For those not familiar with the Daniel Quinn books, one of Quinn's central distinctions is between the "Takers" and the "Leavers." This probably best translates as a distinction between "civilized" and "primitive" peoples. The "civilized" peoples are the "Takers."
It is Quinn's thought that the history of human culture is a story about how the basic nature of humanity has been diverted, over about the last 10,000 years or so, into a pathway in which a "Taker" philosophy has come to be taken for granted, although the premises of the "civilization" so constructed (our civilization) makes this civilization unsustainable. The "Takers" are definitely the rulers of the human and "political" world, in my two-world hypothesis. The "Leavers" are "primitive" in that they live in (and never presume to rule) the world of Nature.
As I reread Ishmael, I discovered (or rediscovered) that Quinn's explanation of the Genesis story about the expulsion of Adam and Eve from Paradise was not so different from my own:
The knowledge of good and evil is fundamentally the knowledge the rulers of the world must exercise, because every single thing they do is good for some but evil for others.This is what ruling is all about, isn't it?
And man was born to rule the world, wasn't he?
Yes. According to Taker mythology.
Then why would the gods withhold the very knowledge man needs to fulfill his destiny? From the Taker point of view, it makes no sense at all.
The disaster occurred when, ten thousand years ago, the people of your culture said, "We're as wise as the gods and can rule the world as well as they." When they took into their own hands the power of life and death over the world, their doom was assured.
Yes. Because they are not in fact as wise as the gods.
The gods ruled the world for billions of years, and it was doing just fine. After just a few thousand years of human rule, the world is at the point of death.
True. But the Takers will never give it up.
Ishmael shrugged. "Then they'll die. As predicted. The authors of this story knew what they were talking about."
Ishmael will always be a favorite book of mine. I didn't read it until halfway through college. Guess it is time to give it to the kids. Michael eReplyDelete