was mentioned previously. This semester, I’ve learned that when you personally failed to encounter these things, it may seem helpless and worthless when you can see a disregard for care. I believe that our course is set up in nature to practice good faith, however when it is apparent someone has taken thoughts and ideas from others rather than expand on them, the change may be negative to the individual who has been discouraged. This discouragement leads to distrust, which we can see in Butler’s “The Training Floor” from Dawn. Distrust towards Lilith is prevalent amongst the Oankali; the spread of disinformation about humans makes them unsure of her. As the disinformation spreads and Lilith is treated similarly to an outsider; she becomes discouraged when trying to help unite the Oankali. I find that is important to note that although we need a positive environment to grow, we also need to allow individuals to have their own experiences. 

“They’ll cut the trees down, you know,’ she said softly. ‘They’ll make boats or rafts. They think they’re on Earth.’

‘Some of them believe otherwise,’’ Nikanj told her. ‘They believe because you do.’

‘That won’t stop the boat building.’

‘No. We won’t try to stop it”

Butler. Lilith’s Brood. 200

This conversation resonated with me because I do think that spreading knowledge amongst each other is the key to bringing people together. However, individuals have the urge to discover things for themselves. Our curiosity is quite literally one of our most dangerous traits. This does not take away from care; rather it creates a careful environment in which others are free to have their own journeys and battles in order to learn from what they’ve done. In the textual case, the result is failure and that is okay. In life, some of the experiences we take lead to better ones. We must allow risks to be taken and not place limitations on each other. If we were to just copy and paste what people tell us, we fail ourselves. However, to avoid harm, we must remember that not everything has to come from experience. Lilith mentions this idea of experience in Adulthood Rites. “I was a city person, too, but there were some things I was willing not to learn from experience” (282). We must use our own reasoning to decide whether experiences and risks are worth taking.  Learning from one another does not mean depending on another person to tell us the answers. It is rather to take their understanding and use it in our benefit to promote positive change. We must genuinely care about each other and respect each other as individuals in order to promote positive changes. 

I, honestly, have failed myself in preparing for change. Or, rather, I have become aware that I have not done enough to promote positive change this semester. These actions have not gone to waste nor have they been unnoticed. I would say I am pretty compassionate, even maybe an empath. As a white, cisgendered woman, I have been more willing to listen to others experiences in order to understand and be an activist. However, I have not done enough for myself. Much like the humans building boats to row to the end of the environment in Dawn, I have experienced failures that I can change to finish strongly in my career as an Undergraduate student next semester. Reading Adulthood Rites, I was struck by the rules Wray explains to Tino. 

“You can do as you please here. As long as you don’t hurt anyone, you can stay or go as you like; you can choose your own friends, your own lovers. No one has the right to demand anything from you that you don’t want to give”

Butler. Lilith’s Brood. 286.

As I read this again, I sit and resonate on it. As students, we don’t have this option. I feel demands have been at an all time high — not in this course specifically, but I have seen more than enough students post or discuss they have been figuratively drowning this semester, whether it’s in schoolwork or personal life. I believe that this is what has contributed to my lack of change this semester, but has contributed to set me up to prepare for change as we enter a new semester. I do not want to discredit the demands put, however. Responsibilities are not an excuse for our lack of change, yet they can be lumped with the obstacles we face that may make our preparation delayed. Balance is not easy, but it is important. We all have our own individual steps to take in order to become our best selves and in turn listen and give advice to others.

Life is not fulfilled without the influence of others. In order to bring people together, especially in a time of widespread divide, we must better ourselves and be willing to share and listen to each other. This pushes past just listening to friends and family. It is also important to understand each other’s limitations and walls. We must listen to others’ experiences in order to better ourselves to help others down the road. As we wrap up this semester and year, there is one thing to always remember,

No one has the right to demand anything from you that you don’t want to give

Adapting to the Unfamiliar

Throughout this semester, I have deepened my habits of thinkING and I look forward to applying these new skills to my life beyond this course. I have gained a new appreciation and understanding of textual evidence, and am now much more comfortable asking myself why the things that I find interesting matter to the entirety of a story and to society as a whole. At the beginning of this course, I was not especially excited to start reading a science fiction novel. I was not quite sure why I never felt compelled to read science fiction, but after reading this novel and looking more closely into Octavia Butler’s writing, I have realized that the reason I was not interested in science fiction before was because I enjoy more realistic and relatable stories. 

