Sunday, February 11, 2007

Rooting for Ahab





















With its propensity to get everything wrong, Postmodern Relativism has inverted Ahab and Moby Dick; has made the hero a fiend, the monster majestic. That this fraud could be so easily and completely perpetrated on America’s “educated elites” is only understandable when one realizes that, of the thousands of professors and students dissecting Moby Dick, almost none have actually read the book. Of those who have, few are capable of placing the story in proper context. Couple the Relativist drive to call evil good and good evil with the new environmentalism which imagines any thing wild, from forest fires to malaria viruses, praiseworthy while despising all the works of man, and the elevation of Melville embodiment of evil, the white whale, into some kind of nature fetish was inevitable.



What a pity, we lose the power of the book, the magic of the poetry, and meanwhile Ahab, the personification of man’s nobility, is labeled depraved in the lectures that program lit students in the “blame the West, blame the man,” cultural of guilt. It is not my intention here to present all the proofs of my position. I admit that the references I will sight will be pulled out of context but I am confident that further discussion and deeper readings that revel the background to these quotes will only strengthen my claims.




















As a quick aside, I want to mention how pleasant it is to read Herman Melville, a man who wrote outside the influence of Ernest Hemingway and the high school English teachers who exalted him. It is so pleasant to share an idea with an author who credits you with the ability of following a thought through a sentence of more than eight words.



Proposition One, The Whale is Evil:






















Moby Dick – Malignant – “It was hardly to be doubted, that several vessels reported to have encountered, at such or such a time, or on such or such a meridian, a Sperm Whale of uncommon magnitude and malignity, which whale, after doing great mischief to his assailants, had completely escaped them,. To some minds it was not an unfair presumption I say, that the whale in question must have been no other than Moby Dick.” (Herman Melville, Moby-Dick, Barnes & Noble Books, New York, 1994, pg 176) Moby Dick representative of the gliding demon in the seas of all life – “How it was that they so aboundingly responded to the old man’s ire – by what evil magic their souls were possessed, that at times his hate seemed almost theirs; the White Whale as much their insufferable foe as his; how all this came to be -- what the White Whale was to them, or how to their unconscious understandings, also, in some dim, unsuspected way, he might have seemed the gliding great demon of the seas of life, -- all this to explain, would be to dive deeper than Ishmael can go.” (pg 185)

Evil embodied in the hue, white – “. . . there yet lurks an elusive something in the innermost idea of this hue, which strikes more of panic to the soul than that redness which affrights in blood. “This elusive quality it is, which cause the thought of whiteness, when divorced from more kindly associations, and coupled with any object terrible in itself, to heighten that terror to the furthest bounds. Witness the white bear of the poles, and the white shark of the tropics; what but their smooth, flaky whiteness makes them the transcendent horrors they are? That ghastly whiteness it is which imparts such an abhorrent mildness, even more loathsome than terrific, the dumb gloating of their aspect. So that not the fierce-fanged tiger in his heraldic coat can so stagger courage as the white-shrouded bear or shark.” (pg187) “What is it that in the Albino man so peculiarly repels and often shocks the eye, as that sometimes he is loathed by his own kith and kin? It is that whiteness which invests him, a thing expressed by the name he bears, The Albino is as well made as other men – has no substantive deformity – and yet this mere aspect of all-pervading whiteness makes him more strangely hideous than the ugliest abortion. Why should this be so?” (pg 189)















Moby Dick maims Ahab, murders whale-men again and again, and kills the son of the Captain of the Rachel. Moby Dick is the unthinking force of nature which man must tame in order to become God’s steward on earth. Moby Dick is the fear that must be faced; the evil that must be mastered for man to manage his own soul.

Proposition Two – Ahab is the Hero:

Ahab is the Master - “What will the owners say, sir?’ Let the owners stand on Nantucket beach and out yell the Typhoons. What cares Ahab? Owners, owners? Thou are always prating to me, Starbuck, about those miserly owners, as if the owners were my conscience. But look ye, the only real owner of anything is its commander; and hark ye, my conscience is in the ship’s keel. – On deck!” “Captain Ahab.” Said the reddening mate, moving further into the cabin, with a daring so strangely respectful and cautious that it almost seemed not only every way seeking to avoid the slightest outward manifestation of itself, but within also seemed more than half distrustful of itself; “A better man than I might well pas over in thee what he would quickly enough resent in a younger man; aye and in a happier, Captain Ahab.” “Devils! Dost thou then so much as dare to critically think of me? __ On deck!” “Nay, sir, not yet: I do entreat. And I do dare, sir – to be forbearing! Shall we not understand each other better than hitherto, Captain Ahab?” Ahab sized a loaded musket from the rack (Forming part of most South-Sea-men’s cabin furniture), and pointing it towards Starbuck, exclaimed; “Therein one God that is Lord over the earth, and one Captain that is lord over the Pequot. __ On deck!” (pg 473)






















