Uncertainty and Change
In her famous novel Parable of the Sower (1993), science fiction writer Octavia Butler introduces readers to a new religion called Earthseed, founded as the Earthseed community struggles to survive the socioeconomic and political collapse of twenty-first century America due to poor environmental stewardship, corporate greed, and the growing gap between the wealthy and the poor.
(Yikes -- does that sound strikingly close to a dystopian now?)
The Earthseed religion holds the belief that God is change:
“The one irresistible force in the universe is Change. Everything in the universe Changes.
Whether youʼre a human being, an insect, a microbe, or a stone, this verse is true.”
I began thinking about all this recently as I faced the notion of uncertainty, and its quiet being in relationship with us, even if we’re not conscious of it. Until it appears in sharp relief and catches us by surprise.
I’ve been wondering, is it possible to meet uncertainty from a grounded place?
The belief system Butler created in her novel reminded me somewhat of Buddhism, which also acknowledges the notion of ongoing change, or impermanence, as they name it. In Buddhism it is our attachment to things and lack of acceptance that all things are in a constant state of change, which causes us to suffer.
I was recently asked what I thought of living in expectation. And though I nodded my head at first, I immediately realized expectation felt scary to me. To hold expectations meant I was attached to something happening. Instead, I wanted to imagine myself standing at the top of a mountain breathing in the crisp clean air of no expectation, reaching my arms and hands out, ready to freely receive whatever comes, knowing all the while that all of it is impermanent. Whatever comes, no matter how awful or how wonderful, would ultimately change, from the very moment I received it.
A quality of resilient adults, some studies say, is their capacity to imagine who and how they want to be, and their determination not to be who and what they don’t want to be. This sounds wonderful when things are going well, but I’ve found it isn't so easy during difficult times. During those times, I’ve learned it’s choosing to hang onto a vision with fierce determination that allows me to ultimately receive and then offer something that might bring more into being. Something more for myself. And hopefully, something more for others as well.
I appreciate that in Butler’s world, the sense of change is not passive. We are both the recipients of and, acting with God (or the energies of the Universe, as is true for me), the Cause of change.
This feels grounding. I might live with the uncertainty of how change might come, but my thoughts and behaviors are creating change at the same time. My personal agency to create change allows me a small bit of certainty that I can choose something, now.
Choice feels empowering in the now of the present moment. And rather than scary, expectations feel expansive when considered in the light of uncertainty in this way. Uncertainty anchored in a capacity to choose and in the acceptance of change.