However, I ended up really enjoying reading Lilith’s Brood and making dozens of annotations throughout the novel of things that I found notable. Oftentimes, I bookmark quotes or sections of novels that I find interesting, typically with no greater purpose besides the fact that I find them notable. For example, a frequent note that I made throughout my reading was in regard to the “human contradiction” that is often discussed throughout this novel. I found this incredibly interesting, especially because I had never thought of how truly contradictive humans are. Throughout this course, I have learned that I need to ask myself what these sections contribute to the story, why the author may have incorporated them, and especially why it piqued my interest. I was surprised to see that so many parts of this story did interest me, as I am not usually interested in science fiction. I noticed that while the situations portrayed in Lilith’s Brood are not incredibly realistic, the emotions and experiences can still be relatable to me. These notes that I took demonstrate how Octavia Butler uses this concept to illustrate how characters adapt to new situations in order to show how important familiarity and flexibility are in bringing and binding people together, harm and care, and change. 

Throughout Lilith’s Brood, Butler demonstrates how familiarity can bring and bind people together and make them more adaptable in new situations. In this trilogy, there is a clear separation between Oankali, Humans who mate with Oankali, and resistor Humans. I noticed especially how the resistors display that familiarity brings and binds them together. When Akin lives among the resistors, he is treated well because they “liked him simply because he looked like them” (Butler 385). The fact that Akin looks generally human to the resistors made the resistors more comfortable around him and more willing to care for him. Conversely, the resistors encounter the two Oankali-Human constructs, Amma and Shkaht, who do not look as human as Akin does. The resistor Neci wants to cut off Amma and Shkahts’s sensory tentacles because she believes that the girls would look more Human without them. Neci explains how she thinks the girls will “learn to do without the ugly little things if [the resistors] take them off while they’re so young” and “they’ll learn to use their human senses” (Butler 375). Since Neci is uncomfortable with how the girls look—they are not as Human-presenting as Akin—she believes that making them look more familiar to her might make her and the other resistors more capable of bonding with them. It is important to note how humans use the sense of sight to gauge familiarity, whereas the Oankali use senses like taste, smell, and touch to determine familiarity. When Akin tells the resistor Tate how much it would hurt the girls to cut off their tentacles and that a sensory tentacle could still sting a human even if the Oankali were dead, Tate seems to care more about the fact that a human could get hurt than the Oankali girls being in excruciating pain from losing their tentacles. This carelessness connects to the way that humans value visual appearance for comfort because even though cutting the girls’ tentacles off will hurt them immensely, it is more important to the humans that they are visually appealing. Tate asks Akin many questions about the process of removing tentacles, but seems to stop her questioning when Akin brings up the harm and pain it would cause the Oankali (Butler 381). Butler makes this subtle but important move to show how the Humans value their own comfort and familiarity over the comfort of someone different than themselves. 

The Oankali also demonstrate how familiarity brings and binds them together by sterilizing the Humans because they do not want Humans to mate with one another and make something that the Oankali do not want and does not look like them. Akin explains how the Oankali have taken away the Human’s ability to reproduce, saying “their kind is all they’ve ever known or been, and now there won’t be any more. They try to make us like them, but we won’t ever really be like them, and they know it” (Butler 377). However, at a time of doubt in Akin’s life, he remembers words that Lilith once told him:

“‘Human beings fear difference’, Lilith had told him once. ‘Oankali crave difference. Humans persecute their different ones, yet they need them to give themselves definition and status. Oankali seek difference and collect it. They need it to keep themselves from stagnation and overspecialization’” (Butler 329).

