connections make themselves. Maybe always.
Maybe it's just a projection, or a
subconscious urge which
guides the hand. I ordered This Simian
World by Clarence Day after reading a
mention of it by Kurt
Vonnegut. A week
or two later, I chance upon Ishmael by Daniel Quinn in Ophelia's on Fremont
Ave. (I'd read
Quinn's End of Civilization.)
This Simian World posits
what the world would have been like had
various species besides man been the first to
self-awareness. Ishmael is the story
of a telepathic gorilla engaging in Socratic
dialogue with an eager human pupil.
(I'm about to give away the "surprise"
conclusion of Ishmael, so you might
want to stop now--though I don't think what
I divulge will ruin the book for anyone.)
Still with me? OK, good, let us proceed...
The basic premise
of Ishmael is that humans are
divided into two basic types--the
"civilized" Takers and the "primitive"
Leavers. Each type is defined by the
prevailing story, or myth, which they tell
and attempt to fulfill. These stories are
obvious as such at first, being the
taken-for-granted culture; culture being to
people what water is to fish. The
agriculturist Takers, taking their cue from
the Bible, seek dominion over the Earth,
wishing to replace God/the gods as
arbiters or life and death, good and evil.
The hunter/gatherer Leavers are content to
"live in the hands of the gods,"
taking only what they need to subsist and
co-existing with other species. Obviously,
Taker culture is ruining the planet
for all life. But in order to change
directions, the Takers need a new myth worth
striving for. Ishmael provides the goal:
Humans can go down in future history as
being the first self-aware species--pioneers
wise enough to preserve the
conditions whereby other species could
evolve into self-awareness. One can only
hope for the best. (And act accordingly.)