January 17, 2013
Have you ever found a book that changed your life?
One book that immediately comes to mind for me is Ishmael by Daniel Quinn. It is the story of an intelligent gorilla who takes out an ad: "Teacher seeks pupil. Must have an earnest desire to save the world. Apply in person." It is answered by a human that finds himself in an old office building talking to a telepathic gorilla. The novel frames a great deal of information about "how things came to be the way they are" within a fictional story. It is a way to deliver a philosophical view of the world in an entertaining way, but the effect is very subtle, yet profound. We find ourselves thinking of the same questions right before the main character asks them, and this is a great way to learn. We discover that the culture that began to develop during the agricultural revolution, about 10,000 years ago, was a new culture previously unknown to man and very destructive. We still live under this cultural paradigm that most refer to as dominator culture. There are human cultures on this earth not governed by this cultural paradigm, but we tend to regard them as "primitive." We have been telling ourselves a cultural story for a long time: about how we are favored by the gods, and subsequently meant to be top dog, taking whatever we wish from the planet.
This story is not necessarily true. Most people interested in this subject matter have a subtle intuition that we are living the wrong way for humans to live, but we are unsure of how we got this way or what can be done about it. So the book has value in leading us down a path to thinking differently about the state of the world, because only when our cultural paradigm changes, can our behavior change.
This award-winning book has been featured by many book discussion groups, and is appropriate for older teens and adults. For more information, go to Daniel Quinn’s website: http://www.ishmael.org/Origins/Ishmael/
Red Bridge Branch