The Acceptance of Change and the Need for Resiliency

The only lasting truth Is Change. God Is Change.

This quote from the opening verse in Chapter 1, and repeated again in Chapter 7, emphasizes the “God Is Change” principle. It is used throughout the novel and forms the fundamental tenet of Earthseed. Change is deified, becoming analogous to God. If God is to be accepted, change must also be accepted. From the beginning of the novel, Lauren tries to convince others to shun delusions of permanence and accept the reality of a world in constant transformation. People like Joanne Garfield and her father “ignore the obvious” by placing their faith in “super-parents, super-kings and queens, super-cops,” but, for Lauren, this isn’t just a matter of living in a state of denial—it’s a matter of inviting destruction by succumbing to the unpredictable whims of an otherworldly being. Lauren’s God is not to be worshipped or prayed to. Her God doesn’t love her or watch over her, nor does she love her God or show loyalty to it. Her God just is. By embodying change, Earthseed followers are able realize their individual capabilities and know God.

God is your first and your last teacher. God is your harshest teacher: subtle, demanding. Learn or die.

This quote from the verse at the beginning of Chapter 23 hones in on how acceptance of God, ergo change, brings about opportunities to expand new horizons. Those who show a willingness to change themselves for the better by learning and observing have a propensity to survive and realize their full potential in this savage world. But those who are stuck in their own ways, who stubbornly adhere to old constructs, or willingly ignore the changing world around them, forsake God and invite death. Those who learn to shoot guns when they’ve come of age survive. Others, like Aura Moss who feels she doesn’t have to learn to shoot because she’s a girl, meet an untimely end. To educate oneself is to adapt. It creates the type of resiliency essential for survival. Lauren read her father’s books on plants. Travis Douglas educated himself by having his mother sneak him books from her employer’s vast personal library. His education allows Lauren to think hard about the tenets of Earthseed. Zahra Moss sets her pride aside when she asks Lauren to teach her how to read and write and becomes an integral part of the Earthseed community.

A victim of God may,
Through learning adaption,
Become a partner of God.
A victim of God may, 
Through forethought and planning,
Become a shaper of God.

This quote from the verse at the beginning of Chapter 4 explains how observing and understanding the conditions of one’s environment and being resilient enough to adapt to it is essential for survival. Just as plants can adapt and grow in harsh environments, so too must Earthseed adherents learn to adapt in hostile conditions. Lauren’s followers adapt and shape their destiny through preparation and work. The weak can overcome the powerful if the weak persist, but first they must understand that the nature of the world is change. God is change. Once they accept that fact, they can shape God and become equals with God. The weak can influence and manipulate their relationships and surroundings to alter their futures by facing and dealing with their ongoing reality, not by praying to a supernatural authority. Lauren sets goals, but then adapts and shifts to ensure she sees her vision of an Earthseed community come to fruition. She plans for the future from very early on in the novel by training, reading, and observing the prevailing conditions around her. She has the forethought to pack a survival kit. All of Lauren’s followers have been victimized in some way, yet they are able to conquer the surrounding anarchy through active and willful participation in shaping their fates.

Destruction and Its Role in Rebirth

In order to rise From its own ashes
A phoenix First Must Burn.

The quote from the verse at the beginning of Chapter 14 employs an oft-used metaphor from Greek mythology. The phoenix is a bird that perished in a fire and was reborn from its ashes. The quote emphasizes the notion that for regeneration to occur, destruction is sometimes necessary. The outmoded thoughts, rationales, and paradigms of the walled community in Robledo are incinerated along with the community itself, save for Lauren, Harry, and Zahra. But from those ashes, a contemporary mode of thought rises and a new way of being is forged from those fires in Earthseed. Lauren has lost her entire family, yet she’s able to spread her wings and spread the seeds of her belief system. Both Harry and Zahra, whose loved ones also perished in the neighborhood fire, are able to start a new life together and in completely different roles than the ones they held in their previous lives. The phoenix metaphor is notably used toward the end of the book. When Lauren’s group approaches Bankole’s hillside property, they see a charred landscape resulting from a fire that happened months prior. But from that scorched earth, the group sees weeds growing out of the rubble and signs of animal life. It’s on this incinerated land that the group chooses to start their lives afresh by establishing Acorn.

Hyperempathy is what the doctors call an ‘organic delusional syndrome.’ Big shit. It hurts. That’s all I know. Thanks to Paracetco, the small pill, the Einstein powder, the particular drug my mother chose to abuse before my birth killed her, I'm crazy.

