When asked what is it about writing for you? Octavia E. Butler said, “Oh! You’ve got to make your own worlds. You got to write yourself in. Whether you’re part of the greater society or not, you’ve got to write yourself in. So, I got to write myself in.” And write herself in she did. By her dearest fans the award-winning science fiction writer has been called a prophet and a sage for her body of work. And the compliment is not light.
In her final published novel Fledgling, Butler creates a world in which a vampirelike species and humans survive and thrive within a community rooted in sensual, delightful pleasure. A community in which the symbiotic relationship between one species and humans is necessarily mutual.
In chapter 17, the main character Shori is given valuable guidance:
I lay down beside her and she turned me on one side and lay against me so that I could feel her all along my back.
“Better?” she asked against my neck.
I sighed. “Much better. … Why do I feel better?”
“You need to touch your symbionts more,” she said. “You need to touch us and we’re here for you. And we need to be touched. It pleases us just as it pleases you. We protect and feed you, and you protect and feed us.”
Touch. Here. Please. Protect. Feed.
Butler wrote herself into a world in which pleasure functioned as the foundation of life. This world has had me in awe. The more I meditated and reflected on the novel, God reminded me that She created a world with pleasure as its foundation. Eden in Hebrew is a masculine noun described as delicate, delight, and pleasure. Moreover, the feminine verb in Hebrew also means to be soft or pleasant and to delight self. It seems that “in the beginning” God created an environment, a culture, a world, and a community based on us delighting in pleasure.
Pleasure is a divine, sacred, and spiritual principle. I believe God intended for pleasure to be continuous—not sometimey, not an earned reward. Perpetual permanent pleasure. And not guilty pleasure! The concept is logic: If God is good and God created pleasure, then pleasure is good. There is no guilt about it. God wants us to delight in pleasure.
Jesus said, “The thief cometh not, but for to steal, and to kill, and to destroy: I am come that they might have life, and that they might have it more abundantly (John 10:10).” In this moment, Jesus is speaking about living life in unceasing pleasure. In verse 9, he mentioned that those who enter into the opportunity to embrace and activate the Christ in them would be saved and have pasture. The word pasture means grazing or to feed. This metaphor embodies how intentional and direct God is about pleasure. Imagine a pasture. I don’t know about you, but I know about me and I imagine endless acres of green luscious grass all around me. This is the life that Jesus came to show us. A life filled with endless pleasure from all sides and in every area of our lives!
Stress steals pleasure
So, the converse of verse 10 is that there are thieves and robbers trying to steal this life from us. Not having a life of pleasure destroys us and kills us. The way our lives are set up—at least in the U.S.—stressors are all around us. Studies show that “chronic stress has a significant effect on the immune system that ultimately manifest an illness … Chronic stressors include daily hassles, frustration of traffic jams, work overload, financial difficulties, marital arguments or family problems.” Again, I don’t know about you, but I know about me and I have experienced all of those stressors. And I am fed up. I am tired. I am sick. And like our ancestor, Fannie Lou Hamer, “I am sick and tired of being sick and tired and [I] want change.”
I want the world God made for me, the world Octavia Butler channeled through her writing. I want to touch, please, protect, feed, and receive that as well. The awareness of self-care, rest, comfort, and community has been growing. This is only the edge of the pasture. May we wander, seek, ask, and find ourselves surrounded in our God-made pleasure pasture.