The Question...ID: 373
updated: 14 Dec 1998
New interest in ISHMAEL, as I'm sure you know, has been spawned by the band Pearl Jam in the last year. Do you have any thoughts about their use of the book as inspiration for the production of their album YIELD and more specifically the song "Do the Evolution"? Just wondering if you'd heard it and what you thought.
YIELD sits on my desktop and I often give it a listen (in fact, writing this answer gave me an excuse to play it again). A teacher once told me that even though he wasn’t teaching ISHMAEL or the material in ISHMAEL, the book had changed the WAY he teaches. This pleased me more than if he’d said he was teaching my ideas. Another went to a lot of trouble to try to capture all the ideas in my books in a ninety-minute “motivational” speech. I told him he shouldn’t just try to capture my ideas in his words, he had to go BEYOND my ideas to find his OWN ideas, his OWN way of motivating people. This is what Eddie Vedder has done. He hasn’t tried to express my ideas in his songs. Changed by reading my work, he’s written songs he wouldn’t have written two years ago—but his own songs, not any songs I would ever write (if I were a song-writer). Inspiration is very different from recapitulation. The credits of he movie INSTINCT say it was “inspired” by ISHMAEL, but it makes no effort to recapitulate ISHMAEL. Of the songs in YIELD, “Do the Evolution” comes closest to being an expression of my ideas, but I suspect Vedder would find many other, more subtle connections. Two or three writers have changed my life forever in works I haven’t read for decades. I’m certainly not writing anything they would write---but the “inspiration” they gave me never goes away.
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