Lauren’s Pilgrimage, Part 5: The Essentials

San Luis Reservoir during the drought in California, February 5, 2014.
San Luis Reservoir during the drought in California, February 5, 2014.

Spoiler Alert: From Chapters 19 through 21 of Octavia Butler’s Parable of the Sower.

August 27, 2027

The galaxies move through space.
The stars ignite,
God is Change.
God prevails.

An earthquake hits and people on the road start looting and attacking damaged communities along the way.  Lauren’s band picks up two more refuges.

The group passes through Salinas.  They have traveled over 200 miles from Santa Barbara, and over 300 miles since Lauren left her home about a month ago.

August 28, 2027

God is neither good
nor evil,
neither loving
nor hating.
God is Power.
God is Change.
We must fund the rest of what we need
within ourselves,
in one another,
in our Destiny.

The group leaves the 101 and then takes a small, hilly road that is a short cut to San Juan Bautista and to Hollister.

August 29, 2027

The group is attacked in the night.  They adopt an abandoned child.

They then head east along State Route 156 to 152 to Interstate 5, which they intend to use to circle around the Bay Area in order to avoid the cities.

August 30, 2027

The Self must create
Its own reasons for being.
To shape God,
Shape Self.

On their way to I-5, they pass a freshwater lake, the San Luis Reservoir.  The group spends the night in a recreational area that I-5 passes through.  Lauren has walked 371 miles from her home in the northern suburbs of LA.


Lauren has a discussion with Bankole about Earthseed.  It’s the second lengthy discussion of Earthseed in the book.  Lauren describes the essentials of being a part of Earthseed, the similarity to other non-theistic religion, the necessity of the Destiny, and the simplicity of Earthseed’s philosophy:

“We were Baptists,” I said. “I couldn’t make myself believe either, and I couldn’t tell anyone. My father was the minister. I kept quiet and began to understand Earthseed.”

“Began to invent Earthseed,” he said.

“Began to discover it and understand it,” I said. “Stumbling across the truth isn’t the same as making things up.” I wondered how many times and ways I would have to say this to new people.

“It sounds like some combination of Buddhism, existentialism, Sufism, and I don’t know what else,” he said. “Buddhism doesn’t make a god of the concept of change, but the impermanence of everything is a basic Buddhist principle.”

“I know,” I said. “I’ve done a lot of reading. Some other religions and philosophies do contain ideas that would fit into Earthseed, but none of them are Earthseed. They go off in their own directions.”

He nodded. “All right. But tell me, what do people have to do to be good members of an Earthseed Community?”

A nice, door-opening question. “The essentials,” I answered, “are to learn to shape God with forethought, care, and work; to educate and benefit their community, their families, and themselves; and to contribute to the fulfillment of the Destiny.”

“And why should people bother about the Destiny, farfetched as it is? What’s in it for them?”

“A unifying, purposeful life here on Earth, and the hope of heaven for themselves and their children. A real heaven, not mythology or philosophy. A heaven that will be theirs to shape.”

“Or a hell,” he said. His mouth twitched. “Human beings are good at creating hells for themselves even out of richness.” He thought for a moment. “It sounds too simple, you know.”

“You think it’s simple?” I asked in surprise.

“I said it sounds too simple.”

“It sounds overwhelming to some people.”

“I mean it’s too … straightforward. If you get people to accept it, they’ll make it more complicated, more open to interpretation, more mystical, and more comforting.”

“Not around me they won’t!” I said.

“With you or without you, they will. All religions change. Think about the big ones. What do you think Christ would be these days? A Baptist? A Methodist? A Catholic? And the Buddha—do you think he’d be a Buddhist now? What kind of Buddhism would he practice?” He smiled. “After all, if ‘God is Change,’ surely Earthseed can change, and if it lasts, it will.”

I looked away from him because he was smiling. This was all nothing to him. “I know,” I said. “No one can stop Change, but we all shape Change whether we mean to or not. I mean to guide and shape Earthseed into what it should be.”

“Perhaps.” He went on smiling. “How serious are you about this?”

The question drove me deep into myself. I spoke, almost not knowing what I would say. “When my father … disappeared,” I began, “it was Earthseed that kept me going. When most of my community and the rest of my family were wiped out, and I was alone, I still had Earthseed. What I am now, all that I am now is Earthseed.”

“What you are now,” he said after a long silence, “is a very unusual young woman.”


Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in: Logo

You are commenting using your account. Log Out /  Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out /  Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out /  Change )

Connecting to %s