Octavia Butler on Creative Drive, the World-Building Power of Our Desires, and How We Become Who We Are

After the wonderful mishap of having been born at all, there are myriad ways any one life could be lived. The lives we do live are bridges throughout the tremendous river of possibility, suspended by two pylons: what we desire and what we make. In a perfect life– a life of function and deep satisfaction– the gulf of being closes and the pylons converge: We make what we wish to see exist.

This interaction is what Octavia Butler (June 22, 1947– February 24, 2006) explores throughout Parable of the Talents (town library)– the 2nd part of her oracular Earthseed allegory, which likewise provided us Butlers acutely timely wisdom on how (not) to pick our leaders.

Octavia Butler by Katy Horan from Literary Witches– an illustrated event of females authors who have actually captivated and transformed our world.More than a century after Walt Whitman– another unusual seer of realities everlasting and elemental, another poetic prophet of the world to come, who made what he wished to see exist and in making it assisted bring that world about– composed that “there is, in sanest hours, a consciousness, an idea that rises, independent, lifted out from all else, calm, like the stars, shining eternal,” Butler writes:

Self is.
Self is body and bodily understanding. Self is thought, memory, belief. Self creates. Self damages. Self finds out, finds, ends up being. Self shapes. Self adapts. Selfinvents its own factors for being. To form God, shape Self.
[…] All prayers are to SelfAnd, in one way or another, All prayers are answered.Pray, But beware.Your desires, Whether or not you achieve themWill determine who you end up being.

Butlers sentiment is only amplified by understanding that the word desire originates from the Latin for “without a star,” radiating a longing for direction. It is by desiring that we orient ourselves in the world, by finding and following our personal North Star that we walk the course of ending up being.

To end up being, of course, is no simple task– to end up being, that is, what you yourself want to be, without mistaking your cultures or your idols or your enthusiasts desires for your own. You win the fight, Butler intimates, by the clearness of your purpose and the determination with which you pursue it:

If you desire a thing– really desire it, desire it so severely that you need it as you need air to breathe, then unless you die, you will have it. What a awful and vicious thing escape would be if escape were possible.

To desire what you want so fiercely, to love it so absolutely, is not an individual indulgence in hubris or misconception– it is, Butler verifies, the mightiest antidote to the fears of being alive and, in effect, the fuel for your most generous contribution to the world:

After the remarkable mishap of having actually been born at all, there are myriad methods any one life could be lived. The lives we do live are bridges throughout the enormous river of possibility, suspended by 2 pylons: what we want and what we make. In an ideal life– a life of purpose and deep satisfaction– the gulf of being closes and the pylons converge: We make what we desire to see exist.

Enlivening as this notion may be, much more jazzing up is its symptom in the shared battle– for at its finest, the art born of these private obsessions in the crucible of the Self goes on to touch other Selves, dissolving the isolating illusion of separateness and aloneness to furnish, in Iris Murdochs beautiful expression, “a celebration for unselfing.”

Love silences fear.And a powerfulpositive and sweet obsessionBlunts discomfort, Diverts rage, And engages each of usIn the biggest, The most intenseOf our chosen struggles.

Self finds out, finds, becomes. If you want a thing– really desire it, desire it so terribly that you require it as you require air to breathe, then unless you pass away, you will have it.