As a self proclaimed (and fairly vocal) hypochondriac, Clay’s Ark was alarming to me from the first mention of infection. While taking breaks from reading, I found myself washing my hands excessively and feeling strangely uneasy while shaking hands. I can’t imagine that I am the only reader who has this anxiety surface while reading Butler’s work. As I continued reading, however, I found myself moving past my own irrational fears regarding my own health to the “irresponsible” way I truly believed this community lived. I couldn’t help but judge and be angry with the people who have the disease. I connected with Blake right away, wanting to support his every effort to save his daughters and get away from the infected people, find a hospital, and allow science to do its job and stop the infection. Although I know this was an unrealistic hope, thinking that just by sharing the knowledge of ClayArk disease with authorities and medical personnel that the world would be saved, those infected would be cured, their children might have the chance of having a normal life and the world would stay blissfully safe from this brewing epidemic.
Clearly my strong, and overwhelmingly negative reaction was not as tolerant as I would hope I could be. Apparently, threat overtakes tolerance in a way I could not have imagined. Because I imagined the world being transformed completely by these infected people, I never gave myself the opportunity to accept their differences (and realistically, calm myself about the dangers and give the infected people some credit about how hard they work to contain their disease). I found an audio interview and short essay outlining Butler’s views on what scares us, as humans. Although she does not specifically bring up Clay’s Ark, she does talk about all of the things that get in the way of tolerance. Her laundry list includes, “ignorance, fear, disease, hunger, suspicion, hatred, war” (NPR). My fear of the spreading disease, my initial ignorance about how it was being responsibly dealt with, and my hunger for Blake to succeed in eliminating this disease in the most traditional way makes me, the reader realize how I stood in the way of my own tolerance of Butler’s world, by allowing these fears and premonitions cloud my judgment. Although Clay’s Ark is not necessarily a novel about tolerance, my initial foreboding left me no choice but to recognize my own intolerance. Thankfully, in her comments to NPR, Butler allows us, as humans to accept these faults as long as we work to repair them. Butler explains that, “tolerance, like any aspect of peace, is forever a work in progress, never completed, and, if we’re as intelligent as we like to think we are, never abandoned” (NPR).