Questions on Quinn's Ishmael

1.  For the group that is leading the discussion:  Come prepared with information on Daniel Quinn, his novel, the steady state theory, and the big bang theory.

2.  Complete the following homology:

   The gorilla Ishmael:_______________::the human pupil:_______________.

3.  What points is Ishmael making about myth in connection with evolution and creationism?  What is his definition of myth?  He is using myth to make a point about human beings' relationship to the natural environment.  What is that point?

4.   A typical reader response to this text might go as follows:  "Oh, so Quinn is saying that evolution is a myth.  Therefore, he is saying that evolution didn't really happen."  Evaluate this statement.  Do you agree or disagree with it?  How do you know that you are right?  (Note:  We are NOT going to debate evolution  vs. creationism or intelligent design in this class.  Believe whatever you want.  I am simply asking you to be able to understand Quinn's take on these issues.)

5.  Quinn makes a powerful point when he has Ishmael mention the problem of "listening to Mother Culture."  As regards the environment, what exactly does it mean to listen to the voice of culture?

6.  What does Ishmael mean by "the Takers" the "the Leavers"?  To whom is he referring in each case?  What point do you think that Ishmael is trying to teach his human interlocutor?  Do you think that the gorilla is right to take this position?

7.  What is the significance of the fact that the gorilla's name is Ishmael?

8.  How does the text deconstruct itself?

9.  In the context of Quinn's text, what do you make of the following quotation?

Every part of this Earth is sacred to my people;
Every shining pine needle, every sandy shore.
Every mist in the dark wood,
Every clearing and every humming insect is holy in the memory of my people.
The sap which courses through the trees carries the memories of my people.
The perfumed flowers are our sisters.
We are part of the Earth, and the Earth is part of us.
The deer, the horse, the great eagle are our brothers.
We all belong to the same family.
If we sell you our land, you must remember that it is sacred.
The shining water that moves in the streams and rivers is not only water, but the blood of our people.
If we sell you our land, you must remember and teach your children to give the rivers the kindness that you would give your brother.

The red man has always retreated before the advancing white man as the mist of the mountains runs before the morning sun.
The white man does not understand our ways.
He treats his Mother, the Earth, as a thing to be bought and sold.
He will devour the Earth and leave behind only a desert.
Where is the thicket? Gone.
Where is the eagle? Gone.
Goodbye to the swift pony and the hunt.
The end of living and the beginning of survival.

For some special purpose God had given you dominion over this land.
That destiny is a mystery to us.
The Earth is precious to God.
To harm the Earth is to harm its Creator.

If we sell our land, you must keep it sacred;
A place to taste the wind that is sweetened by the meadow flowers.
All things are connected.
What is there to life if a man cannot hear the lovely cry of the whippoorwill?
What is there to life without the beasts?
And what is man without the beasts?
If the beasts were gone, man would die from a great loneliness of spirit.
All things are connected.
If we sell you our land, teach your children the the Earth is our Mother.
Every part of this Earth is sacred to my people.

This we know:
The Earth does not belong to Man. Man belongs to the Earth.
All things are connected, like the blood which unites one family.
We do not weave the web of life.
We are but a strand in the web of life.
What we do to the web we do to ourselves.
All things are connected.

Every part of this Earth is sacred to my people.
The red man loves the Earth like a newborn loves its mother's heartbeat.
If we sell you our land, love the land as we have loved it.
Care for the land as we have cared.
Hold in your mind the memory of the land as it was when you take it.
And with all your strength, with all your mind, with all your heart,
Preserve it for your children.
And love it, as God loves us all.

One thing we know: our God is the same God.
We may be brothers after all.
We shall see.