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Oldie, 4/26/08: Ishmael

[originally in 2 parts]

I'm currently reading Ishmael, by Daniel Quinn. My church had a discussion forum about it, but I didn't attend and have just now gotten around to acquiring the book. It's 263 pages; I won't be able to give a true opinion on it until I get to the end. I hope I'm not disappointed.

So far, I find it a bit tedious. I "get" the message so far, and that's the part I like best about the book. I'm just not sure it's necessary to frame it the way Quinn does, with the gorilla. I suppose it's expedient to do it this way. I'm sure Quinn didn't want to couch it in religious terms, or "channel" some spirit as the teacher, because that would have turned off a lot of people. I suppose the idea is that having a telepathic gorilla teach the protagonist is so absurd, the reader says "Okay, it's a gorilla, whatever, let's just move on and see what the central message is here."

As for the message, it rings quite true and it's fascinating. For many years, I felt that the agrarian lifestyle (meaning, non-industrial, living off nature) was the way of life and industrialization meant death. Ishmael breaks it down further, in essence making industrialization just an extension of agriculturalism, and that whole package is death. By contrast, the way of life that involves "just taking what you need and leaving the rest alone" is life.

Three points so far have caught my interest:
  1. Humankind is not the "crown of creation," though it certainly is easy to believe that we are.
  2. The way we help people in other countries who face famine has the result of increasing their populations, which in turn, increases the food shortages. 
  3. The Cain and Abel story is retold here in a way that is absolutely mesmerizing. It's the one telling of this story that finally makes sense to me. I challenge anyone who believes the Bible to come up with a better interpretation.
I hope to finish the book tonight.

OK - finished Ishmael. Thought-provoking and full of great wisdom. Inspirational? Not sure -- in order to be inspirational, IMO, a book has to get you motivated to make a change. To Quinn's credit, he acknowledges that the mess our world is in right now is too vast for one person or a handful of people to change. He puts it in so many words, specifically mentioning Donald Trump as an example of one very powerful individual who would be utterly powerless to single-handedly make a change in the situation.

Momentum seems to be the key here. If each person spread the word to 100 time, the change could come about, just as it did in Russia and Eastern Europe.


...if you're reading this, and you think the earth is headed for doom, read Ishmael.

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