Being Joyfully Self-Critical

After working on the collective course statement over the course of the last few classes, I have come across a lot of my notes from earlier in the class that I forgot about. Particularly, I came across the sentence “we must be joyfully self-critical, and never have a goal“, capitalized and starred. This was within my notes regarding the discussion with Professor Kennison about medical voluntourism. As we come back to discussing medical voluntourism in terms of our collective course statement, and the solutions we can come up with for the problems with it, I thought that this statement was very important in terms of that, but also in terms of our class in general.

Continue reading “Being Joyfully Self-Critical”

The Power of Hope in Butler’s Fiction

In my Inspire Paper I wrote about hope and its great power to get us through almost anything. Butler’s fiction demonstrates that hope is the one emotion ingrained into the human brain that moves us forward and continues to unite us. Despite the more negative feelings of fear, loneliness, boredom, frustration, and suffering that oftentimes bring people together, it is the unceasing feeling of hope that we as a society carry in our hearts that allows us to overcome even the hardest of obstacles and creates a common purpose among the human characters in Lilith’s Brood. While in my paper I mainly discussed how the feeling of expectation inspires and keeps humans going, I decided to look at the importance of hope in Oankali society for this blog post.

Aaor is a wonderful example of this, since its lack of hope of finding mates clearly contributes to, if not causes, the self-destruction and dissolution of the lonely ooloi. Like with humans, “its life is terrible if it has nothing better to look forward to” (Imago 684). We witness how Aaor slowly retreats from society and degenerates back to its original state (a tiny sea creature), close to losing itself completely before Jodahs and its mates enable the lonesome ooloi to recover. Because of its sibling’s encouragement and affection, Aaor finds hope again and thereby reclaims its identity, and even more importantly, its will to live. Thus, hope (and a sense of belonging and being loved) is what saved Aaor from committing “suicide.”

Moreover, readers are also confronted with the fact that humans (as well as nonhumans) often are led by false hope. Tomas, for example, informs Jodahs and Jesusa of how much he hates his resister village because it is “full of pain and sickness and duty and false hope” (687). He is aware that human beings will never be able to live on Earth as they have before and rather will remain under the power of the Oankali (be it on Earth, Mars, or elsewhere). In this way, Tomas has given up the hope of the old world; however, he continues to hope for a treatment of his tumors and a more fulfilled life with Jodahs and Jesusa. Had he given up hope completely, he most likely wouldn’t have endured all the trials of the Oankali and the “loss” of humanity.

As Jodahs states toward the end of Imago, Aaor “survived only because of their combined efforts and its new hope of Human mates to bond with” (691). And I believe this could be said for the majority of characters in Butler’s fiction, since hope seems to be the greatest driving force in all of them, whether they are human or not.

 

The Age of Maturity

While reading Imago in Lilith’s Brood by Octavia Butler, the concept of emerging into adulthood is portrayed in ways that are different from our world. When Jodahs is asked to explain how old he is, he replies that he is still a child, despite his numerical age:

“How old are you?”

“Twenty-nine.”

“Good god! When will you be considered an adult?”

“After metamorphosis.” I smiled to myself. Soon. “I have a brother who went through it at twenty-one, and a sister who didn’t reach it until she was thirty-three. People change when their bodies are ready, not at some specific age.” (Lilith’s Brood, 528)

This scene in the novel really stuck with me. It made me reconsider our society’s definition of what it truly means to be an adult. For us, certain ages yield increases in responsibility. Typically around 18 is when we are considered to be “adults.” But how can simply surviving 18 years of life be enough to achieve the status of an adult?

I remember when I was a child, I imagined that when I turned 18 that I would be very mature. In my young brain, 18 was the the age where I thought my life would be figured out. Upon actually turning 18, I realized that I was still so young and had so much more life to live. An individual’s perception of their own maturity in the future is often one that includes hope of maturity and clarity. We all hope to be a better, smarter, and wiser version of ourselves one day; but when that day will come varies among people.

