Wednesday, March 22, 2017

Ishmael Forgotten?

The other day, while delivering a package to a customer, I told him I admired his statue of the Buddha that sat in a grove of pines just outside his house. He's a retired professor that spends a lot of time writing in simple but beautiful house just off the gravel road. We talked briefly about some of his missionary work, religious leaders like Thomas Merton, children, and writing. And, like usual, Ishmael, by Daniel Quinn entered the conversation. I've pretty much resigned myself to this phenomenon that occurs in my occasional exchanges. It's a pattern that’s been occurring for close to two decades now. I presume it'll continue until I no longer walk the earth.

Once I brought up the book his face lit up and he said, "Oh, yes! Ishmael. That was written way back..."

"In 1992, the year I graduated high school." I said.

"That’s right. I loved that book. It's probably one of the most important books of the 20th century. Now it's sadly been largely forgotten" He added.

"Did you know," I added "that Quinn studied under Thomas Merton briefly when he was a young man."

"No, I had no idea"

"Yeah, it was brief. Merton thought Quinn needed more real world experience so he had him leave the monastery. He wrote about it in "Providence," his autobiography." I informed him.

"Well, I had no idea he had an autobiography out. I am going in the house and ordering it from the bookstore right now!"

And off he went. I got back in my mail jeep and headed on down the dusty mail trail. Just as I pulled up to the next mailbox a half-a-mile or so away it occurred to me the professor's assessment on the longevity of Quinn's masterpiece was a bit off. We wouldn't have been talking about the book and its' author and he wouldn't be in the house on the phone with the bookstore ordering the autobiography of the man behind the book.

These words on page 248, I believe, still ring true to these ears today:

What you do is teach a hundred what I've taught you, and inspire each of them to teach a hundred. That's how it's always done" - Ishmael, p. 248

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