Lilith tells Akin that in times when he feels conflict, to “‘try and go the Oankali way’” by embracing difference (Butler 329). While the Oankali do believe that their species is superior to humans and want to essentially eliminate the humans, they are more adaptable than humans are in terms of familiarity. By illustrating this, Butler draws attention to how important familiarity is to all life forms when bonding with one another; however, adapting to the unfamiliar, like the Oankali pursue, can be just as important when bringing and binding people together. It is especially important to note that this conversation takes place between Lilith and Akin—both of whom exhibit human and Oankali characteristics—and Lilith urges Akin to follow the Oankali way rather than the human way. This advice implies that Lilith believes that the Oankali have a better way of accepting what is not familiar to them, displaying their strong adaptability. Familiarity is especially important in the conversation of what brings and binds people together because it can create a basis of comfort and understanding to explore unfamiliar things; meanwhile, adaptability can serve as a show of good faith and comfort as well. 

When considering how familiarity and adaptability brings and binds people together, it is also important to note how the idea of consent may be adaptable beyond what we are familiar with. I believe that consent plays a vital role in discussions about both harm and care. First, it is important to understand that there is sometimes a lack of consent on both sides of a situation. Additionally, we must consider that consent does not always equate to something bad happening to someone. In the case of sighted humans, physical attraction can be a nonconsensual situation. At the beginning of this semester, we viewed a “meet cute” from the 1996 film Romeo + Juliet. In this scene, the two star-crossed lovers saw one another for the first time through a fish tank. In the context of the film, it is assumed that there was an instant physical attraction between the two. However, what we may fail to recognize is how physical attraction between sighted people often lacks consent. Neither of the participants in this scene asked for the physical attraction from the other, but they projected their own physical attraction onto the other. While this is not inherently harmful, it is still a nonconsensual situation. 

In a recent Zoom discussion, Beth presented the metaphor of how breathing is essentially a non-consensual act. Although breathing is something that every Human and mammal must do to survive, it is something that we have not consented to at birth. This discussion blurs the line of harm and care with regards to consent because while we tend to see almost everything that is not consensual as negative or harmful (in most cases it is), there may be some instances where not having consent is positive or caring. In this case, if mammals did not consent to breathing they would all die almost instantly. In Imago, when Lilith discusses mating with Oankali as a Human with Jesusa, Jesusa asks, “You didn’t have a choice [to mate with Nikanj], did you?” and Lilith responds “I did, oh yes. I chose to live” (Butler 672). This situation is similar to the metaphor of breathing. Lilith “consented” to a certain extent, but the only other option was death. This “choice” also brings up the question of how much the Oankali “care” for humans like Lilith if their version of “consent” is basically a negative ultimatum where one choice is life and the other is death. I found a similar situation in other instances where the Oankali seem to do positive things for the Humans, but without their knowledge or consent. For example, the Oankali cured Lilith of her cancer before she was Awakened and Jodahs altered Marina’s body so that she could safely bear children. The latter was a situation where Jodahs (who changed her body) also did not entirely consent, but it seems harmful that the Oankali—especially the ooloi—are physically unable to stop themselves from healing someone, especially when the person being healed does not consent. Butler provokes readers to think of consent in a different way than we’re used to; instead of seeing a lack of consent as strictly harmful, Butler exposes the ways in which lacking consent can also be used in a caring and necessary way, just like breathing. This nuanced concept of consent is perhaps unfamiliar to Butler’s audience, forcing readers to demonstrate good faith in Butler by adapting to a new meaning. 

Finally, recognizing how familiarity and adaptability brings and binds people together has really helped push me further into the habit of being “prepared to change and be changed”. All in all, I am typically receptive to new information and ideas as long as they do not challenge my moral values. In my second To the Forums! Discussion post, I discussed how I believe that willful education is one of the most vital practices of good faith. I often refer back to this post, as it is something I truly believe in and work to implement in my everyday life. In this post, I explain how I believe that “In an age of constant access to ever-evolving information, there is virtually no reason why one should choose to remain ignorant to the lives, experiences, cultures, etc. of others.“ In her TED Talk “The Danger of a Single Story”, Chimamanda Ngozi Adichie touches on this aspect of being prepared to change and be changed, detailing a time when she realized how media and other people’s opinions affected her own views. Adichie tells the story of when she visited Mexico for the first time and was shocked by the difference between actual Mexican people and the negative, harmful way that they are stereotyped in the United States. What I find to be most important about this story is that Adichie recognizes that she arrived in Mexico with these negative biases, and was ashamed to have had them. Furthermore, this instance helped Adichie realize that this is probably not the only example of a societal, implicit bias affecting the way she sees things, and worked to change this issue in herself and others. I view myself as “prepared to change and be changed” because I work every day to be like Adichie and recognize the perceptions I have and be open to new interpretations of them. Whenever I catch myself thinking something stereotypical about something or someone, I take a moment to reflect on why I have those thoughts and how I can actively change them. Even going into this course, one of the first things I said during our first Zoom meeting was that I was not really “that into” science-fiction novels and usually do not enjoy reading them because they are unrealistic and therefore unrelatable to me. However, through reading Lilith’s Brood, I have formed a new, deeper understanding of what science fiction can be, something that was not familiar to me before reading Butler’s work. I have accepted that while a story may be unrealistic, it can still have themes that I relate to, like Butler’s discussion of familiarity and adaptability in Lilith’s Brood. I look forward to recognizing especially when things feel “safe” or familiar to me in my life outside of academia and further adapt my perception of the world around me when I must oppose that familiarity.

