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text 2014-09-19 11:43
Vitamin D als Grund für helle Hautfarbe?
Ismael - Daniel Quinn

Eine These aus Ismael von Daniel Quinn (übrigens eins meiner Lieblingsbücher, weil es mein Leseleben klar in davor / danach teilt und auch erklärt, warum unsere Zivilisation scheitern wird) ist, dass das Kains-Mal, das Kain als den Mörder seines Bruders Abel für alle Welt kennzeichnet, weisse Haut ist. Das verbindet Daniel Quinn mit einigen anderen Erklärungen für die Genese unserer Zivilisation sowie einer interessanten Geschichte - und begründet, warum wir Nehmer sind und uns immer nehmen, was wir brauchen. Egal, wem es gehört oder ob es nachhaltig ist.


In einem Artikel der BBC fand ich den Ansatz einer Erklärung, warum es überhaupt unterschiedliche Hautfarben gibt, wenn wir doch alle vom selben Adam abstammen (und Adam aus Afrika kommt). Nicht, dass ich mich damit gezielt auseinander setze, aber gefragt habe ich mich das immer. 


Im Artikel, der sich übrigens damit beschäftigt, dass wir Europäer anscheinend alle mehr oder weniger Brüder und Schwestern sind und auf nicht mehr als drei verschiedene Stämme zurückgehen, wird erwähnt, dass es eine anthropologische Theorie gibt, nach der weisse Haut aus Evolutionsgründen gut für Farmer war: bevor wir mit Landwirtschaft anfingen, waren wir Jäger und Sammler. Diese nehmen Vitamin D mit ihrer (hauptsächlich tierischen) Nahrung auf.

Bei Farmern ist das nicht so. Helle Haut führt nun aber anscheinend dazu, dass der Körper mehr Vitamin D selber produziert, was für jemanden, der keins mehr aufnimmt, ein Vorteil ist. Das fand ich interessant, weil es die Unterschiede bei den Hautfarben mal soziohistorisch erklärt.


Allerdings heisst das dann auch, dass helle Haut kein Kains-Mal ist. Davon wiederum bin ich nicht überzeugt - wir sind Nehmer, wir verhalten uns wie Nehmer. Um das zu verstehen, müsst ihr also trotzdem Ismael von Daniel Quinn lesen.

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review 2014-04-29 00:00
The Story of B
The Story of B - Daniel Quinn The Story of B is the second of Daniel Quinn's Ishmael trilogy. These books are a trilogy not so much in that they are the continuation of a story, but in that they are a continuation of a single teaching that each book elucidates with its own slant. The only common fictional element is the character, Ishmael, who is hardly more than referenced in The Story of B, but that reference lends its verification to Mr. Quinn's core teaching and lets you know that this book has its place among the three (Ishmael, The Story of B, My Ishmael--I suggest you read the books in that order). That teaching is the value of these books.

That teaching is the (in my opinion) brilliant, startling, enlightening, and intellectually (and even spiritually) satisfying proposition that the problems of our current civilization stem from a single human culture that has spread and dominated the world since the Agricultural Revolution (a specific type of agriculture) occurred some 10,000 years ago. Mr. Quinn refers to this agriculture as "totalitarian agriculture" in The Story of B because it is based on the hallmark premise of that culture that their way is the only "right" way to live and that all opposition must be utterly destroyed. The rise of this culture (called "The Takers" by Mr. Quinn) is mythically described in the Genesis stories of Adam and Eve's Fall and in the Slaying of Abel by Cain.

Mr. Quinn says the problem with this Taker culture, especially in our time, is that it...

...isn't working--doesn't work and can't work. It bears with it its own seeds of destruction. It's fundamentally unstable.

Mr. Quinn expresses this teaching through fiction in all three books, and most engagingly in the Ishmael books. In all of the books, the point of view is that of a student seeking the knowledge offered by a sage who wants to oppose the evils of the Taker culture by changing the minds of his students. This fictional premise works well in the Ishmael books, largely due to the interesting and compelling character of Ishmael, who is an intelligent gorilla. In The Story of B, the teacher is actually the head of a group of "coffee house intellectuals" and is referred to as "B." The implication is that this head teacher changes over time and the one that the student protagonist in The Story of B deals with is called Charles Atterly.

The "student" in The Story of B is Jared Osborne, a Roman Catholic priest. He is sent by his superior, Father Lulfre, to Germany to investigate the teachings of Atterly that have had enough impact as to come to the attention of the Church. Lulfre also wants Osborne to gather information to help determine whether Atterly may be the Antichrist, because finding the Antichrist is a prime mission of Lulfre's order, the Laurentians. So the "story" in The Story of B is Osborne's working of this mission. In the course of it, he becomes caught up in B's teachings and duly records them. I expect you can guess the rest.

The story is well-told, Mr. Quinn is a good writer, and it held my interest throughout. I liked the idea of the coffee house group and of its changing "leadership." Some insights are offered about the thinking and humanness of a Catholic priest that make Osborne a sympathetic character, but still I have some criticisms.