Ahab “defeats” the St. Elmo’s fire, and the fears of his crew - “The boat! the boat! cried Starbuck, “look at the boat, old man!” Ahab’s harpoon, the one forged at Perth’s fire, remained firmly lashed in its conspicuous crotch, so that it projected beyond his whale-boat’s bow; but the sea that had stove its bottom had caused the loose leather sheath to droop off; and from the keen steel barb there now came a leveled flame of pale, forked fire. AS the silent harpoon burned there like a serpent’s tongue, Starbuck rasped Ahab by the arm –“God, God is against thee, old man; forbear! t’is an ill voyage! Ill began, ill continued; let me square the yards, while we may, old man, and make a fair wind of it homewards, to go on a better voyage than this.” “Over hearing Starbuck, the panic-stricken crew instantly ran to the braces – though not a sail was left aloft. For the moment all the aghast mate’s thoughts seemed theirs; they raised a half mutinous cry. But dashing the rattling lightning links to the deck, and snatching the burning harpoon, Ahab waved it like a torch among them; swearing to transfix with it the first sailor that but cast loose a rope’s end. Petrified the men fell back in dismay, and Ahab again spoke: -- “All your oaths to hunt the White Whale are as binding as mine; and heart, soul, and body, lungs ad life, old Ahab is bound. And that ye may now to what tune this heart beats; look ye here; thus I blow out the last fear!” And with one blast of his breath he extinguished the flame.” (pgs 503 – 504)



Ahab fixes the broken compass of the Pequot – “Men,” said he, steadily turning upon the crew, as the mate handed him the things he had demanded, “My men, the thunder turned old Ahab’s needles; but out of this bit of steel Ahab can make one of his own, that will point as true as any.” “Abashed glances of servile wonder were exchanged by the sailors, as this was said; and with fascinated eyes they awaited whatever magic might follow. But Starbuck looked away. With a blow fro the top-mal Ahab knocked off the steel head of the lance, and then handing to the mate the long iron rod remaining, bade him hold it upright, without its touching the deck. Then, with the maul, after repeatedly smiting the upper end of this iron rod, he hammered that, several times, the mate still holding the rod as before. Then going through some small strange motions with it – whether indispensable to the magnetizing of the steel, or merely intended to augment the awe of the crew, is uncertain – he called for linen thread; and moving to the binnacle, slipped out the two reversed needles there, and horizontally suspended the sail-needle by its middle, over one of the compass-cards. At first, the steel went round and round, quivering and vibrating at either end; but at last it settled to its place, when Ahab, who had been intently watching for this result, stepped frankly back from the binnacle, and pointing his stretched arm towards it, exclaimed, --“Look ye, for yourselves, if Ahab be not lord of the level loadstone! The sun is East, and the compass swears it!” (pgs 512-513)























Ahab speaks before he finally defeats Moby Dick, albeit at the cost of his own life: “. . . Oh, now I feel my topmost greatness lies in my topmost grief. Ho, ho! From all your furthest bounds, pour ye now in, ye bold billows of my whole foregone life, and top this one piled comber of my death! Towards thee I roll, thou all destroying but unconquering whale; to the last I grapple with thee; from hell’s heart I stab at thee; for hate’s sake I spit my last breath at thee. Sink all coffins and all hearses to one common pool! And since neither can be mine, let me then tow to pieces, while still chasing thee, though tied to thee, thou damned whale! Thus, I give up the spear!”

“The harpoon was darted; the stricken whale flew forward; with igniting velocity the line ran through the groove; --ran foul. Ahab stooped to clear it; he did clear it; but the flying turn caught him round the neck, and voicelessly as Turkish mutes bowstring their victim, he was shout out of the boat, ere the crew knew he was gone. Next instant, the heavy eye-splice in the rope’s final end flew out of the stark-empty tub, knocked down an oarsman, and smiting the sea, disappeared in its depths.” (pgs 566-567)






















Whether the stricken whale died or not is open to debate, Melville is, at the last, not clear. But that Ahab was not defeated, although destroyed, remains the powerful lesson of the book. As America faces a “Mission Impossible” we might well ask where we can find a hero like Ahab.


I was so disappointed in the mini-series of Moby Dick staring Patrick Stewart. It seemed that if anyone could fill Gregory Peck's boot – it seemed to me to be Picard. Surly he would portray Ahab as Ahab was meant to be. Instead they reduced Ahab to a cowardly crazy man. What was even more disappointing about the made for T.V. version is the racism that infused the plot line. In strict contrast to the book, where representatives of all races are deliberately given the positions of most importance, the movie made the crew into a mass of gibbering savages and their bigoted Quaker masters. I couldn’t stand to watch the program in one sitting. I did force it down in bites like bitter herbs, hoping for some satisfaction. It never came.

In the book, I also love the relationship between Ishmael and Queequeg, that George Washington of cannibals. I enjoyed their marriage, surly a “merry” one, and how they knelt together to worship the God of the Universe manifest in a bit of burnt wood and their sacred friendship.

There are many manifestations of the Ahab style hero found throughout history. Often there are those who brand them monomaniacal, and mock them; only to find, that, in the end, they were the true heroes. Reagan’s great success by sticking with his attack on the evil empire till it sank and died, is a great example. Especially because many thought he could never win!


















To better understand Moby Dick, I recommend you read two other books written by whale-men. The best is called The Cruse of the Cachalot by Frank T. Bullen. It is easer reading than Moby Dick, and just a beautiful, perhaps even more exciting as far as the whaling goes. The second, though not on a par with the other two is Whale Hunt by Nelson Cole Haley.

