This is number two in a projected 6 part series on an Earthseed Wintermaesse.
We are Earthseed
The life that perceives itself
∞ = Δ
Advent in the Christian calendar and tradition is a time of waiting, of reflection, and of anticipation based on the mythologic moment of the birth of God made Flesh in the baby Jesus. Many of us, even though we are not Christian, are familiar with that. The season has drawn on older traditions and other mythologies that involve the waiting for the rebirth of the Sun at the winter solstice. Other religious traditions have similar holidays that are inspired by the same dance of the Sun and the Earth, though mythologized in different ways, in different stories, and with God wearing different masks. Today, in secular America, it is the time for preparing for and anticipating Santa, a time of parties, of gifts, of making merry and wishing others peace on Earth and goodwill towards all. All in all, though, it can be seen as a time of waiting for God.
Many of us are surrounded by both Advent and Christmas. It is hard not to be in this day and age if you live in the United States. Many of us are familiar with the songs, the nativity plays, the waiting to open presents. Some of us dread it, some of us accept it grudgingly while others of us accept and make peace with it for whatever reason, whether it is for the sake of the family or because of our culture. Some of us even embrace it in our own ways, finding meanings in it that probably were not the ones we grew up with, but which have significance for us. I’ve had my own journey through various aspects of the process and for me it has changed over the years and the season of Advent is not now the one it was for me as a child. As we of Earthseed struggle to establish who we are and what we can offer others and the world, I’d like to look now at the season through this lens.
God Is Change. Advent is a season of waiting and preparing for God. Advent is then a time of waiting and preparing for Change. Let’s take that concept and think about it, unpack it so to speak, from our perspective as Shapers. It is a time to consider Change, think about it, plan for it, and then kindle and maintain it, and then repeat as a continuing cycle. This framework draws on various transformational/change models that have been put forward for both individuals and society/culture.
First there is a time of consideration. This is the fallow period which precedes actual change. It is a time when we become aware that change is needed, that change is warranted, that change is due. It is the time when the first inklings of what our goals need to be, of what actions might be needed, of how big a commitment is needed and whether we can pay the cost (and there always is a cost). This awareness may come as a clarion call—like the recent election—or it may just be a nudge—like witnessing how someone who is different from us, or even the same as we are, is treated. Maybe the small nudge is just noticing how we ourselves react to an event and not liking what we see.
If we look at our inspiration, The Parable of the Sower, we see that even at the beginning of the story, Lauren Olamina has already started noticing how her world is changing and not for the better. She does not set out to change or be changed. She is coping with this and is focusing on getting through each day. But she has no plans yet to leave her home, to change her life, or to change the world. Her younger brother Keith, on the other hand, is anxious to leave and thinks that L.A. was where he should be, where he will thrive and make it big. We all begin as Olamina does, living our lives as best we can, but not really planning change or attempting it. We are on automatic pilot. Even in perilous times, the devils we know seem better than the ones we don’t. Olamina, at the beginning of Sower, is at the stage of waiting for God, of waiting for Change.
Adapting the original Parable of the Sower from the Synoptic Gospels of the New Testament, let us consider the story of a Firestarter who goes around the community and lights the hearthfires and forge fires for those who live there. Using stone and steel, the Firestarter creates the sparks that ignite the fires. Sometimes the sparks don’t reach the kindling and lands outside the hearth where the damp earth eats them up and puts them out. Sometimes the kindling that has been laid is insufficient or hearth flue is shut and the fire burns brightly for a moment, then goes out due to lack of fuel or oxygen. Sometimes the kindling is mixed with wet leaves or non-flammable objects or the hearth has not been cleaned and the charcoal and ashes of the last fire still lay upon it and the fire only smolders and smokes but does not truly burn, and then goes out. But sometimes, the hearth has been cleaned, the flue is open, the kindling is the right kind, and the fuel is ready and the spark easily starts the fire and it burns clean and hot and can be used to cook or heat or forge.
In Butler’s Sower, Olamina is the well laid fire on the open hearth. As Andrew Deyoung writes, “Lauren’s hyperempathy makes her special—in a world torn apart by many people’s inability to empathize with others, she is consumed by her openness to the world around her. This is perhaps Lauren’s defining trait: surrounded by people who refuse to see the truth, she alone is open enough and perceptive enough to see the dark reality of what the world has become. Even so, her openness also enables her to imagine a hopeful future, a way for the human race to move forward.” (“The Backlist: Octavia Butler’s Parable of the Sower”) Olamina is able to burn bright and hot once the spark ignites her.
At this stage, at this “Advent” time—whether it happens at this particular time of year and season or some other time in our lives— we are waiting for God, we are the kindling laid upon the hearth, waiting to be lit. We can let others seize our chances for Change and swallow them up. Our flues can be closed and our fuel insufficient and the spark of inspiration, the spark of Change, just flares and then fizzles. We can be too full of the stones and ashes and wet leaves of other matters and concerns that distract us and crowd out and supplant Change, leaving no room for it. Or we can be like Lauren Olamina and be the clean hearth with the open flue, and the well laid kindling looking and waiting for the spark of Change, looking and waiting for the spark of God.