Osborne starts out as a well educated and committed priest. Indeed, of the three books, he is (or should be) the most intellectually capable of all the students presented. As such, he should have had more to offer in his discourses with B, especially more initial opposition. And that opposition should have been based more on his priesthood training. There are moments when he does this, but they are brief and cut off too soon. Consequently, he comes off as being too accepting of B's teachings and too readily a convert. In contrast, the students in the Ishmael books come upon their teacher's insights in a more believable fashion, making it easier for the reader to share in their intellectual discovery.

Also, while I am not familiar with the Catholic order of the Laurentians, I wonder if they are as ruthless as presented in The Story of B. They come off as a bit mafia-like. While that's obviously for the sake of the drama, it's a bit of a stretch, like Osborne's quick acceptance of B's teachings. It might also come from Mr. Quinn's apparent disdain for the spiritual, or anything he considers "nonscientific."

The Story of B is an expansion and clarification on the teaching offered in Ishmael. It's not a big expansion--it doesn't break much new ground--but it does offer the basic premise in a way that may be more straightforward than it was in Ishmael. Mr. Quinn does this in the very structure of the book. The first part is the telling of the story of Jared Osborne and his search for, and engagement with, B. In this part, he doesn't give the actual words of B in his lectures, but just Osborne's reaction to them. Enough is given to provide the reader with the basic idea's of B's teachings, but the actual lectures are saved for an afterword labeled, "The Public Teachings." This works and facilitates the book's use as a reference.

The Story of B is part of a trilogy of Mr. Quinn's books that I consider essential reading for anyone seeking to understand why the world is the way it is. For the open-minded, critical reader, these books have a tremendous insight to offer. That's why so many reviews refer to them as "life changing." While The Story of B has some dramatic shortcomings, it is still an enjoyable read and one of my favorite books.
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review 2013-11-18 13:00
Ishmael He is Not
The Story of B: An Adventure of the Mind and Spirit - Daniel Quinn

When I read Daniel Quinn’s Ishmael I was given a clear view of the importance of human beings reconnecting with the idea that they are apart of nature and need to find a balance with the world rather than trying to dominate it. It was a well written book with a easy to grasp message. One I happen to agree with. Because of my enjoyment in reading Ishmael I decided to read more of Quinn’s work. I went next to The Story of B: An Adventure of the Mind and Spirit. What I found in this book was along the same lines, but less clear and at times slightly ridiculous. 


This adventure of mind and spirit follows the main character Father Jared Osborne into Germany where he is assigned the task of meeting a man who might be the anti-Christ, B. Jared belongs to a group of Catholics known as the Laurentians and his superior is very concerned with finding the anti-Christ. Jared’s order believes that this public speaker, B, who is spreading his message in German pubs and basements is that anti-Christ. Jared is sent to determine if that is true. He meets B and through many conversations comes to see B’s point as well as why he might be viewed as an anti-Christ of sorts. I won’t give away what happens, I don’t like spoiling books, but Jared does go through quite a bit of a shift in his world view. 


I had problems with this work that I didn’t have with Ishmael. The Story of B is written in diary form, like Ishmael was, from the perspective of Jared. However, while Ishmael was a series of interesting conversations, this books ends up somewhat like lecture notes, with ridiculous plot twists in between entires. Jared writes about meeting with B and some of the conversations that they have, but he also talks about attending B’s lectures. Quinn does not have Jared write them down in the chapters though, they are to be found in the back of the book within a section called The Teachings of B. This means that the reader has to choose between interrupting the story to flip to the back of the book and read B’s lecture, or wait until the end of the book and read them together. This is a bad idea, as B maps out his point of view for Jared throughout the story, so reading the back section is redundant. 


The ridiculous plot twists I mention do not add to the story. Without giving too much away I can say that people want B dead over what he is saying in the basements of rundown German businesses and they make attempts to achieve that goal. When the reader begins to understand what B’s messages is, which is a little ridiculous itself, it is hard to believe someone would kill over this. B does accuse all of the world’s major religious as being moral corrupt. He says that they have all had a hand in helping to keep people in the dark about their true natural freedoms. This is what makes him the anti-Christ for Jared’s superior. The religious have killed over less, but it still seems a far stretch in this story. 


B’s messages, rather Quinn’s message, is not that understandable. Much of what he writes about is the Great Forgetting, which is explained as humans forgetting that they were once hunter-gathers. Ishmael is mentioned in the story as well, it seems B was his student. Take this into account and the message B is communicating is the same as Ishmael was, live in better balance with the planet, or die. However, Quinn talks about the agricultural revolution as being a mistake, as the moment when the Great Forgetting occurred and that led us into becoming a Taker society. Taker meaning, exploiter of the planet. Quinn writes, through B, about the virtues of hunter-gather society, but doesn’t explain clearly what he means for the reader to do with this information. For example, Quinn spends a great deal talking about how humans used to be able to read the land, seeing tracks in the dirt and understanding what had happened there. This can be interpreted as ancient humans having a deeper connection to nature than we do now, but it could also mean Quinn wants us to hunt. The glorifying of hunter-gather culture over agrarian society doesn’t communicate very well how modern people are supposed to live. We can’t go back to picking berries and running down wild pigs. 