77 comments:

Aeneas said...

I read Moby Dick and I completely agree with your interpretation: that Ahab represents the hero and Moby Dick evil. The whole point of the discussion of the color white is to foreshadow the white whale and reveal its evil and deceptive nature. I have found that most people who disagree with the notion that Ahab was the hero of the book, usually have not read the book and get the opinions of the story from the opinions expressed in such movies as "Star Trek: First Contact", or the cartoon, "Tom and Jerry".

Just a word about Reagan. Critiques of Ronald Reagan attempted to disparage his character and his foreign policies by comparing him to Ahab. (See cartoon). Though not meant as such, the comparison was a compliment to the President. Reagan's continued battle against communism, (waged even in the face of its continued unpopularity), proved to be the correct course of action; communism was finally defeated in Europe.

Anonymous said...

Ahab's history is recorded in 1 Kings 16-22. His wife was Jezebel, who exercised a very evil influence over him. To the calf-worship introduced by Jeroboam he added the worship a Baal. He was severly admonished by Elijah for his WICKEDNESS. For this reason, his anger was kindled against the prophet, and he sought to kill him. Although the prophet Micaiah warned him not to renew the war by assaulting the city of Ramoth-gilead, that he would not succeed, and that the 400 false prophets who encouraged him were only leading him to his ruin. Micaiah was imprisoned for trying to dissuade Ahab from his purpose. Because of Ahab's idolatry, lust, and covetousness, Ahab is referred to as an excellent example of a WICKED KING.

This is the original Ahab upon who Melville very definitivel fashioned the namesake for his novel -- he baptizes Ahab's harpoon Ego no baptizo te in nomine patris. Sed nomine diaboli. I do NOT baptize you in the name of the father, but of HELL.

Melville associated Christianity not with faith, hope and charity, but with militaristic nationalism, ethnocentrism, slavery, and predatory capitalism.

I suppose, for some, Melville's Ahab, holds a unique fascination as a powerful archangel of Hell; though, surely he was NEVER a person upon which to trust the future of a ship or of a country!!!!

a quiet listener said...

the first anonymous paragraph was plagiarized from this site:

http://www.christiananswers.net/dictionary/ahab.html

and give me a minute and i'll find the rest after my Thermodynamics class.

Lysis said...
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Lysis said...
This comment has been removed by the author.
Lysis said...

“He’s a queer man, Captain Ahab – so some think – but a good one. Oh, thou’lt like him well enough; no fear, no fear . . . He’s Ahab, boy; and Ahab of old, thou knowest, was a crowned king!” [Peleg]

“And a very vile one. When that wicked king was slain, the dogs, did they not lick his blood?” [Ishmael]

“Come hither to me – hither, hither,” Said Peleg, with significance in his eye that almost startled me. “Look ye, lad; never say that on board the Pequod. Never say it anywhere. Captain Ahab did not name himself. ’Twas a foolish, ignorant whim of his crazy, widowed mother, who died when he was only a twelvemonth old.” (Moby Dick, Easton Press, Norwalk, Connecticut, 177, pg 85)

Be careful Flaccid, remember Ahab did not name himself. We must be careful to judge Ahab by his works, not by the whims of the foolish and ignorant. To Ahab was entrusted the destruction of evil. That was his task; he accomplished it in the end.

A Quiet Listener:

Thanks for the heads up. Again we are facing the “professor student anonymous force feeding cycle”. An anonymous source pushing its anonymous ideas on an unread anonymous. He scoops it up and shovels it our way, with no context but his scoop.

Lysis said...
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Lysis said...

Let’s examine a little more from Flaccid’s scoop full. He says, or quotes – which we’re never sure:

“Melville associated Christianity not with faith, hope and charity, but with militaristic nationalism, ethnocentrism, slavery, and predatory capitalism.”

What plausible evidence for this ridiculous claim does Flaccid give? None, at best he heard it in a class somewhere, at worst, he plagiarized it from some internet site without reading or comprehending.

I have already sited above the example of faith, hope, and charity – exemplified by the friendship of Queequeg and Ishmael. The ethnocentrism charge is laughable. The greatest heroes of the story – save Ahab himself - the harpooners in the four fighting boats are: a black man, a Southeast Asian, an American Indian, and a Pacific Islander. As for slavery, there in no hint of slavery on the Pequot. Everything position and all respect are assigned by ability regardless of race or previous condition of servitude. I would like an example of militaristic anything in *Moby Dick*. I am serious; I may have forgotten the reference. As for predatory capitalism – what’s wrong with that?

Again, Flaccid, if you are going to post blanket accusations against Melville or Ahab, please provide some support from the book, not from some “professors” lecture on a book neither he nor his “students” have ever read. Otherwise all you provide is further support for my original premise.

Anonymous said...

Rump:
Zealousness created by excessive and ritualistic behaviour that becomes meaningless in repetition were the themes of my previous to last posting -- why deliberately MIS read what was clearly meant?

Did I suffer for them????

