Monday, August 6, 2012

Ishmael: An Adventure of the Mind and Spirit by Daniel Quinn

Rating 3/5

I can't disagree with the message of this book, in essence that our "civilized" way of life is destroying our world and will, if unchecked, result in our own destruction. This isn't news to me. But I'm with the protagonist, highly doubting enough minds can be changed in time for us to do something about it, and also in having no clue how to go about changing minds. I don't even know if reading this book could actually change anyone's mind, but I think the best use of it would be for young people who haven't given the subject much thought.

I understand why the message was presented in this format (though I haven't figured out why it had to be a telepathic gorilla) - some people might need to be led step by step like the protagonist. However at times I did feel like the author's theory and explanation could've easily and more efficiently compiled in an essay, without the sometimes condescending & repetitive dialogue. But I suppose it may not have reached its widest possible audience in such a format.

The "facts" and reasoning were not flawless here, and the whole Genesis bit was oddly drawn out and might possibly be alienating to some fundamentalist types (atheist or Christian), which is counter-productive. Still, it would be ridiculous to argue with the main point - if we want to survive, we must become sustainable. I mean there is no way around that, knowing what we know (scientifically) it's just common sense.

This book does leave me with questions, though, and maybe they're addressed in Quinn's subsequent works. The main one I have is why some of the Leavers suddenly became Takers in the first place. There is no attempt to explain why, after 3 million years of living in peace with nature, some humans just up and decided they were going to be the masters of their own domain from now on. How did that paradigm shift occur? Why did, to use the author's metaphor, Adam decide one random day to eat that apple? What provoked it when everything was supposedly going along just fine? This I don't get.

Anyway, it was a decent book, and if it makes somebody out there realize The Big Lie, good on it, though from my perspective it's always been pretty obvious, and I didn't really need to hear it from a gorilla. RIP Ishmael.

See my reviews of Daniel Quinn's My Ishmael and The Story of B

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