The Question...ID: 496
posted: 28 Oct 2000
updated: 01 Apr 2002
Your novel Ishmael leaves me wondering how, as an individual, can I go about effecting change? Certainly through teaching and sharing of ideas, but what did you have in mind when writing this book? What would your narrator have done in the days and years following his encounter with Ishmael? Somehow, recycling, cutting down on consumption, and trying not to pollute too much just doesn't seem like enough.
By far the most frequently asked question I receive is some form of "Yes, but . . . what exactly am I supposed to DO?" There is no single recipe for saving the world (anymore than there is a single recipe for making a cake or building an aircraft). Rather there are six billion recipes, one for each of us, since each of us is uniquely placed in the world, with unique talents, opportunities, and circles of influence.
Humanity is teetering on the edge of extinction, and its future will be decided in the next half century. What is one to do about this? Albert Einstein said, "The world we have created is a product of our thinking. It cannot be changed without changing our thinking."
I've often likened our situation to the beginning of the Renaissance. People weren't running around asking themselves, "How do we make this thing work?" The Renaissance didn't come about because people began to do new things; rather, new things began to be done because people were thinking in a new way. A new synergy developed that transformed European society. This is what must happen again, now, and this is something we can all collaborate on (and must collaborate on).
You ask what the narrator "would have done" following his encounter with Ishmael. That should be obvious. Ishmael told him to "teach a hundred what I've taught you and encourage them to teach a hundred." He did even better than that. He wrote a narrative of his encounter with Ishmael, thus sharing it with hundreds of thousands of readers around the world. That's not something "everyone" can do, of course. It was just what he could do, which is what everyone must discover for himself or herself (which was true for me as well).
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