Continued Learning (and its Companion, Running): A Reflection on “Imagos”, Life Cycles, Care, and Harm

“Learn and Run!” (Octavia Butler in Dawn).

Over the duration of this course, I have come to better understand myself as non-linear, much like the life cycle of an insect. I encompass countless cycles, including unsuspecting companions such as harm and care. The question of whether I am in the habit of getting “prepared to change and be changed” urged me to reflect on how I came to this understanding of myself. Through reading Octavia Butler’s trilogy Lilith’s Brood, contemplating on it, and writing about it, I absorbed different elements of the story, and applied them to myself. One element is the function of the third book’s title, Imago. “Imago”, Latin for “image”, may be an entomological term, referring to an insect in the fully-developed phase of its life cycle. It is also a psychological term, referring to a persistent and idealized mental image of someone. One of our course epithets was this quote from Butler’s “Furor Scribendi”: “First forget inspiration. Habit is more dependable. Habit will sustain you whether you’re inspired or not….Habit is persistence in practice. Forget talent. If you have it, fine. Use it. If you don’t have it, it doesn’t matter. As habit is more dependable than inspiration, continued learning is more dependable than talent.” As influenced by the companionship between habit and learning, one way I am enacting changing and being changed can be best expressed through “imago” metaphors:

I have a persistent mental image of who I should ideally be, constructed of internalized perfectionism, of which I know to be a manifestation of “imago”. But instead of ever reaching the promised perfected self, this “imago” deepens stagnation, pushing me into survival, rather than survival paired with flourishing. I have begun habitually challenging this “imago” with a focus on its second definition. I am challenging my mental image of my ‘ideal’ self to look more like an insect, immersed in moving towards full development in some ways, and, at the same time, open to the other stages of its life cycle. Learning is similar to an insect’s life cycle. I am striving to learn more, developing my understanding of different subjects in different ways. “Continued learning” is a life cycle. Embarking on the journey of learning new things is like being in the egg or larvae stage. Growing through learning brings you to the “imago” stage, and the metamorphosis of understanding starts over and over again. 

A life cycle is multifaceted, as countless different aspects of myself are in different phases (I think of the typical multifaceted insect’s eye). I want to release the idea of having to be one ideal thing to make space for two; to make space for simultaneous dimensions of change, all at different phases in their cycle. I want to remember the dangers that come with holding yourself to a single story- one chance to be perfect, one linear way to grow and to learn- as Chimamanda Adichie’s talk “The Danger of a Single Story” discussed, and as Butler embodied in the different narrative points of views through the trilogy. This sentiment reminds me of a particular quote near the end of Imago: “And [the seed] would need the space the valley afforded it to grow and mature” (p. 745). The seed for the town, much like me, needs space to grow. I know how to make space: through change. To make space, some things need to undergo diminution, and at the same time, others need to expand. I want to put the perfectionist “imago” under diminution and expand the cyclic, multifaceted one of learning. Another relevant quote on the same page reads “Here the town could grow and always have the companionship of some of us. It would need that companionship as much as we did during our metamorphoses” (p. 745). A companionship encourages change; it embodies the “both / and” concept we have pondered throughout this course. Habit and learning as companions prompt metamorphosis. Another companionship- one of our other course concepts- is harm and care.