The quote that appears midway through Chapter 2 reveals how Lauren’s mother died giving birth to her as a result of a drug she abused during pregnancy. Apart from the obvious reference of one life being created as another is extinguished, the quote mentions the so-called syndrome Lauren is born with. Hyperempathy allows Lauren to share the pain and pleasure of others, and while that’s initially shown to be a painful and debilitating ailment, it effectively connects her to every single person, which affords her a very unique perspective on life and the human condition. It grows her awareness of others, which, in turn, gives rise to compassion which is shown to be as vital to life in the novel as the air the characters breathe. Compassion propels Lauren to save individuals from the throes of danger, violence, and death, most notably in the episodes where she rescues Jill and Allie Gilchrist and when taking in runaway slaves Emery and Tori Solis.

So today we remembered the friends and the family members we’ve lost. We spoke our individual memories and quoted Bible passages, Earthseed verses, and bits of songs and poems that were favorites of the living or the dead. Then we buried our dead and we planted oak trees. Afterward, we sat together and talked and ate a meal and decided to call this place Acorn.

This quote appearing at the end of Chapter 25 typifies how creation follows destruction. When Lauren and her group arrive on Bankole’s land to find it nothing more than a “broad, black smear on the hillside,” they must decide on whether to make this “tombstone amid the bones and ashes” their new home. The group deliberates their predicament and opts to stay on the land. The literal seeds Lauren has carried throughout the journey are planted to give life to the land, but so too are the figurative seeds of her religion. She hands out acorns — enough for everyone to plant one for their dead — which they do in an overtly symbolic ceremony of seeding life in a place of bones and ash. Unlike traditional tombstones, acorns symbolize rebirth and creation and will grow to serve as living monuments. That all of them participate in the ritual signifies their acceptance of Earthseed and signifies its growth among individuals who teetered on the edge of death. The meal they eat has explicitly religious undertones. This “First Supper” of sorts is eaten in memory of their dead but, in calling their home “Acorn,” it has the explicit purpose of centering the community’s mission on growth, regeneration, and hope.

The Importance of Community Over the Individual

‘We have God and we have each other. We have our island community, fragile, and yet a fortress. Sometimes it seems too small and too weak to survive. And like the widow in Christ’s parable, its enemies fear neither God nor man. But also like the widow, it persists. We persist. This is our place, no matter what.’

This quote comes from the sermon Lauren gives toward the end of Chapter 12, following the disappearance and presumed death of her father. Until now, the community has exhibited nothing but resistance to Lauren’s plea of planning and preparing for escape. Her sermon seems to offer one final warning to set aside selfish and egotistical thinking in favor of working together to benefit the community as a whole. The implication is that while they may be small, if they set aside personal differences and come together as a team, they will survive whatever obstacles and enemies come their way. Her last-ditch effort to convince her neighborhood in Robledo fails, but Lauren is able to establish this sense of community and selfless thinking with the Earthseed travelers who’ve faced and survived unimaginable horrors throughout their journey. The courage and determination they all exhibit is like the persistence shown by the widow in Christ’s parable.

Civilization is to groups what intelligence is to individuals. It is a means of combining the intelligence of many to achieve ongoing group adaptation.

This passage from an Earthseed verse preceding Chapter 10 is yet another example underlining the importance of group function. Individuals may be born with intelligence or acquire it through observation and learning, but only by working with others to develop and apply that intelligence are civilizations created. In a rapidly disintegrating society, Lauren is consciously applying this belief by amassing individuals with varying abilities and skill sets, nurturing their abilities, then having them work together to build the foundations of a communal organization. As a group, they’re better able to adapt to shifting conditions as they’ve proven. That this verse is introduced in the same year (2026) as Robledo’s destruction is telling and shows how a community comprised of individuals with competing pursuits who are resistant to change is prone to failure. In a way, the constantly changing circumstances that force Lauren’s group to adapt on the fly prepare them for the new society they build on Bankole’s land.

I hugged her then. Justin began to whimper and Natividad came back to comfort him. The wordless message was the same for both child and woman: In spite of your loss and pain, you aren't alone. You still have people who care about you and want you to be all right. You still have family.

This quote from Chapter 24 comes after Allie Gilchrist’s sister Jill is shot in the back and killed. Lauren comforts a grieving Allie with a hug and holds her close even as Allie initially tries to get away. Lauren has been teaching her followers to work as a pack to help the group survive, but this act of compassion shows how one individual can show another individual the value and comfort of family during a time of personal tragedy. Allie doesn’t have to bear the weight of her misfortune alone, not when all members come together as a family. Likewise in the case of Justin, a three-year-old orphan who develops a bond with Allie, the scene shows that though he’s lost his birth mother, there are many surrogate mothers ready and willing to step in during times of distress. The notion of family certainly rings true in the novel’s conclusion when they all bury their dead and share a meal to commemorate a new start with new family.