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Ishmael by Daniel Quinn

Summary

This is a novel of an educational journey by the main character who learns from Ishmael. The education revolves around humans as a species and the interactions with the world. Ishmael poses many questions over time which lead to deep thoughts and working of an understanding for the main character. Part of this understanding is the difference of humans compared to other animals. Many animals eat what they need and leave the rest of the food sources. There is an understanding of the world that by following this pattern, each species has a chance to live and do well. There were ancestors of humans which followed this same rule. They could find adequate food with only a few hours of work. At times throughout history there may be a lack of food, which would lead to a decrease in population. Then once food was more prevalent, then the population would grow. This occurs for other animals as well. Some humans started to move away from this premise, and instead began to think humans were meant to rule the world, rather than to be of the world. This meant gaining land to plant crops. The goal wasn’t to get enough, rather to get as much as possible. The issue with this is that once the mental framework shifts, it will eventually lead to the extinction of the species. This is because there is a law to live within the earth. Just as there is the law of gravity, it will impact us whether or not we agree with it. Ishmael’s teachings are around this idea and that humans must shift their mindset if they are to last for many years to come.

How it influenced me

Intriguing and thought provoking is what comes to mind when thinking about this book. As I was reading it, it facilitated different types of thinking. I don’t normally spend much time considering the entirety of human history and how such events are impacting us currently and in the future. This book provided me an avenue of thinking about these areas, but also in general lead to me thinking a little more abstractly in general. In my life, I go to the store and buy food. Most of my thoughts revolve around taste, nutrition, and price. I don’t spend much effort on other details. In doing so, it was a refreshing exercise in realizing that for other topics there is likely avenues of thought I could be exploring in a different manner as well. Perhaps by doing so, I could create more effective solutions or at least a better understanding of the topic. Moments such as these, where more effort and thought is put into an area beyond the normal sections is where a further level of growth can occur.

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