The Ishmael Community: Questions and Answers
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- The Question (ID Number 646): I recently saw a show on the Discovery Channel that attempted to explore the life of a tribal society (though for the life of me I cannot remember their name). In that group, young women are married off by their fathers to men they have never met. The young women are guarded day and night (and this reminded me of the tale of the adulterous wife in one of your books, but in this case the women are not loosely guarded, they are FIERCELY guarded), and many young women choose to take their lives since they are not capable of flight as an alternative to marrying the men they have been assigned to... I have mixed feelings here... How can I hold true to a "there is no one right way for a people to live" philosophy while still regreting that here is a society that unnecessarily sheds life because of one of the rules of its culture. Taker culture says that they should not do this... How can I say that it is "OK because it is THEIR culture" without sounding like some sort of monster?
- The Question (ID Number 645): My question concerns your thesis regarding food production and population growth. If you are right, and I rather think you are, then a human community should not grow beyond its ability to subsist on locally produced food sources. My question is this: how do we define local? I would like to define local ecologically in terms of "bioregions". For example, my bioregion, northern Canada, produces no bananas, oranges, grapes, etc. But it does produce very good raspberries. So my fruit diet should consist of raspberries. And if I recover a bit of old wisdom I could learn how to preserve a variety of rasberry products for use over the winter. This makes perfect sense to me, although in an era of global trade it does limit my food choices. Still, ecologically this makes sense to me. So the second question is this: Do you think the ideas of global trade and competitive advantage (not to mention cheap oil) have led us to an artificial understanding of things like food production. Is this one more source of our disconnectedness with natural processes? If I am understanding you correctly then the modern "supermarket" is a disturbing place, but the local "farmers market" is to be supported and encouraged. I would be interested in your response.
- The Question (ID Number 643): After reading "The Holy" I think I have a better grasp of what our cultural journey is going to *feel* like if we do survive. I'm curious though: are Mike and Marianne part of some larger metaphor or symbolism, apart from what Dudley/Horse Killer explains? Why is she strung up, and why does David fail himself by "rescuing" her?
- The Question (ID Number 642): A new reader of Ishmael recently suggested that we ought to let the "weak, old, and handicapped" die in order to decrease population and live in the hands of the gods. I remember in the Book of the Damned you wrote that part of the Leavers story was that in each generation some would survive and go on to reproduce while others less suited would return their substance early on and that this is how we are shaped. Does this in anyway come close to "social Darwinism"?
- The Question (ID Number 639): I have read several of your books, and love how you draw from so many disciplines of academia. Is there any particular graduate program in the world that can be called a degree and provides skills for a job that is so inter-disciplinary, it covers many of the subjects you've drawn upon for your knowledge of the world? This curriculum doesn't have to teach Daniel Quinn or how to be him, just teach the facts and teach the philosophies that make our world interesting. I want to learn about the world, not just the earth's geology, but its history, and then all the social sciences around its reality. Assuming there is no perfect program, can you suggest one that comes close, or a subject that might suit my passions. I am considering sociology (anthropology), social work, history, religion (can you study religion from a sociological/historical perspective, and not spiritually?), and maybe international affairs-economic development. All of these seem so much like conformity, getting by or making the best of the current world we live in. I want do it right, it may be my only chance.
- The Question (ID Number 636): I recently read an interview on Booksense.com in which you stated that you would be working on a screenplay for 'The story of B'. Is this true? If so, will the movie (or whatever it becomes) be a teaching movie with all the speeches intact?
- The Question (ID Number 628): I am writing a short story about a small community in present day California that decides to implement your ideas from Ishmael and My Ishmael (ie, not locking up the food, laws that work for the way people are, an education system that lets children follow their noses and learn from thier environment, etc.) into their society as social experiment. I am a fiction writer and I think this will help me to understand your philosophies. This has been a fun and challenging project. I was wondering if you have a vision of what a modern day "leaver" society would look like? I would be interested in comparing your vision with my own. I have searched the Q&As to the best of my ability and did not see a specific answer to this question, if there is one, could you point me to it?
- The Question (ID Number 627): Have you ever asked your publisher to release the entire Ishmael trilogy as a single volume? I hope it doesn't violate your contract (I saw from someone else's question that you can't release mass paperback editions). Because I was having this huge fight with someone who had just read Ishmael and none of the other books, and had completely misunderstood anything. In arguing with this guy, I was struck by how many times I said, "Quinn CLEARLY said in 'My Ishmael...'" or "It's written right there, in 'The Story of B...'" One volume of the whole trilogy would be cheap, handy, and pretty gosh darned cool.
- The Question (ID Number 619): What steps led you to question the conventional reading of the stories of the Fall and Cain and Abel in Genesis?
- The Question (ID Number 618): I recently finished The Holy, which I found clever and thought-provoking. Had I merely read the book, I'd simply see the many connections between it and your other work, and that would have been that. But I'd read Rennie's account on your website of the childhood event that partly inspired the book -- your encounter with the part-man-part-animal. There is much I don't know about the world, so the last thing I'd do is just discount this experience of yours. However, I have to admit great surprise. What (admittedly little) I know of you is that you're a lover of science and a skeptic -- this is evident in your work, on your website, and in much of our previous correspondence, in which you have spoken scientifically in general and, in some cases in particular, directly against "new age" or "occult" beliefs and phenomena.
I'm very curious to hear how you reconcile this childhood experience of yours with your scientific knowledge -- and, by extension, I'm curious to know what you might tell your science-loving fans (like me) who might not understand how they should reconcile these two things about you, these two things that, not knowing better, we might see as contradictory. I'm also incidentally curious about the extent to which your portrayal of the "yoo-hoos" is fictional, i.e., simply for the purposes of fleshing out the story, as opposed to things you actually believe. For example, that they themselves represent what ancient cultures thought to be gods and what older Taker cultures thought to be demons/devils, that they are matter- based and yet immortal and possessing of shape-changing abilities, etc.
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