A sin of omission, I guess it must be.
The result of ignorance, or the way in which all our purported “access” is actually working to keep important works hidden in plain sight.
I’ve just read Daniel Quinn’s Ishmael.
I’ve added a link because there may yet be one or two of you out there who are asking, “What?” Among the rest exclaiming, “How could that be?”
Quinn now joins my list of greatest influences I’d never heard of, alongside Krishnamurti, Bohm, Illich, Sheldrake, well, most of the writers I now see as unparalleled in their influences on my thinking and how I view the world. A few short years ago I may have heard their names before, or not, but I had no idea what they had to offer.
Now I say this neither as a bright-eyed youth eagerly striving to fill out my life’s list of great works, nor as someone who’s been incurious and satisfied with ticking-off titles from a best-seller’s list. These writers appear as if to come out of a fog once hints of their existence have surfaced for me. A mention in passing, a link on a site I’ve come to trust, a word from a new colleague; and there they are, as big as life!
A curious affect of finding these writers at this late date has been that I read their works with a mixture of excitement at their achievement – the grain and texture of what they have wrought – coupled with a sense of long familiarity with their themes, even the content of their work. It’s a sense of recognition. I recognize in their work parallels with concerns and themes and insights that have long interested me. There is a sense of boosting my own work forward, as in the way a spacecraft is boosted by “slingshotting” past Jupiter on its way to the outer planets. I feel a gain in momentum.
This momentum comes in two forms. First, there is the great relief of finding corroboration. No matter how independent one wishes to be, it never hurts to find that someone else has gone this way. Secondly, there is the relief that I don’t have to flesh out an aspect of a subject that another’s work has already done, and done so capably and so well. Related to this is another relief, that when communicating my own concerns I can use the existence of this other body of work as a resource, both something to cite as well as something to allude to or refer to when questions come up. This other work provides a vocabulary and a precedent that cuts through the inertia of having to always start from scratch.
All this more than compensates for any embarrassment I may feel at arriving late to the feast! So, with this all as preamble I’d like to examine the eight hundred pound gorilla without worrying that I might be covering “old ground” for some, even most of you!
Ishmael is such a complete work! Not only the character of our hero, his fitness for his role, and the wonderful joke buried in his being who he is, where he is. The dialogue that unfolds, the content of deep insights revealed and coalescing into – if not quite a cosmology, then the necessary precursors to one.
It is also a work of fiction that is fully absorbed within the content of what it has to say so that it exhibits what I’ve been referring to as a holographic quality as a work of art. Its whole is there to be surmised in every part and every part coalesces to form the whole in a way that brings it all to life, in the way only a work of art, in this case a fiction, can.
The depth and breadth of insight included is itself a marvel! These are epochal revelations and they are so lightly held and so deftly put….
So much for my paeans of praise!
I’m eager to get into the substance of this book and how it relates to everything else covered here over the last few years.
But, for now, let’s pause right here and savor this, or if you are unfamiliar with this work I strenuously recommend you seek it out and read it asap!
More on this in the days and weeks to come!