Some people pledge -- some people put their ass on the line -- some do both. Hess did both -- my posting did not allude to Hess -- I have NO PROBLEM with Hess' experiences or conduct -- from your account, it was exemplary.

Did I suffer for Hess???? How does Hess', suffering mitigate if I or students say the pledge MORE OFTEN -- how many times DID I say the pledge? Fewer than you???? -- with a louder voice???? -- with greater fervor????

Many citizens are sensitive to the humiliation of those who do not recite or pledge for religious/ethical reasons. Because YOU aren't sensitive to their plight doesn't make you MORE patriotic -- it makes you more of a boorish hypocrite.

Read your history book for horrifying examples of oaths and state/religion conflicts.

I think it is VERY important to be FREE to say the pledge as OFTEN as a citizen so chooses. I think it EQUALLY IMPORTANT to be FREE NOT to say the PLEDGE, nor be forced, nor humiliated for not doing so.

Yes, furthering non-pledging student alienation and humiliation by making non-conforming students into an object lesson DOES seem like something Lysis would subscribe to in all zealousness!!!!

Of course, those parents could present Lysis with his OWN object lesson --"See you in court."

truth to power said...

I agree in part in disagree in part with Anonymous' statement: "I think it is VERY important to be FREE to say the pledge as OFTEN as a citizen so chooses. I think it EQUALLY IMPORTANT to be FREE NOT to say the PLEDGE, nor be forced, nor humiliated for not doing so."

I agree up until "nor humiliated".
This is an extremely important principle of liberal democracy. Freedom of speech includes the right to humiliate. We are free to criticize, insult, tease, lampoon. This is one of the cornerstones of our freedom. You yourself frequently, if lamely, exercise these rights at the Agora.

Didn't you get the memo? The Left has recently rediscovered the idea that free speech is about expressing opinions, not just selling dirty pictures.

Lysis said...

Truth to Power;

Well said. I would stop short of humiliating students. What is amazing to me is that Flaccid thinks that not saying the Pledge is humiliating. What troubles me is that he seems incapable of talking about students choices without attacking them and facing a law suite.

Flaccid:

In just what way would explaining to a class the justifiable and very patriotic reason a Jehovah Witness might choose to exercise their freedom of religion and right to free speech be twisted into an attack. Perhaps you would do it that way. As TTP has pointed out you are usually in attack mode.

I see a dangerous pattern in your philosophy of teaching. You cannot see how giving students the truth will help them overcome their prejudices. Thus you leave them in ignorance regarding Jehovah Witness’s perfectly justifiable reason for not pledging to a flag, and at the same time allow them to develop a miss conception that somehow their equally sacred right to pledge themselves is some how tainted.

Why not take a few minuets from your busy lecture schedule – you could cut some off your scoop on *Moby Dick* to explain to your students the meanings behind the words they say. So many missed opportunities as you rage toward your agenda.

My students are very much enjoying our discussion. We have spent some time on it each period today. They have no trouble seeing the error of your ways. But then they are being taught to think.

a quiet listener said...

the rest of the paragraphs were stolen from this site:
http://www.geocities.com/soho/studios/5116/mobydick.htm

now what I'd like to know is why? It's obvious that anonymous hasn't even read Moby Dick before or he would have realized the error of his citing the "Wicked King Ahab." so why does anonymous see anything that lysis is for and immediately puts himself against it, and conversely when lysis is against something anonymous supports it. what do you have against lysis i wonder? why can't this forum be a place where we actually put out our OWN, thought-out opinions to try and learn something new?

Lysis said...

Flaccid;

As my students and I discussed your posts on the Pledge some interesting points came to light. On your complaint that the DI clerk wrote down your DL#:

“Every time I go to Dessert Industries and pay for my purchases with a check, the clerk dutifully checks my driver's license and writes down the numbers -- nothing wrong with that. When I point out that my DL# and Birth date are ALREADY preprinted and can just be verified, I'm ignored and the whole list of numerals written again anyway -- in fact, I and my check begin to be scrutinized with great suspicion!!!!

Sometimes I point out that the check doesn't get better the more times my diver's license # appears on it.”

It was pointed out by one student that she often sees checks were the printed numbers do not match the ones on the DL, and she has thus caught fraud. It was also noted that the purpose of the re-writing of the number was to insure that the employ was actually checking the number and not just taking the word of a customer.

Isn’t interesting how knowing the REASON behind something you though foolish makes it perfectly logical and you look the fool.

The second point I and my students found particularly amusing was the reference to law suits. First might I say – what a typical neo-lib response to anything. Secondly, we have come to the understanding that leaving your students in ignorance as to why the little girl did not pledge left her open to the prejudice of ignorance, (so apply demonstrated above by your unfounded anger against the workers at DI) and that such a breach of judgment would be far more justifiably censored by a court of law than any attempt to educate and inform students in such a way as to prevent their behaving improperly. Perhaps it is time to confess your flaws to your administrator and begin the sensitivity training.

Anonymous said...

The Bible says King Ahab was a wicked king and it's a fact -- scriptural evidence was cited and information that is commonly known to be true hardly needs citing.

Now find a credible source that thinks Ronald Reagan was heroic like King Ahab!!!!

