Monday, January 23, 2006

Thar she blows!

Have I mentioned that I'm enjoying Moby Dick? I must admit to a degree of schadenfreude in my reading of it back in high school: due to an extremely bad cold that coincided with the best snowstorm ever, one that resulted in glorious days of sledding and snowball fights for everyone but me, home alone with a box of tissues, smelling of Vicks Vapor Rub, I polished off the book while everyone else was just getting started, and found it quite entertaining that many of them never managed to make it all the way through.

This time it's just pure unadulterated fun—at least until S. decides to stage a mutiny. So far so good.

Some of the quotes I've marked from the early chapters:

Though I cannot tell why it was exactly that those stage managers, the Fates, put me down for this shabby part of a whaling voyage, when others were set down for magnificient parts in high tragedies, and short and easy parts in genteel comedies, and jolly parts in farces—though I cannot tell why this was exactly; yet, now that I recall all the circumstances, I think I can see a little into the springs and motives which being cunningly presented to me under various disguises, induced me to set about performing the part I did, besides cajoling me into the delusion that it was a choice resulting from my own unbiased freewill and discriminating judgment.

Methinks that in looking at things spiritual, we are too much like oysters observing the sun through the water, and thinking that thick water the thinnest of air.

Yes, the world's a ship on its passage out, and not a voyage complete; and the pulpit is its prow.

I'll try a pagan friend, thought I, since Christian kindness has proved but hollow courtesy.

I was a good Christian; born and bred in the bosom of the infallible Prebyterian Church. How then could I unite with this wild idolator in worshipping his piece of wood? But what is worship? thought I. Do you suppose now, Ishmael, that the magnanimous God of heaven and earth—pagans and all included—can possibly be jealous of an insignificant bit of black wood? Impossible! But what is worship?—to do the will of God? that is worship. And what is the will of God?—to do to my fellow man what I would have my fellow man to do to me—that is the will of God. Now, Queequeg is my fellow man. And what do I wish that this Queequeg would do to me? Why, unite with me in my particular Presbyterian form of worship. Consequently, I must then unite with him in his; ergo, I must turn idolator. So I kindled the shavings; helped prop up the innocent little idol; offered him burnt biscuit with Queequeg; salamed before him twice or thrice; kissed his nose; and that done, we undressed and went to bed, at peace with our own consciences and all the world.

From Icelandic, Dutch, and old English authorities, there might be quoted other lists of uncertain whales, blessed with all manner of uncouth names. But I omit them as altogether obsolete; and can hardly help suspecting them for mere sounds, full of Leviathanism, but signifiying nothing.

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