Harm and care are often conveyed as mutually exclusive opposites. For example, there are simple scenarios that seem to confirm a care and harm dichotomy, such as, if a child hits another child for taking a toy they wanted, this is harm, and needs to be taught out of the child. But then there are scenarios that are much more nuanced, challenging this dichotomy. Cognitive-behavioral therapy challenges obsessive-compulsive thoughts and behaviors, and for an individual to newly defy these thoughts and behaviors, it is painful. Mentally and physically, it can cause distress due to heightened levels of anxiety. But in the long run, this pain ultimately ‘harms’ obsessive-compulsivity rather than the individual, through the development of coping skills. I found two particular incidents in Lilith’s Brood that challenge the dichotomy of care and harm. One is from the beginning, and the other is at the end. On pages 79-81, Butler writes, “On the back of her neck, she felt the promised touch, a harder pressure, then the puncture. It hurt more than she had expected…[After she awoke] she sat up carefully just in time to see Nikanj coming through a wall… “You’re so complex,” it said, taking both her hands. It did not point its head tentacles at her in the usual way, but placed its head close to hers and touched her with them. “You’re filled with so much life and death and potential for change,” Nikanj continued… “What did you do? I don’t feel any different…,” [said Lilith]. “You understand me,” [said Nikanj]. In simple terms, in order for Lilith to begin a new period of growth, there must first be pain. Lilith was afraid of this painful change that Nikanj was going to do, comparing it to the brain damage her husband Sam had suffered on page 78. I don’t think the change Lilith underwent can be classified as either care or harm in the long run, but as care and harm both. It is harmful to puncture an opening in someone’s body, but the change that subsequently unfurled was so dynamic, that it cannot be neatly placed into either category of harm or care, or even be considered to be the caring counterpart to the harm. Interestingly, after Nikanj fulfills the “promised touch” and Lilith regains consciousness, it uses its touch to ensure that Lilith is recovering okay. This is an example of how care and harm are less polar or linear, and more of a blending, fluctuating cycle. 

On page 738, Butler writes, ““I’m not sure I’ll forgive it,” Lilith said. But she was smiling…” The juxtaposition of Lilith’s words with her smile reminds me of the importance of intention, and how action and intention are entangled, giving way to the nuance of care and harm. Throughout Lilith’s Brood, harmful actions paired with ‘good’ (or neutral/ambiguous) intentions occur. For example, when Lilith buried her orange peelings in Tiej, she expected them to be “broken down by tendrils of the ship’s own living matter”. Instead, Lilith “poisoned”, as Kahguyaht says, the ground. Her intention could be considered caring, as she was burying her peelings to cover her trail, as she was not sure if Nikanj would be in trouble for allowing her to wander. But her burying the peelings “had caused harm”. Because the ship is alive, it feels pain. (Butler, pp. 67-69). 

The other course concept, of what brings and binds people together, is not necessarily implying willing, comfortable companionship. More uncomfortable dualities, like care and harm, companions in themselves, can bring and bind people together. “When the doctor first came to our household,” [Jdahya] said, “some of my family found her so disturbing that they left home for awhile. That’s unheard-of-behavior among us…They had never before seen so much life and so much death is one being. It hurt some of them to touch her…It was her genetic structure that disturbed them” (Butler, p. 26). The companionship of life and death harmed Jdahya’s family members. And according to Jdahya on page 38, it harmed humanity, as well: “You have a mismatched pair of genetic characteristics. Either alone would have been useful, would have aided the survival of your species. But the two together are lethal…You are intelligent. You are hierarchical.” If humanity does indeed ‘contain’ innate companionships- life and death, intelligence and natural hierarchy, care and harm- then, of course, those companionships bring and bind people together. They are us. I think habit and continued learning have the ability to sustain our relationships, both with our own selves and with one another. We are independent lives, with distinct life cycles and different things to understand. But sowing idealized images of a perfected human whole reap stagnation over growing, just like how having idealized images of our perfect individual selves can too. Rather, I want to continue on in my life cycle of habit and learning, growing and metamorphosing in my understanding of life. “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” (Butler, p. 746). Throughout this course, I have learned about myself and others, paralleling the planting of the seed; and I can run with these understandings, just as the seed moves forth as independent life. 

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.