One of my favorite authors is Octavia Butler. Butler redefined science fiction and is well known for novels that highlight the intertwining of history with the present (in a terrific book entitled “Kindred”), in thinking about how we relate through difference (her Xenogenesis series), and in imagining the ways we might be creating a future that is catastrophic (in her series beginning with “Parable of the Sower”).
In the latter series, also called the Earthseed series, a major character founds a belief system called Earthseed, which sets an aspirational future amongst the stars. Perhaps Butler intended to remind us that living well, living at our very best, is about aspiring to more than we can imagine.
Her work has influenced hip hop and opera, been adapted for television, been recommended by fictional booksellers, and been the subject of reflections both scholarly and popular.
In this season of graduations and transitions, those aspirations matter. As does another theme Butler’s Earthseed books point to: change. As her character Lauren puts it:
All that you touch you changeAll that you change changes youThe only lasting truth is change
In these words, she reminds us of our agency—our power—and our embeddedness in the world. She reminds me, today, of Salem College’s mission to prepare students to change the world.
As we step back from this semester—as at the end of any academic year—we stop to reflect. This year—of pandemic, unexpected change, and a complex future—Butler has been on my mind. I hope that you have a touchstone too—a book, a song, a friendship, and our community, that helps you stop and remember that WE are the change.
Best to everyone,
Dean of the College