The author Octavia Butler just keeps surfacing. Reading her dystopian novel Parable of the Sower in our Holy Apostles summer book group a couple of years ago must have raised our collective awareness of Butler and her work, because ever since then it seems like she is everywhere. In lectures. Pop culture references. Think pieces. An opera at Lincoln Center last summer. And then, just last week, someone forwarded the link to a webinar where panelists were to discuss her prescient understanding of the climate chaos we are experiencing today.
Parable of the Sower was written in 1993, and is set in the year 2024 (!). Among other things, the novel focuses on community, crisis, social inequality and faith. If you read it, you will remember how shocking it was to see so much of what we live with now described so clearly on the page thirty years ago. And yet, when the novel came out, I don’t remember it making a big splash. In fact, it has only hit best-seller lists over the past few years. People must have read it when it was published, and it must have gotten some traction. But there are a lot more people now who understand how prophetic Octavia Butler’s work was and is.
All of this leads to questions of paying attention to voices who are ahead of their time. Where are the Octavia Butlers of today? How do we separate out the truly prophetic from the clamor of ideas and opinions all around us? And then, how are we formed by those visions so that we can contribute to systemic justice and compassion? These are all questions to consider as we move into Lent next week. We are formed, in part, by where we focus our attention; and the season of Lent forms us to welcome again the Resurrection Life.