The prototype for Melville's Ahab was the King Ahab of the Bible because Melville intended "Moby Dick" to be iconoclastic and its notions of Good and Evil consequentially are paradoxical and inverted. There is much about Ahab that Melville created specifically for traditional Christianity to DETEST; (he told Hawthorne he had written a 'wicked book') but Melville did not make his protagonist a stereotype of EVIL or of GOOD.

That, so to speak, Ahab shakes his fist at GOD in open defiance makes the reader both cringe at his sacriledge and admire his indominatable spirit!!!!

He knows he cannot win -- he procedes anyway in open defiance, and accepts his fate as all men surely must one day.

Anonymous said...

No.
Every place I do business DOES verify my DL# against the number on my check when I point out that it's preprinted -- most circle to verify the numbers.

No anger at DI cashiers at all -- most often they apologize for the stupid policy and wish they could circle the numbers that are there already instead of the mindless repetition. Transcribing numbers to check certainly doesn't necessarily avoid errors.

Anonymous said...

For students to empathize at the embarrassment of another whose religion is made to appear politically aberrant is praiseworthy and needs no correction or further instruction!!!!

Anonymous said...

Every one of her classmates knew why she didn't pledge -- she had not pledged throughout grade school and junior high for the same reason, and EVERYONE knew of her reasons. It never grew old for her -- sitting silently as everyone stood, took much courage and conviction, but it still made her feel harrassed and intimidated as it OBVIOUSLY WAS INTENDED TO DO WHEN PUBLIC COMPLIANCE IS MADE A REQUIREMENT!!!!

Anonymous said...

"Freedom of speech includes the right to humiliate." -TTP

Well, I thought the days of "tar and feather" had passed . . . we are in the Old West, but not moving passed the Old South are we?

From the days of the Inquisition and Star Chamber it has taken hundreds of years to rid the earth of IGNORANCE like, "Freedom of speech includes the right to humiliate."

Turn your back and one of Lysis' devoted disciples, hot out of one of his "taught to think" classes, mucks up the whole mess again by wanting to drag the country back to "the good ol' days."

A few context clues might help orient TTP to the Twentieth Century.

The real OTHER rights that might circumscribe and preempt TTP's right to humiliate; ie, ALL the various rights NOT to be harrassed, and ALL the various rights NOT to be abused.

Jehovah's Witnesses and the LDS Church have ALWAYS been very LITIGIOUS when it comes to securing their independent religious rights and identities from harrassment and persecution --and NO they didn't have to be neolibs first.

Anonymous said...

Twenty-first!!!!

truth to power said...

I said nothing about harassment nor abuse. I wrote about freedom of speech. Everyone has the right to say whatever they want about my religion. No matter how offensive their opinions, they will never be harassment nor abuse. And they will always be constitutionally protected--thank God!

Lysis said...

That King Ahab was a wicked king, does not equal Captain Ahab was wicked, especially when Melville went out of his way to distance Ishmael, the narrator of the story, from that misconception. Give me some reference to Ahab of the Bible being the prototype to Ahab in *Moby Dick* beyond the clear denial of that claim which I have referenced. Quit quoting professors with agendas who have nether read nor understood the book.

Please give us the passage where Ahab shakes his fist at God. So we can discuss the actual passage rather than your teacher’s opinion of that passage.

I quote the passage about the “Baptism” of the harpoon:

“No, no – no water for that; I want it of the true death-temper. Ahoy, there! Tastego, Queequeg, Daggoo! What say ye, pagans! Will ye give me as much blood as will cover this barb?” Holding it high up. A cluster of dark nods replied, Yes. Three punctures were made in the heathen flesh, and the White Whale’s barbs were then tempered.

“Ego non baptize te in nominee patris, sed in nomine diaboli!” (I do not baptize you in the name of the Father, but in the name of the devil.)

This does not seem to me to be shaking ones fist at God. Melville goes to great length early in the book to point out that to the God of the Universe there are no differences in religion worthy of His concern. Please explain how baptizing a weapon meant to destroy evil in the name of the devil is “shaking ones fist at God”. It seems rather appropriate to me. Where is the sacrilege?

Why do you say Ahab knows he cannot win, he does win, he fights against evil to the end, the only victory we can have in this life!

Anonymous:

It seems everything you don’t understand is stupid. Isn’t it a wiser course to seek the answers rather than continually embarrass yourself by misinterpretations?

I am sorry that you embarrassed one of your students by making them appear politically aberrant; there was no need to do so. To not recite the Pledge is not politically aberrant, it is 100% American. Why didn’t you take the trouble to explain that to your students? I have done so all day long, using your actions as a catalyst for discussion. Not one student has had any bad feelings against your student or any other for exercising their right to freedom of religion or speech. I continue to be baffled by your inability to see that you are the one teaching hate and anger here. If they all knew the reason for her actions and made her feel harassed and intimidated; you should have taken the action necessary to alleviate the problem. I have found it rather a simple thing to do. But then I remember you have little faith in your students’ ability to be reasonable. Perhaps it comes from your own deficiency in that area.

I am astonished that you would think that the purpose of saying the Pledge of Allegiance is to make anyone feel harassed and intimidated. It is unreasonable to claim that that was the obvious intent of the requirement and to do so shows how shallow your understanding of the intent of the Legislature or the power of freedom.

