Earthseed round 5 (what is Earthseed?)

(Previous rounds are here)

So if Earthseed is primarily a series of ideas captured in the writings of Olamina, what exactly are those ideas? Here are a few key points.

God is change.
As I quoted in the first entry:

All that you touch
You Change.
All that you Change
Changes you.
The only lasting truth
Is Change.
Is Change.

If there’s one constant in the universe, that constant is change. So the only thing that truly could be called God, reasons Olamina, is change. Not a god of change but a god who is change.

This is a very impersonal god, not a loving one, not a kind one, not even a vengeful one. It’s inhuman and inhumane; in that way, it bears some awful resemblances to the horror-gods who don’t care enough about humans to want to help or hurt them.

This isn’t the same as a Buddhist statement that all things are impermanent. Olamina elevates change to godhood, saying that change isn’t just a fact of life, but the closest thing there is to God. If there is anything worth worshiping, it’s change.

Shape God.
This risks feeling passive – why take any action, when change is God? So the second tenet is to shape God / shape change. Partially, this is a matter of being prepared for the changes you can see coming; anticipate, prepare, consider what is likely to occur in the days to come, and don’t just hope for the best. If you want a particular outcome, be prepared to act to make it happen. Otherwise, you are buffeted by change and at its mercy.

This won’t save you in the face of death, nor will it be a magic talisman against suffering. But acting to shape God means you are accepting the situation in which you exist, including the likelihood and constancy of change, and taking steps to ensure the changes happen in the way you want.

The destiny of Earthseed is to take root among the stars.
This effectively creates a real “heaven” for Earthseed – a promised place in the actual heavens. It’s the end goal of humanity: to travel to other star systems and settle them. Although it doesn’t reach any expression in the first two books, there are hints that this is where Butler wanted to take the series – to explore Earthseed among new colonies. (I have some misgivings about this as a good destiny for humanity – unless we are able to live peacefully, we risk being more like a cancerous infection than a growing seed.)

Prayer is helpful because it focuses the one who prays. Belief without action is inert.
Olamina says that prayer works, but not because there’s anyone listening and granting prayers–because it steels the petitioner to act. (That covers prayers that ask for help, but what about prayers of gratitude or praise? Hm.) Simply holding to a belief and failing to act on it is not enough. Olamina pushes this farther and says that a positive obsession is even better.

Earthseed is not revelation, but fact.
Olamina doesn’t regard herself as a visionary or a receiver of truth. As far as she’s concerned, these are fundamental facts about the universe, observable by anyone who’s willing to examine history and the world around them. “Faith” in the tenets of Earthseed is like having “faith” in a rock: It’s just there, regardless of whether or not you believe in it. So she doesn’t feel like she has to rely on her own charisma, only in educating others to use their own reason.

Butler’s books have inspired new religious movements. Earthseed is a direct link; Solseed is slightly more distant but clearly inspired by Butler.  It’s unclear how large or how strong these movements are, but even if these pages are the work of just one person for just a few months, it’s an impressive example of how fiction can be transported into reality.

1 Comment (+add yours?)

  1. John Halstead
    May 24, 2016 @ 22:32:55

    Hi ekronald! I’m enjoying your Earthseed series. If you’re interested, I’ll add you to our private Earthseed Facebook group. We’re a fledgling group — only about a half dozen people — but we’re always looking for fresh ideas.


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