Today, I am 20 years old and think about how much I have grown since the age I became an “adult.” If only two years can encompass massive amounts of growth in the areas of emotional intelligence and maturity, then how can we have a specific numerical age that implies this level of maturity? Will I ever actually reach the status of being an “adult?” Or will I continue to grow as a human being, simply becoming less and less similar to the child I once was? It is hard to say when I will become an adult considering the fact that this type of change is gradual. The gradual build of maturity sneaks up on you and this will not happen suddenly to an individual when they turn the arbitrary age of 18.  

The manner in which the Oankali approach the concept of maturity is very different from our society. They do not stress about having a set age at which they will reach metamorphosis. They simply live their lives knowing that when they are absolutely ready, they will mature. This made me question why our society does not function in this way. At age 18, no matter what an individual’s mental maturity is, they will be considered an adult. This does not take into account the unique life experiences that people will have leading up to their 18th year. With the Oankali, their age does not indicate levels of maturity. They acknowledge that every individual is different, and they will be able to change when they are ready.

This is an important idea to keep in mind when considering how we treat young adults in our society. Often times immense responsibility is placed on individuals who are not ready for it. Not every 18 year old has the ability to achieve what other 18 year olds can, yet both individuals are considered to be adults. These assumptions that link age to one’s capabilities can result in individuals feeling overwhelmed by the expectations placed on them by others. To avoid these unnecessary stresses, as a society we should take some advice from the Oankali and let people change when they are ready.

Growth

Racism and Medicine 101 has been very important class for me this semester. Having been raised in a place where my classmates all had similar upbringings and backgrounds, in the suburbs of Buffalo, this class was very enlightening. I remember coming to this class in the beginning of the semester and questioning if there was any correlation between race and medicine, but now it is inevitable that I relate one to the other. Using concrete evidence, through Harriet Washington’s Medical Apartheid, and more abstract texts, like Percival Everett’s Zulus, I learned about Racism in Medicine and furthered my knowledge substancially. Continue reading “Growth”

Dystopian Religion

As we read dystopian novels dredged in death or oppressive government regimes, religion is brought up. Because of the mass amounts of death and negativity found in an apocalyptic world, we are not only faced with the question of will humanity survive, but will religion survive? I know there are probably more important things to worry about during an apocalypse like, “Will I be able to find food today?” or “How will I cross the street without being attacked by zombies?”, but survival isn’t only about staying physically safe, there is also the preservation of the mind that contributes to survival. In Zulus and Zone One, religion is discussed in different ways. Continue reading “Dystopian Religion”

Technological Determinism in English Class

As a Teaching Assistant for the communication course at Geneseo titled “Mass Media and Society”, it is my job to take the work that we are doing that week in class and apply it my life and the lives of the students in the class, and particularly our lives as millennials and what matters to us and create a fifteen-minute discussion section each Thursday. Last week, our focus on class was on technological determinism. This is the idea that technology plays a big role on us and the way that we live, learn, and grow. It shapes our society and the way that we come to conclusions. For this week’s discussion section, I wanted to focus on the question: what goes away when our technology goes away? Continue reading “Technological Determinism in English Class”

The Recursive Nature of the Human Experience: The Forbidden Thought.

“If our souls are the sails that bring the times to shore; then we must live where the sea meets the sky in an orange horizon. Everlasting”- Adaeze.

Time, our biggest enemy is on a march, and we the endless soldiers fight greatly in the battle of life. There is no doubt there is a circle of life. We are born to this world, grow up, seek fortune, get married, have children and die. The recursive nature of the human experience. When we try to venture out of this circle, society scorns us and tries to keep us in check. Why don’t you want to go to college? Why don’t you want to have children? Through their eyes, children grow up fitting into their parent’s linear expectations of them. Children should accomplish what their parents could not accomplish in their lifetime. In the life of the average middle class American, a good job is given as the highest expectation. “Go to school, have a good job, get married and raise your children” most parents repeatedly drum out to their children. Why do we do everything we do? Merely to survive? I think not. Even as animals are born with basic survival instinct and in the food chain; only the fittest survive. Evolution tells us that populations not individuals evolve with time. Homo Erectus to Homo Sapiens, the human race has felt the touch of evolution. However, could this explain why materialism has taken centre stage in this new world? Did the technology-enhanced population crown money as the new order leaving happiness to considered as too extravagant. Too far-reaching? The average college student graduates neck deep in debts knowing that it could take the majority of their life time to pay it off. Seek fortune. However, what if we did not give meaning to anything that existed? Would they cease to exist or they would not be as important? As we trudge through the concrete filled, broken path of life, a great fear exists. The fear of oblivion. The horrid thought of disappearing as ash into the winds of time as though one never existed.