As for your scolding of TTP for humiliating – I dismiss this easily by reminding you that it was your inaction, your inability to explain, your lack of trust in your students, your lack of faith in the wisdom of this little girl, that demonstrate to all thinking people who was humiliating her. It was you!

There would have been no harassment had you had the wit, the ability, and the desire to prevent it. But rather, it is obvious to us all that you found vent for your disagreement with the requirement to allow the recitation of the pledge to bring discomfort to a student in your charge when you could have helped but did not.

That the law does protect the religious rights of all students does not mean that a teacher who explains the truth need fear legal action. Rather, it is those, like you, who fail in their duties that seem who my students recognized as negligent and whose actions seemed actionable.

MindMechanic said...
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MindMechanic said...

I dont pretend to be an expert on this work, though I did dutifully read it in AP English. I found it a forced work...something I struggled through. I accept that at the time it was because I was a teenager and not because I was overly insightful.

However...reading up on the subject has revealed a few things that make me go hmmmmm...

1-My position about literature (like art) is that good literature makes you think. People are inspired by and attach meaning to it.

2-One of the articles I read stated that Melville had originally set out to write what was considered at the time a rather uninspiring tale of whaling based on his time aboard a whaling vessel. It wasnt until his literary idol, Nathaniel Hawthorne, suggested it that the deeper allegorical meaning was inserted.

Now...that leaves me with this position...

Who was the inspiration for the allegory...Melvilles own beliefs, or a desire to please Hawthorne?

Has Melvilles work been held up as "America's great novel" (Jung) precisely because people attach their significant meaning to it?

I think Ahab can be both hero and obsessed villain. I think Moby Dick can be both evil destroyer and hero. I think it will be to the beholder what they percieve it.

A case can certainly be made for the danger of obsession. A case can also be made for the noble cause of fighting evil, even if it is unto the death.

I have seen people write that Melville was rebelling against his Unitarian beliefs, that he was expressing a desire to untie the worlds religions, that his works were a poorly concealed attempt at explaining his own feelings of homosexuality, that he was a pacifist bemoaning wars, that his later works were meant to convey the despair he felt at the tragedy and loss that was the civil war, and that he foretold this current modern tragedy.

Me...I think he was a frustrated writer seeking critical acclaim and literary success.

And I think it has only passing bearing on the world today. Ahab sought the whale...true enough, but the whale was a whale...a mammal that was neither evil nor without guile. I would like to think that if I were the whale, I would try to take as many down with me as I could as well! Not likely would I go "gently into that good night"...I would be after all...a whale!

But the question is...is the battle today an obsessed battle with a worthy and unbeatable foe?

First define the foe. Define the motivation of the foe. Define the consequence of abandoning the battle and what the foe will then do.

Then decide it if be obsession or a just cause.

Lysis said...

Mindmechanic;

I enjoyed your thoughts; I also disagree with many of them, but have enjoyed the thoughts they have stirred in me. I would not have broached the ideas presented by Melville had I not wanted to go deep into this subject. I would like to ask you some questions.

1. What does it mean to “dutifully read it in AP English”? Do you think your opinion of Melville’s works, I also love *Billy Budd*, might deserve a little deeper insight than you high school experience gave you?

2. I am curious about the article that credits Hawthorne with deepening the meaning of Moby Dick. Could you give evidence for that claim?

3. And even if it is so, can one attempt to please an idol while presenting their own beliefs?

4. Would you compare the works of Hawthorn to *Moby Dick*?

5. What evidence do you have that Moby Dick is any kind of a hero. Had an author chosen to write about Pasture’s fight with rabies; would it be legitimate to consider the virus a hero, and in what light?

6. Is it wrong to be an author seeking critical acclaim and literary success, does that some how cheapen the “Great American Novel” when it was written?

7. You say that Moby Dick has only passing bearing on the world today. Have you considered the universal truths that are central to all great literature, that make the words of Homer far more cogent to today than the rantings that Norman Maller produced last week?

8. If Moby Dick “is only a whale” would you consider that something could be malignant without being consciously evil?

I will seek to define the foe. Moby Dick represents those forces in the natural that seek to destroy man, and the challenges that human beings face in their struggle to master the world, to control all things, to – as Bacon might express it – master the laws of the universe so we might control them.

I see the foe as hate, as racism, as the endless lust for power, the betrayal of love, the death of patriotism, as greed and avarice that denies the love of Christ. The foe is fanaticism; it is that ignorance that devours man’s divine nature and buries reason in anger. The foe is hunger, and fear, and disease, and flood, fire, earthquake, and the raging beasts that inhabit the deep and the night.

Against this foe we have only our humanity with which to answer; only our spark of individual divinity with which to face the yawning maw of hell. This foe is not a human, a reasoning and calculating being, it is a monster that operates without thought, but which can only be countered by thinking.

If we abandon our struggle with this foe we will slip back into the Leviathan, back into the dark age where might alone makes right, where justice is lost in the rage of the Furies, where the truth cannot be sought, where lies and superstition damn humanity to the endless blood feud; where even the blood of the sacred king cannot wash away the sins that are denial and pride.

