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The Ishmael Companion
Beyond Civilization
 Study Guide


  The Ishmael Community: Questions and Answers

The Question...

ID: 530
posted: 15 Dec 2001
updated: 15 Dec 2001

In Beyond Civilization, you mention an incident in which you almost killed someone. Since you write "remind me to tell you about it sometime," I'm reminding you.

It happened in Chicago, in the summer of 1966 or 1967. I, my second wife, Mary, and a friend had just come out of a restaurant after dinner and were strolling west on Chicago Avenue just north of Michigan Avenue. We were paying no attention to a seedy-looking guy walking toward us with his chin on his chest. But when he was right in front of us he suddenly took a big swing at Mary, hitting her a glancing blow in the chest. The momentum of the swing carried him toward me, and without the slightest whisper of a thought, I grabbed him by the collar and belt and started running him down the street. When he realized that I was aiming his head at a big fat iron mailbox, he had the wit to go limp, and we both went down on the sidewalk. A cop car was at our side almost instantly. They got our story, shoved the guy in the back, and took him away, and that was that. When I grabbed the guy, I fully intended to turn his head into mush on that mailbox. I didn't think about it for a nanosecond; if I had, I wouldn't have done it, because, after all, he didn't pose any real threat and had barely touched my wife. It wasn't a decision, it was a reaction as automatic as blinking your eye when a fly makes a pass at it--the autonomic nervous system working in high gear, completely beyond rational control, something I'd never experienced before and hope I never experience again. The guy was drunk, of course--but luckily (for both of us) sober enough to know when to duck.

category: I Have a Question About Daniel Quinn
keywords: Evolution,Quinn's Motivations

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