I recently just found a community forum on Reddit (though I’m not really a regular user) and I read the message from the girl who started the thread:
I’ve recommended the book to too many people who say they liked it a lot and that it was really interesting, but I can tell they aren’t changed. Do you find that Ishmael allows you to just put it away and move on with your life?
Granted, in my opinion, Ishmael makes it dangerously easy to do just that. That’s why I always emphasize that further reading is essential when recommending it. Ishmael only introduces you to a new world. Reading the rest of Quinn’s works (especially My Ishmael) pushes you through the door and locks it behind you. When Ishmael was the only book I’d read I was still more affected than most people I know, but I almost wished I hadn’t read it. I didn’t want to read more. I was afraid in some weird way–I honestly didn’t get a good feeling from it. The knowledge was some kind of horrible burden and, somehow, I felt even more imprisoned. I remember saying to someone about the book, “I’ve always felt that we are living in some kind of prison, the only difference now is that I can see the bars.” It was only after I worked up the courage to continue reading that I became the Quinn evangelist that I am today. Perhaps it’s because the ideas are deepened and clarified and brought to life. You begin to understand that the point isn’t to go backwards and that there are better worlds out there to be discovered. Still…I’d like to see more people respond to the first book more dramatically, at least in the way that I did. It seems like it’s a fine line.
Does anyone else have any thoughts on the book’s effects personally, or on other people you know?
Through the entire class, I’ve been asking myself what the point of reading this book was. I felt similar to they way she described: “[like] we are living in some kind of prison, the only difference now is that I can see the bars.” I am going to continue to read Quinn’s works, and who knows, maybe I’ll continue writing on this blog even after our assignment is done.
Since reading the book I have spent a lot of time looking at issues in our natural environment that are anthropogenic in nature. I have found a lot of interesting issues, but the one that puzzles me most is that we see these negative impacts on the environment and we still lay back and are comfortable sitting on the couch doing nothing.
A lot of people who have read Quinn’s work call him an anti-civ, but I just don’t think that’s true. Quinn wrote in My Ishmael, “There is no one right way to live.” When I originally read the book, I thought Quinn was trying to convert us all into “leavers” and make us go live in the woods and wipe our butts with dandelions and wet leaves. After leading a discussion in class I was informed that this was not the case, and it made sense.
My professor told me that Quinn wasn’t trying to convert us into “leavers”, but he was trying to take us out of our “taker” story and put us on the path to writing a new chapter where the “takers” and “leavers” can co-exist in harmony (haha, cliche I know). But seriously, the idea that Quinn wasn’t trying to convert us really took me aback and I started wondering what led me to think that he might be trying to.
I concluded that a large part of why I thought that was that I got defensive about what he had to say. It’s no secret that Quinn takes a hit on religion (and specifically Christianity). When I read all of the things that he had to say about my way of life [religion, civilization, grocery stores, my dreams of running a corporate business or being a lawyer or doctor (or whatever, I don’t really know what I want to be)], I got really defensive and tried to find flaws in his logic, but really, he was just trying to make his point clear.
There are a lot of things that Ishmaelians have done to spread Ishmael’s message, including bumper stickers, graffiti (wall art), posters, rebellions, petitions, plays/script writing, books, blogs, organizations, book clubs, and artistic expressions (possibly including the Georgia Guidestones), but the biggest discouragement is that their voices aren’t being heard. A large portion of people write them off as tree-hugging greenies and ignore what they have to say.
I mean, I’ve never been much of a greenie. I don’t know a lot about sustainable energy or environmental conservation, but I’m doing my best to make a difference. Reading Ishmael really changed my life and made me realize that there really isn’t one way to live. We can’t make indigenous cultures assimilate into American culture because that way of life just doesn’t work for everybody. Our attempts to make that work are beginning to prove fatal to our planet.
So I guess Ishmael has changed my life. It has changed the way that I look at things and the decisions I make in my life. Being a part of the small community of individuals in Alaska that are trying to make a change makes me proud to be alive. It has helped me realize that these messages on repeat in my head shouldn’t make me feel bad because they’re a part of ONE way of life that I am choosing not to be a part of. Now, it’s just time to make the change.