Octavia Butler on How to Become who we are

Published - 10 November 2020

Octavia Butler by Katy Horan from Literary Witches — an illustrated celebration of women writers who have enchanted and transformed our world.

Octavia Butler (June 22, 1947–February 24, 2006), the writer and world-creator explores many themes in her works that provide timely and acute wisdom. In P_arable of the Talent_, she explores what an ideal life looks like. She explores a life of purpose and deep fulfillment where we make what we want to see exist.

Butler writes:

Self is.

Self is body and bodily perception. Self is thought, memory, belief. Self creates. Self destroys. Self learns, discovers, becomes. Self shapes. Self adapts. Self invents its own reasons for being. To shape God, shape Self.


All prayers are to Self
And, in one way or another,
All prayers are answered.
But beware.
Your desires,
Whether or not you achieve them
Will determine who you become.

Butler’s sentiment is only magnified by knowing that the word desire derives from the Latin for “without a star,” radiating a longing for direction. It is by wanting that we orient ourselves in the world, by finding and following our private North Star that we walk the path of becoming.

You win the fight, Butler continues, by the clarity of your purpose and the perseverance with which you pursue it:

“If you want a thing — truly want it, want it so badly that you need it as you need air to breathe, then unless you die, you will have it. Why not? It has you. There is no escape. What a cruel and terrible thing escape would be if escape were possible.”

To want what you want so fiercely, to love it so absolutely, is not a personal indulgence in hubris or delusion — it is, Butler affirms, the mightiest antidote to the terrors of being alive and, in consequence, the fuel for your most generous contribution to the world:

Love quiets fear.
And a sweet and powerful
Positive obsession
Blunts pain,
Diverts rage,
And engages each of us
In the greatest,
The most intense
Of our chosen struggles.