Thoughts on The Destiny on the Eve of the Festival of Changes 2016

The Destiny of Earthseed
Is to take root among the stars.
It is to live and to thrive
On new earths.
It is to become new beings
And to consider new questions.
It is to leap into the heavens
Again and again.
It is to explore the vastness
Of heaven.
It is to explore the vastness
Of ourselves.

When I was young, I dreamt of humans going into space, of colonising the Moon, Mars, the stars. I dreamt of O’Neil Colonies orbiting at Lagrange Points, of the possibility of a space elevator that would go from the Earth’s surface to a near-Earth orbital waystation. I even dared to dream that this might all happen in my lifetime and maybe, just maybe, even I could go there. It’s been 30, 40 years since I had those dreams. At some time in the interlude between then and now, I became disillusioned. Cuts to NASA funding, changes in the world, the loss of public support for space exploration and colonisation—these all served to shrivel my hopes and dreams. As a man in my early 60’s, the dreams now seem like just castles in the air, pipe dreams that will never come true, at least not in my lifetime. I mourn this. It grieves me. It means a part of me has died.

In Earthseed, I find some hope of such dreams coming true some day, but not likely in my day. But even now, is it a realistic hope? Is it something that can genuinely happen? I don’t know. I am no seer, no prophet, no futurist. I’m afraid it is more believable for me to believe that the types of societal collapse that Butler writes about in The Parable of the Sower and The Parable of the Talents. Have we waited too long? Have we missed the boat (or rocket) on this? Again, I don’t know. The Destiny that Butler writes about is something I hope for, but maybe cannot earnestly believe.

But, the Destiny is one of the three tenets. The one that gives us hope. Here then is some guidance for me. If I cannot believe that we can attain the Destiny of going to the stars in my lifetime, if I cannot believe it will ever happen, I can have faith that it could. Nothing, save Change, is guaranteed in this life. The Destiny as it stands is a meme well worth promoting, one worth working to bring into being as reality and not just as a meme, if not in my lifetime, then maybe that of my children, or their children.

But there is more in what the tenet says and what Ms. Butler wrote that is for me in the here and now, in the present day and no future space-based Shangri-La. Let’s unpack what Ms. Butler says and look at it in maybe a different way.

  • The Destiny of Earthseed . . .  is to take root among the stars. Our dreams and hopes can take root there now. We don’t have to wait for some possibility far off in the future.
  • The Destiny of Earthseed . . . is to live and to thrive on new earths. If we change this world, this Earth, it will be a type of “new earth.” We have the obligation to make it a new earth, in fact, one focused on not just going to the stars, but one that is just, and equitable, and sustainable.
  • The Destiny of Earthseed . . . is to become new beings and to consider new questions. We don’t have to wait to go to the stars to accomplish this. We can do this here, now and in the future.
  • The Destiny of Earthseed . . . is to leap into the heavens again and again. Our thoughts, our hearts, our dreams, and imagination can leap there now.
  • The Destiny of Earthseed . . . is to explore the vastness of heaven. Telescopes, satellites, space probes—all of these allow us to do this now. In the future, perhaps we will be able to do it personally, but we can, should, and are doing it now. We must not let that end.
  • The Destiny of Earthseed . . . is to explore the vastness of ourselves. Do we need to go anywhere else to do this? Of course, different places, different environments, different suns, will give us new perspectives about ourselves. But there is no better time or place to begin this than here and now.

So just by unpacking what Ms. Butler has to say, I can see that there is much of The Destiny that still works for me, that still works for us. As John Halstead writes:

The Destiny helps us to understand what we can be, what we can do. It gives us a focus, a goal, something big enough, complex enough, difficult enough, and in the end, radical enough to make us become more than we ever have been. We keep falling into the same ditches. We learn more and more about the physical universe, more about our own bodies, more technology, but somehow, down through history, we go on building empires of one kind or another, then destroying them in one way or another. We go on having stupid wars that we justify and get passionate about, but in the end, all they do is kill huge numbers of people, maim others, impoverish still more, spread disease and hunger, and set the stage for the next war. And when we look at all of that in history, we just shrug our shoulders and say, “Well, that’s the way things are. That’s the way things always have been.”

But we can do something no other animal species has ever had the option to do. We can choose: We can go on building and destroying until we either destroy ourselves or destroy the ability of our world to sustain us. Or we can make something more of ourselves. We can grow up. We can leave the nest. We can fulfil the Destiny, make homes for ourselves among the stars, and become some combination of what we want to become and whatever our new environments challenge us to become. Our new worlds will remake us as we remake them. (“The Destiny of Earthseed Is to Take Root Among the Stars”

And there we have it. The Destiny is not just a call to the stars, it is a call, a call to grow up, to break the cycle . . . to change, to be Shapers, to Shape God, The Destiny, and our destinies. So may it be. That I can dig my teeth into. How about you?    


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