I find it interesting that the only American book, other than *The Federalist Papers*, included in *The Great Books of the Western World* put out by Richardson and Addler, is *Moby Dick*. Perhaps I am somewhat supported in the high opinion I hold for this book. I have read it eight times – cover to cover – and perused it on many occasions. I would suggest you take another look.

No doubt we can all find our own thoughts in *Moby Dick*, as you say, that is one of the miracles of great art, but there are those who also try to push their agendas into the Master’s works. I may be one such, but you will need to know the book in order to demonstrate that.

I question the ideas you gleaned in your preparation to post. Is there anything wrong with desiring to unite the world’s religions? Do you consider it inappropriate for Melville to express his sexual interests in his own creation – and if he were a homosexual, would that cheapen his message?

I ask you, as I have asked Flaccid, where are the pacifist passages? I am truly eager to consider them. Give me an example that Melville felt there was anything lost in the civil war; other than the whaling industry.

Rumpole said...

Anonymy,

Apparently our conversation has escalated from a different perspective to a difference of opinion.

Nothing was misread from your post. You posted “I suffered a whole year for the agony of a young Jehovah's Witness student who, of course, never stood or recited. . .” You, Anonymy, now ask, “Did I suffer for Hess???? How does Hess’ suffering mitigate if I or students say the pledge MORE OFTEN. . .”

Does the suffering of your young friend demand that those in your class say the pledge less often? You brought suffering to the discussion. You seem so sensitive to the needs of others; isn’t it legitimate, then, to ask if you felt the same pain for those who sacrificed to give your young friend the opportunity to have a difference of opinion as you felt for your young friend herself?

I do not suggest that you take issue with Hess and his sacrifices. I do suggest, however, that you do not wish to respect those who wish to honor his sacrifices.

Perhaps you do not believe that recitation can become more than an exercise in memorization; perhaps you do not believe that recitation can become more than vain repetition; perhaps you do not believe that recitation can be a demonstration of sincere gratitude. If so you are in error in every instance.

You offer that I believe patriotism is defined by those who keep score on how many times the pledge is said, by the volume in their voice, or by the fervor in their voice. Now I must ask you, why have you deliberately MIS read my posting?

I have said nothing of the sort! What I have said is that “is it considered zealotry to recite the “pledge” once a day as a demonstration of gratitude? Is it too much to pause for a moment before a ball game to sing the national anthem?”

Is it?

Those citizens, as you point out, that are sensitive to the humiliation of your young friend’s plight, ought to be just as sensitive to those who wish to display their gratitude. If it has become “boorish” to expect the same privilege you offer that your young friend deserves, count me in. I’m a boorish hypocrite.

And where is the real source of her “humilitaion?”

You have not said whether you ever discussed both sides of the issue with your class. Your silence on the issue seems to indicate that you didn’t. That being the case, you are the one who is responsible for her “suffering.” Are your afraid of such an open discussion? Are you afraid of a difference of opinion? Are you afraid that real thinking might take place, thinking that you perhaps cannot control?

Again, why do you deliberately MIS read? Who has said anything about an “object lesson?” Aren’t you capable of conducting a discussion where both sides of a sensitive issue can be equally presented, better understood, and civilly disagreed upon with a deepened understanding from both perspectives?

Are the inmates running the asylum?

You have posted: “I think it is VERY important to be FREE to say the pledge as OFTEN as a citizen so chooses. I think it EQUALLY IMPORTANT to be FREE NOT to say the PLEDGE, nor be forced, nor humiliated for not doing so.”

I agree. I hope you are wise enough to end the humiliation you have already caused in your class.

MindMechanic said...

Lysis...




I sort of figured that you would disagree with much of my post and honestly...I really have no intention of defending it. I stated up front that I have no expertise here. Luckily you have given me the opportunity to poke and dig. Unlike the works of Homer, I simply wont have the time to re-read and study Moby Dick. I dont pretend to know Melville or his intent.

What I HAVE seen in the last few days of reading is the many and varied opinions of Melvilles intent. What I havent yet seen is HIS intent.

1. Absolutely...I could stand to give Moby Dick a more intense read. Realistically...it wont happen any time soon.

2. But a few of several sites made this similar claim-

His financial situation was poor and he was desperately in need of a publishing success. Nevertheless, he abandoned the nearly-finished romance to spend an entire year rewriting under a spell of intense intellectual ferment further heightened by the study of Shakespeare and a developing friendship with Nathaniel Hawthorne. The resulting work was finally shipped to Bentley on September 10, 1851: although it received many positive reviews, it sold poorly and accelerated the decline of Melville's literary reputation.

http://www.melville.org/hmmoby.htm

In 1847 Melville married Elisabeth Shaw, daughter of the chief justice of Massachusetts. After three years in New York, he bought a farm, "Arrowhead", near Nathaniel Hawthorne's home at Pittsfield, Massachusetts, and became friends with him for some time. Melville had almost completed Moby-Dick when Hawthorne encouraged him to change it from a story full of details about whaling, into an allegorical novel.

http://www.kirjasto.sci.fi/melville.htm

3. Absolutely...I suppose...sure...if that was their intent...maybe.

4. Wrong cat...this is more my wifes realm. I wouldnt compare the two...but apparently Melville thought highly enough of Hawthornes work to allow Hawthorne to influence him. I cant speak as to why.

