Because I was a bit bored and saw it on a shelf, I decided to read Ishmael by Daniel Quinn. I was drawn to it because of its title as I recalled hearing about it from somewhere and as I thought of Moby Dick when I heard it. I really like Moby Dick. I didn’t realize the Biblical implication until the book itself informed me; I confess I’m not very (at all) familiar with Biblical references. Thankfully, any presented in the course of the novel were sufficiently explained.

The premise of Ishmael is about a gorilla (Ishmael) that is teaching a guy about culture and the world in order to save it. Throughout the book the pair banter and deconstruct and analyze Human culture and the trajectory of Human civilization. They break down people into Takers and Leavers. Takers believing they own the world and are the…aggressive types. We, for example, are Takers. Leavers think the world owns the world and are passive. Takers, of course, are responsible for the decline of the world and general mess. Leavers are constantly being taken out by the Takers.

A big thrust of Ishmael is that ‘Mother Culture’ has loaded us with preconceived ideas about how the world works. Such as that the world is humanity’s or that the world was chaotic before we got there and so on. That these are opinions people assume as facts. This line of reasoning reminded me strongly of Krishnamurti who wrote quite a bit on deconstructing perception and obtaining purer knowledge. The philosophy presented by Daniel Quinn is pretty similar to Krishnamurti; I wonder if Krishnamurti was a tangential influence.

I was asking myself while I was reading Ishmael why it was that it was on a shelf. It is not very technical or programming related, but the core idea of it can be extended to improving design-skills. Removing assumptions and biases to see things with more open eyes. It is a powerful skill that takes effort to focus. The Socratic-style method works well obtaining that realization. Overtime of having read various works concerning this subject, I’d like to think I’ve progressed along that path in some not-insignificant way. There is always more to go, though.