Daily Archives: August 17, 2004

Question Posted to the Ishmael Community

Posted this evening to the Ishmael Community, a web community devoted to the principles set forth by Daniel Quinn in his books Ishmael, The Story of B, and Beyond Civilization, among others:

My question is the result of a conversation I had this evening with a couple of Latter Day Saint recruiters on my front lawn. I was able to describe for them very well (using the ammunition provided by your books) an alternative to their explanation of “how” things got this way, including acknowledgment from them of the accurate interpretation of the Tree of Knowledge and Cain and Abel. However, I found myself in a quandary when attempting to describe “why” our culture, as opposed to the lions and bears, the Maoris and Navajo, would choose to take divine right into their own hands and take their lives out of the hands of the gods. In other words, what was the impetus that caused the Takers to become Takers? The explanation in your books very clearly identifies the myths (now borrowed by the Takers) trying to explain “how” things got to where they are now, but what seems to be missing is “why” anyone would make what seems like a giant leap and decide they were above the law that brought them through the evolutionary chain. So I pose the question to you — WHY did the Takers stop becoming Leavers? Where did this seed of self-delusion germinate? And more importantly, why would a group of Leavers (for that is what we all were, at some point) believe such a lunatic? Why would anyone assume that their way was right for everyone in the first place? There had to have been some event, some epiphany that led first to this ill-founded conclusion, and then to its growth into a shared delusion.

I’m just not sure what it is, and that information seems critical to expounding “why not”.

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Fun with Bicycling Evangelists

Ah, I must admit that I admire their dedication. I wonder, however, that their missionary zeal carries them out into wild, uncharted areas at the edge of their map before they have taken their message to their direct neighbors. I speak, of course, of the dedicated young men in the bicycle messenger trade of the Church of the Latter Day Saints.

You may find it amusing that these gentlemen in cheap suits and humidity-limp shirts would wander to my doorstep in their proselytizing. They are different from the old African-American women peddling Jehovah as his Witnesses. To these, who hand out Watchtowers on such subjects as fraud, I can offer short comments like, “Hmmm … don’t you think it is ironic that you speak to me of fraud, who are taken in by the biggest fraud of them all … that somehow, a lily-white Jesus and his Aryan-seeming friends and apostles/associates would convince you, a child of former slaves who has grown up in the shadow of racism, sexism and poverty, that it is not necessary to seek any kind of heaven here on earth (for that would require wresting it from the hands of rich, white men, I’m afraid), but that your reward shall come in a future paradise, while others reap theirs now … that seems like a pretty clear case of fraud to me, my dear grandmother.” And they pause, and shake their heads, and offer to pray for me, of course, but after I part company with them I am sure they are difficult for their pastors to handle.

Nay, the Mormon lads are of sterner stuff. And still, as I explain to them that mankind is gone astray from (G)od because they refuse to spit out the fruit of the Tree of Knowledge, to place their lives, like the sparrow, lion, lamb and lilies of the field in the hands of God, and insist that they have the knowledge of who must die (all who would oppose them) and who must live (man, glorious man, who must have a purpose greater than the jellyfish or hyena). To explain that we are the culture of Cain, the mighty agriculturalist, whose story the Hebrews adopted but did not themselves write, whose meaning they have never quite understood — the Caucasian farmers, who would kill off the hunter gathers and pastoralists, and for each white man slain would return death to the darker races sevenfold. I wonder, as they thank me for my well-thought out and logical explanation, on the spirit that fills their hearts — that glory of righteousness that insists that mankind has a greater purpose than any other species,
and would prove it by claiming some character flaw. ‘Tis not a character flaw, I tell them, but amnesia. That’s why we need prophets and seers. To remind us that we don’t know what we’re doing. And still they seek after the “one true path” that is suitable for all persons, in all times, in all geographic locations. A hyena does not seek to live like a lion; nor does a lion seek to live like a hyena. I tell them this. And I quote them the gospels. And I mention that I admire their bucket of sea water; but it is not the whole ocean, nor does its galvanized rim surround the whole of any truth — only a fragment.

Sadly, they may not visit me again. But they will send others. Those who refuse to live in the hands of the gods, but insist their own hands are divine, always do.

I pray for them. And for the proving ground that is this earth, the mere waystation on the way to greatness that will be consumed by their blundering and self-righteous dominion. I wonder how we managed to last this long, in free fall, thinking in defiance of the laws of gravity and aerodynamics that we have been flying under our own power.

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The Divorce

Just leave me here, would you?
We all die alone.
There’s no one to call
and no movies been shown.

It’s all sentimental,
that crap, anyway;
so just leave me here
and move away.

Just leave me here, would you;
and go live your life?
There’s not much adventure
in being my wife.

It’s all just tradition,
that stuff, anyway;
so go on
and be on your way.

Don’t bother with crying
or clutching your hands.
Just trust in your God
while he laughs at your plans,

and teaches you lessons
you don’t understand
that make you a woman or man;
and survive it the best that you can.

Just leave me here, would you?
No sense we both crack.
Pack up all your memories
and please, don’t look back.

It’s all sentimental,
that crap, anyway;
so just drive off
and I’ll be OK.

Just leave me here, would you?
Don’t bother to call
and I won’t leave the light on
for you in the hall.

It’s all a tradition,
that stuff, anyway;
go on, leave me
and just move away.

Don’t bother with weeping
or wringing your hands.
Just trust in your God,
that its part of His plan,

and remember you’ll never
full well understand
just what makes you a woman or man.
Start over, as long as you can.


I’ve only written one song that reminds me of how much I owe to John Prine, as a songwriter. And it’s not really just his style alone — there’s a little Tom T. Hall thrown in for good measure, as well. This is another song from the Undertown Cycle (Frequent Reader, you will recall that’s my attempt at Springsteen’s Nebraska. Written, perhaps poignantly, shortly after my own divorce became final, this is one half of the picture.

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On Auspicious Times

I wonder at the most auspicious times
that by some random system are proclaimed
and why those correspondences we find
ourselves at odds with should take all the blame

The moon, for instance, in its wane and wax;
The seasons, as they go and come again;
The numerals assigned like colored tacks
to calendars devised by human brains,

As if in the whole world mankind’s belief
about the way the universe is made
means anything at all to a small leaf
or changes how it perceives light and shade.

I wonder how the world devoid of man
survived through countless eons and evolved
without the logic only we command,
and managed, with its riddles yet unsolved.

I ask the mockingbird to state its case
for choosing the best moment to proceed,
and swear I see a smile upon its face
that seems to say, “Why don’t you learn to read

a book that needs no glossy title page,
that promises no esoteric lore,
that will not guarantee you center stage,
but may instruct you nonetheless, in more

than what you think important, or germaine?
What book, you ask, contains such heady stuff?
The book of life, that you seem to distain;
but against which, your knowledge is mere fluff.”

I wonder at the most auspicious times
that by some special school are found and named.
It is no wonder that we act so blind.
That we think we have knowledge is to blame.

17 AUG 2004

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No Small Talk Left

It takes perhaps at most an entire day
depending on the company and scene,
but at some point there’s nothing left to say
and words become superfluous, obscene.

It’s not because the topics have run dry,
or even that some common ground is lost.
More to the point, it becomes hard to try
to fill the void when all don’t share the cost.

And then, the simple comfort of two souls
that understand without the need to chat,
outside the ego’s posturing controls,
becomes a treasured place of beauty that

rejects the more gregarious and finds
in silence, peace, for body, soul and mind.

17 AUG 2004

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