Continue reading “The Recursive Nature of the Human Experience: The Forbidden Thought.”

Food in Fiction

I’ve found a connection between Clay’s Ark, Zulus, and Zone One: food. In all of these novels, humans have to deal with alternatives to the plethora of foods we have available in any modern supermarket or grocery store. In Zulus, the planet is dying and cannot support the same amount of life as it used to, because of this, humans gain nourishment from a diet of cheese and crackers. Fresh fruit is a coveted item brought in from rebel camps outside city limits, “Alice Achitophel sat down with a cup of tea, cheese and crackers, and this evening an apple bought from a rebel in an alley downtown,” (Everett page 17). The only places to purchase fruit are in back alleyways and underground rebel gatherings. Clay’s Ark, showed the availability of food through the surprise of Blake when he enters the enclave.  He is at first surprised to see a functioning farm. “Blake suspected this was the first meal he had eaten that contained almost nothing from boxes, bags, or cans.” (Butler page 482) This hints that farm-grown livestock and produce are lacking in availability, which could also be a nod toward the prominence of processed food in our daily diets. Yet Eli’s observation  leads me to think differently. “He went to the well, turned the faucet handle of the storage tank, caught the cold, sweet, clear, water in his hand, and drank. He had not tasted such water in years.” (469) through this I inferred the availability of fresh, clean water (such as well water) is also lacking. Zone One  displayed a more prominent lack of food, causing dystopian humans to ease their hunger with a nutritional paste, “He burped up some of that morning’s breakfast paste, which had been concocted, according to the minuscule promises on the side of the tube, to replicate a nutritionist’s concept of how mama’s flapjacks topped with fresh blueberries tasted.” (Whitehead page 12)

A cheese-only diet and nutritional food-paste may seem far fetched but some real-life alternatives to food are just as shocking. Around Lake Victoria in Africa, there is an abundance of flies or midges, as a way to take advantage of this influx, villagers use them to make fly burgers. These high protein burgers help battle protein insufficient diets and offer more accessible ingredients. A man-made product having enough vitamins and nutrients to supplement a meal is Soylent. Soylent, produced by Rosa Foods uses soy-protein, sunflower oil, and flavor specific ingredients, to produce a nutritional supplement which is available in a liquid or powder form. Soylent also has a year-long shelf life and doesn’t require refrigeration, helping reduce food waste. While these are specific examples, supplements for food can be found in more normalized forms like nutritional and protein shakes, we see them in our nutritional supplement areas of our local supermarkets and vitamin stores. Zone One seems odd because meals are super-concentrated, we’re used to drinking our meal supplements; just think how much more we could accomplish in a day if we could just swallow a pill and didn’t have to set time aside to eat and enjoy our food or dining experiences.

Do Not Resuscitate

Today in class Professor McCoy shared an article about an unconscious patient with a do not resuscitate tattoo across his chest. In the article a man showed up to the emergency room with a number of health problems and an interesting tattoo of “Do Not Resuscitate” with his signature below. The attending medical staff was torn on how to handle the situation. In the beginning they continued to give him care, “invoking the principle of not choosing an irreversible path when faced with uncertainty” (Med 2). They decided to call in an ethicist for advice and they ruled to favor the patients wishes. This article is a great example of the crosswalk between literature and medicine. It deals with language use and interpretation of language as well as the importance of language in a medical setting. This issue also touches on the idea of consent which we particularly covered in Fortune’s Bones, Clay’s Ark, Medical Apartheid and Home. Continue reading “Do Not Resuscitate”