Dogma – As You Were

As You Were – looking for connections between the work of Brené Brown and Daniel Quinn as I revisit them in book clubs. See the introductory post for what this is all about. In this post, I look at:

  • Daniel Quinn Book Club — Ishmael, week 5: chapter 9
  • Brené Brown Book Club — The Gifts of Imperfection, starting week 5-6 reading: Guidepost #3 – Guidepost #6


Chapter 9

“So you see that your agricultural revolution is not an event like the Trojan War, isolated in the distant past and without direct relevance to your lives today. The work begun by those neolithic farmers in the Near East has been carried forward from one generation to the next without a single great, right into the present moment. It’s the foundation of your vast civilization today in exactly the same way that it was the foundation of the very first farming village… It explains why the revolution was necessary and why it must be carried forward at any cost whatever.” Parallels trauma — it evokes not just a response in the moment but a way of being that can last indefinitely and that we can feel compelled to cling to.

“The Takers adopted as their own a story that had originated among Leavers many centuries before.” Protector parts of us entrench their own identity and meaning based on the responses/beliefs/experiences of traumatized/exiled parts of us.

“This is indeed the proper knowledge of the gods: the knowledge of who shall live and who shall die.” The knowledge of what parts see the light of day and have power to act and be seen, and what parts don’t.

“Not knowing the truth, he might say to himself, ‘Whatever I can justify doing is good and whatever I cannot justify doing is evil.'” Parallels individual self-righteousness/judgment.

“Grow, for this is good.” We puff ourselves up, self-aggrandize.

“They’ve demonstrated it by forcing everyone in the world to do what they do, to live the way they live. Everyone had to be forced to live like the Takers, because the Takers had the one right way.” People pressure others to be like them, to conform, in all sorts of mundane ways. Judgment, self-righteousness, controlling/manipulating others.

“And if they got tired of being agriculturalists, if they found they didn’t like where it was leading them in their particular adaptation, they were able to give it up. They didn’t say to themselves, ‘Well, we’ve got to keep going at this even if it kills us, because this is the right way to live.'” Healthy, mature, wholehearted people are adaptive and flexible rather than rigid and dogmatic.

The Gifts of Imperfection

Guidepost #3 — Cultivating A Resilient Spirit: Letting Go of Numbing and Powerlessness

“‘She could never go back and make the details pretty. All she could do was move forward and make the whole beautiful.’ -Terri St. Cloud” Quinn says he is not telling us to back, because there is no going back. There is only moving forward from where we are.

“Spirituality is recognizing and celebrating that we are all inextricably connected to each other by a power greater than all of us, and that our connection to that power and to one another is grounded in love and compassion. Practicing spirituality brings a sense of perspective, meaning, and purpose to our lives.” Quinn in The Story of B talks about humans having evolved with a sense of the sacred. He talks throughout his work about humans having evolved with a sense of belonging to the world, a sense of connection to the world. Even in descriptions of Leavers hunting prey there is a sense of gratitude and connection. Even in descriptions of Leavers defending against other Leavers, even occasionally by killing some, there is a sense of a strong boundary that nevertheless does not require dehumanization and genocide — it may be the edge of compassion, but I think it is compassion nonetheless.

“Who benefits by my seeing these images and feeling bad about myself? Hint: This is ALWAYS about money and/or control.” There is a strong sense in her work of how problematic cultural hierarchy and inequity are.

“… trying to feel the feelings, staying mindful about numbing behaviors, and trying to lean into the discomfort of hard emotions.” Quinn talks about never fighting “nature,” always acceding to it, facing it. He talks about Leavers facing and finding meaning in the same truth that Joseph Campbell says is the “terrible truth about life,” that life lives on life. Leavers are people who lean in and don’t run away from uncomfortable things. Nothing that lives in the community of life can — can afford to.

“I didn’t find that any one interpretation of spirituality has the corner on the resilience market. It’s not about denominations or dogma.” Compare Quinn saying that all he says holds whether there is one god, more than one, or none.

“When we believe in that inextricable connection, we don’t feel alone.” Quinn refers to Takers as profoundly lonely people — and describes them as denying their connection to the rest of the community of life.

Guidepost #4 — Cultivating Gratitude and Joy: Letting Go of Scarcity and Fear of the Dark

“I’ve since learned that an attitude is an orientation or a way of thinking and that ‘having an attitude’ doesn’t always translate to a behavior.” Compare Quinn’s various discussions about the disconnect between Taker values and what Takers actually live out, about there often being a stated goal in a system that is contradicted by the system’s actual design. Compare Quinn’s distinction of vision — which gives rise to the inevitable direction a culture goes — vs. programs — attempts to put “sticks in the river of vision” because you don’t like where it’s flowing, but which can never change the course of the river the way a change of vision could.

“These are anxious and fearful times, both of which breed scarcity. We’re afraid to lose what we love the most, and we hate that there are no guarantees. We think not being grateful and not feeling joy will make it hurt less. We think if we can beat vulnerability to the punch by imagining loss, we’ll suffer less. We’re wrong.” Compare Quinn’s descriptions of Takers as needing control, power, needing to conquer and rule rather than live with undesired effects, despite conquering and ruling being both impossible and self-destructive.

“Because we’re starving from a lack of gratitude. Lynne says that addressing scarcity doesn’t mean searching for abundance but rather choosing a mind-set of sufficiency: ‘… By sufficiency, I dont mean a quantity of anything. Sufficiency isn’t two steps up from poverty or one step short of abundance. It isn’t a measure of barely enough or more than enough. Sufficiency isn’t an amount at all. It is an experience, a context we generate, a declaration, a knowing that there is enough, and that we are enough.'” Compare Takers being unsustainable despite always being obsessed with having and getting more vs. Leavers being sustainable and always having enough. Compare Takers feeling people are flawed (never enough) while Leavers don’t. Compare Quinn says that living “Beyond Civilization” means being free to choose your level of living as opposed to it having to be some particular “low” level, but that this comes from being in a culturally meaningful context.

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