I found it very hard to lose myself in this book. While Ishmael went by page after fast page, B dragged. Jared was not a very entertaining character and the people he interacted with seemed like new age spiritualists who took their nature worship too seriously.  One of the other characters, the second B if you will, is Shirin, a very angry woman who doesn’t like Jared. While some of her life is revealed and therefore her anger makes more sense, she still comes off as an angry Shirley Maclane, who pistol whips defilers of nature with her crystals of wisdom. Quinn’s message is lost in the mud of his characters personalities and the unbelievability of B’s threat to society. I am not sure if Quinn wants me to spend more time outside, sitting in a park, or more time outside hunting and gathering my dinner. Or just more time sitting in dark, filthy basements of German bars. While I still recommend Ishmael, I suggest skipping The Story of B, it is an adventure in futility. 

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review 2013-07-21 20:58
Ishmael: An Adventure of the Mind and Spirit
Ishmael: An Adventure of the Mind and Spirit - Daniel Quinn I found this slight. interesting but slight. While some points are valid (aka our cultural structure and social structure is broken but we have too much invested in it for an easy fix) some are quite invalid. Yes, we need to stop having so many children *but* we can't just starve people because there's a famine in their country. The English tried that in Ireland, it was referred to as Laisse Faire Economics. Millions of Irish people died or fled the country, while there was enough foodstuffs being produced in some areas, but they were being exported for profit. Also profiteers robbed people blind. That's what happens when people prey on people. Also animals don't just kill enough to satisfy themselves, ask a sheep farmer about dog packs or a person with hens about foxes, then come back to me about animals being perfectly in balance with each other. This is a fallacy as dangerous as the noble savage concept. While the author presents the idea that there is no "one true way" or "one truth" the book is absolutist, offering a concept that agriculture is wrong and that the one true way is hunter-gatherer. Some of the theories say that the only reason we developed education and other concepts like that was because that due to agriculture you could support people who would teach and would do other things rather than work on the farm, that it gave people time. What the world needs is more balance. While I do agree that the Western European or "mother culture" as depected in the book is broken, and needs fixing, I don't think this is the cure. Worth reading mindfully for the ideas, I disagreed with much of them, but found myself thinking, which rose the book above the original 3 stars to 3.5 stars.
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review 2013-06-16 23:13
The Fur Covered Sage
Ishmael: An Adventure of the Mind and Spirit - Daniel Quinn

Are you the kind person that wonders if you could change the world? Do you wonder if there is some smart idea that humanity has just not thought of yet that will make things better for all? Do you feel it might be right in front of us, so obvious that it is unnoticed? Would you answer a newspaper ad that demanded a person who wants to save the world should only apply? The protagonist of Daniel Quinn’s novel Ishmael is that type of person, a disillusioned do-gooder, and he answers an add that reads,‘TEACHER seeks pupil. Must have an earnest desire to save the world. Apply in person.’ What he finds when he does answer the ad is a very empty office space with a very large gorilla, chewing on some leafy goodness. Only a window of glass separates him and his massive cousin. But, before he can walk out the door the gorilla speaks to him telepathically.


The protagonist, for Quinn never names him, and the gorilla, Ishmael, begin a conversation which will lead the man to a deeper understanding of the world he lives on.  Their exchange is Socratic in form, in other words, Quinn writes mostly dialogue between the two. Their conversation takes place over many days with the man and gorilla revisiting points made earlier. It is sometimes a lecture, given by this Confucian ape, for he speaks then asks questions and forces the man to think and answer for himself through the gauze of his preconceived notions. 


What is it they are talking about? Ishmael is trying to teach the man that his worldview is inherently destructive. He teaches him how the human cultures have always been split in two, with Takers and Leavers. These Takers are as bad as they sound, taking all around them for their own benefit. The Takers have constructed various, but all similar, cultures that explain away their greed, that justify their manifest destinies. While the leavers have suffered in their wake, being pushed to extinction and drowned under the sounds of progress. If you are at all an empathic person you will want to identify with the Leavers, even think yourself one. Rest assured, if you are reading this, you are a Taker.


I will not risk saying any more about their discussion, for it unfolds eloquently under Quinn’s care and my blundering attempts to explain it would destroy the joy of being a fly on Ishmael’s wall. I will say it is a must read for anyone who feels their worldview is a cheaply made, hallowed out puzzle, doled out to them in pieces as they come to each predetermined stage of modern nuclear life. I will recommend this to anyone who believes that true change starts when the mind is changed, for that is Ishmael’s most important point. We have been viewing our planet and the life on it in the wrong way, in a destructive way, in an ultimately doomed way. We will not be able to pull out of this downward spiral of decay until we shift our major paradigms. Not until we change our minds. I would recommend this book to anyone who asks, with life destroyed for profit, what hope is there for us. 

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