The Implicit Burdens of Earthseed

God is Change. So simple, so elegant, so all encompassing. Shape God. Shape Change. Both of these speak to the present and our Destiny, “to take root among the stars,” speaks to our future. But how have we already Shaped God? What ways have we Shaped Change? If we look at our history, we can see that we have been Shaping not a God of hope, but one of Doom. When we look at the Parables, we see a future that Octavia Butler has painted through her words, and that future is too believably ours. One that sees a collapse of the world as we know it, not through zombies or nuclear war or terrorists, but one created by pretty much carrying on as we have been. Implicit in the Parables are two Burdens, one that weighs us down with the baggage of the past, and one that is the obligation to our descendants.    

The first Burden is that we have shaped destruction and greed more than we have hope and compassion. But, as conscious shapers of God, we are not destined to continue to do so, and this too is our second Burden, our obligation to Change. Our challenge is to Shape God in ways that we can shoulder both these burdens and fulfill our Destiny and avoid the picture of Doom that Butler paints in the Parables.

The Burden of the past is easy to see. All we have to do is look around us—climate change, social and economic injustice, violence, hunger, tainted water supplies, war—these are all evidence of what we have given ourselves and are passing onto our children and their children. Ignoring or denying them will not make them go away. Working just on our own individual spiritual conditions and seeking the happy life, seeking the good life without addressing these concerns will get us neither. Instead we must Shape Change, Shape God so that things do not continue as they have in the past. This is our Burden now and for the future, to make things happen that will Change the Shape of the future. But how do we do this? How do we Shape a just God, a humane God? Verses from Earthseed give us signposts for the way forward. Let’s look at couple of them.


Initiates and guides action—
Or it does nothing.

So, one of the first things we need to do is believe. But believe what? I think in part it is to believe in ourselves, that we can be positive Shapers of Change, that we don’t have to just accept things the way they are. We also have to believe in each other, believe that people can work together, can Shape together, can shape God and Change together for a better world and a better future. This brings us to another verse.

Any Change

Any Change may bear seeds of benefit.
Seek them out.
Any Change may bear seeds of harm.
God is infinitely malleable.
God is Change.

One of the reasons we are in our current situation is that we did not operate on this principle of caution in the past. Any Change can be double edged, bringing both seeds of benefit and ones of harm. Look at climate change. Many of its underlying causes and processes were initiated as a means of benefitting humankind. Burn coal to heat homes and run factories where people can work and earn money for the necessities and pleasures of life. A mostly good thing in that regard. But we ignored the harm for so long: air pollution, raising CO2 levels, global warming, emphysema, black lung, habitat destruction from mining, water pollution. Much of the harm being done was foreseeable. Much could have been changed. Much still can. Of course, there is more to climate change than burning coal, but the lesson here is that Change is necessary, but how it’s done, the pace at which it’s done, and possible side effects all must be considered as part of the equation. This is all part of the Shaping.

So this is where we start to re-Shape God, through belief and caution, looking to ourselves and each other, thinking ahead not only to benefits but to the harms that we might do by our Changes, by our Shapings. In this way we can begin to transmute the Burden we carry into Hope, and reach our Destiny rather than a Doom like the one portrayed in the Parables. This is the promise of Earthseed. This is Shaping God.


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