Friday, January 21, 2011

Believe in Nothing

Throughout the novel, Lauren consistently relates the idea of god to change. One particularly interesting passage that further develops this thought is an Earthseed passage found at the beginning of chapter 5:

Initiates and guides action –
Or it does nothing. (47)

Regardless of whether change is for better or worse, it must all start with a beginning step. This can be related to Lauren’s belief of god as something that is shaped by humans (if they have the will to do so). This shaping or change is something that is stimulated by the beliefs/support of the people but without any initiation or start it is pointless and ineffective. This also shadows Lauren’s view of the true effectiveness of the belief in god, something her family and friends hold so dearly to them that they will travel outside the neighbor hood walls just to fulfill a “silly” baptism.

This Earthseed passage parallels Lauren herself in the way that she has always had the belief to travel north in order to find a better life but has never made the “initiation” to. She has always believed that there was a better place to live and raise a family somewhere in the north, but has never made the attempt to look as something has always held her back. In the beginning of the book Lauren talks about her dream where she was flying but her house was on fire. The dream then turns into a past memory of her grand mother telling her about how there were fewer lights than there used to be. This mirrors Lauren’s own desire to leave her home due to her belief that there is nothing truly left for her (the lights dimming) but unfortunately there is no room to expand or “fly.”

This idea of “useless belief” can especially be seen in the stages leading up to the fall of Lauren’s Neighborhood and family. Throughout the first few stages of the book Lauren is constant urging her friends and family to prepare “safety packs” for dire emergencies and to learn how to defend themselves as well as to survive off the land. However, they all failed to listen to Lauren’s advice, rather putting their faith in a higher being than on their own survival, eventually leading to their perish.

During the streak of increasing burglaries in Lauren’s neighborhood, she feels compelled to do more than sit back and watch her town be terrorized further. She not only wants to continue surviving but also wants to change her future for the better. Lauren truly believes and wants this but fails to ever put it into action.
This lack of action/ambition by her surroundings proves to be truly “nothing” as her town is eventually overruled by addicts and thieves thus leading to Lauren being forced to act upon her deepest wants and must leave her home for the sake of her own safety under much more weary circumstances.

Although I agree with Lauren’s statement, I do not think she truly lived by her words. Despite the stubbornness of her peers, I think she would have been better off living by her beliefs and following her wants. While this may be a hard decision for Lauren, I feel it would be the wisest as she is much more miserable later on after staying put.

The lack of ambition and drive seen in the townspeople due to their desire to put their reliance on god rather than in their own control further extends Lauren’s idea of “useless belief.” The townspeople’s’ belief of god should be seen as pointless by Lauren as it does neither initiate nor stir action. This pointless belief is proven to be ineffective as it eventually leads to the unfortunate destruction of Lauren’s home.


  1. Applying this verse to the fall of Robledo is a perfectly good idea. What I'd have liked to see, initially, is more of an attempt to think through whether Lauren's concern is with her own useless beliefs, or the useless beliefs of the town, or whether it's both, or neither.

    To clarify that a little: I'm not at all clear that, in Robledo, belief does not initiate and guide action. The arguments between her father and Cory help get into this issue: her father's particular variety of muscular, masculine Christianity does a great deal to shape the community as a whole. That doesn't mean that it was correctly shaped, from either your point of view or from Lauren's.

    So there are a range of questions to be asked. Which beliefs are serious (that is, guide and shape action) and which are false, or unserious? Which beliefs lead to effective or correct action? Is Lauren criticizing herself, some part of the community, or something else in this verse?

    I think your fundamental approach is fine - but I think you need to approach Lauren's views of herself and others a little more clearly, and I don't think you've thought through the beliefs of other people (especially of her father) as thoroughly as you might.

  2. I think you did a good job at explaining the Earthseed verse. Your writing is clear and understandable which gets your points across well. Your paragraph starting with "Although I agree with Lauren's statement" could use some elaboration though. I partly agree with you that Lauren may not fully live by her words but we also have to remember that she is still a juvenile, so she can't really just get up and leave and know that she will be able to make it out there on her own. I think you should discuss how she has been taking initiative to read and learn to survive off the land. But you can also discuss how she doesn't share her thoughts openly with people which is contributing to the aspect of doing "nothing", that if she would share her thoughts maybe she would have some followers and be able to create a better action plan.