5. Evidence? Nay! I dont offer evidence. I offered the position that Moby Dick was a whale...a great mammal that had been hunted by whaling vessels and had resisted their kind offer to make him oil.

6. I think it is interesting that it is only until many years after Melvilles death and following the different interpretations that Moby Dick began to be considered a great work of literature. And...again interesting that the differing opinions that declared it a great work did it while disagreeing with your perspective.

Again...I have no perspective...I dont have enough information to prop it up or put it down.

7. I agree that some literature is timeless and some of it worthless before the ink is dry. The value here is obvious...look at the conversation and thought it inspires.

But what is the timeless message? To you and others obviously it is that Ahab was the ultimate warrior fighting a timeless battle for good against the ultimate evil...but to others Ahab was the ultimate obsessed narcissist whose single sighted folly led to the loss of all involved with him.

I think I said...eye of the beholder...

8. If Moby Dick “is only a whale” would you consider that something could be malignant without being consciously evil?

I'll leave this one in place...

What is the nature of the beast? You have to be able to answer that to answer the question of simply bad or outright evil.

Many years ago I was a kid out hunting jackrabbits with my friends. We were wandering happily along, blasting away in the sunlight until I stopped and realized that I had wandered into a rattlesnake pit. I could FEEL the ground moving. Then I recognized the buzzing sound that I had attributed to some sort of locust...one rattlesnake makes a pretty distintive sound but several...well...its all just a buzz. I stayed perfectly still, remembering all the things I had learned about what to do in a situation like this, but after what felt like forever (but was more realistically 3-4 seconds), my fear got the best of me. I fired at everything that moved until I ran out of shells and then ran as fast as I could. Later, I could see several sets of twin fang scrapes on my knee high linesman boots. There but for the grace of God...a little higher...or if I had slipped...or simply stepped on the wrong spot...well..we wouldnt likely be having this conversation.

But would the snakes have been guilty of evil? I WAS the hunter. I WAS the aggressor.

Now...if the great whale where to be causing a ruckus at the Boston Commons...

"I would suggest you take another look."

I may well...

"there are those who also try to push their agendas into the Master’s works. I may be one such, but you will need to know the book in order to demonstrate that."

Indeed. Acknowledged.

I question the ideas you gleaned in your preparation to post. Is there anything wrong with desiring to unite the world’s religions? Do you consider it inappropriate for Melville to express his sexual interests in his own creation – and if he were a homosexual, would that cheapen his message?

I ask you, as I have asked Flaccid, where are the pacifist passages? I am truly eager to consider them. Give me an example that Melville felt there was anything lost in the civil war; other than the whaling industry.

MindMechanic said...

Lysis...

too much in one post!

"I question the ideas you gleaned in your preparation to post."

Really? And here...I didnt really think I was making any definitive statements re the book "Moby Dick" or Melville's intent.


"Is there anything wrong with desiring to unite the world’s religions?"

Nope...if that was in fact his intent...not even if he attempted to do so by using the Ahab character as an example of religion and the homosexual implications of Ishmael and Queequeg or the innocence of the pagan mates as the victims of religion...IF in fact that was his intent. IF...and not just the meaning assigned by those with an agenda.

"Do you consider it inappropriate for Melville to express his sexual interests in his own creation – and if he were a homosexual, would that cheapen his message?"

Not in the least...nor do I find it surprising that those with an agenda might make more of it than what might actually be there. IF it was actually there.

"I ask you, as I have asked Flaccid, where are the pacifist passages?"

Please reconsider what I wrote...

MANY people read, wrote, and assigned meaning INCLUDING those that see melancholy in conflict, an expression of pacifism, a rejection of Quaker/Unitarian faith, etc etc etc.

I do not.

After the MASH thread emphasis on script vs the ideal of the dangers of pacifism, I focused my post on the varied interpretations of the work and on the bigger picture of identifying the foe and the fight.
THAT is something that is valuable and timely in light of the world we live in.

I wont have much to add concerning Melville or the book. I dont pretend to know his intent. I did see several examples (posted previously) which indicate that Melville's original intent was to write a story and he was inspired/coerced to make the story epic. I don't know if that was the case or not. It doesn't CHANGE what the work became but I do think if it is true it DOES speak volumes to the authors intent, or lack thereof.

Anonymous said...

MM,

If you were hunting Osama bin Laden (you the hunter, the aggressor), would that make you evil and that evil man not?

MindMechanic said...

Anon...

"If you were hunting Osama bin Laden (you the hunter, the aggressor), would that make you evil and that evil man not?"

Are you implying that OBL is simply an innocent man minding his own business until I kicked in his door on the hunt?

Or are you implying that he is simply an animal without the ability of rational human thought?

I tend to think that there is a difference. I think people that live to plan and plot the death of as many innocent men, women, and children they can are at the least wrong, and at worst evil and yes, deserve to be hunted, stopped, and destroyed.

Are the police evil because they hunt criminals? Of course not.

Its a rather silly argument. I cant help but hope that it was a setup question and you have a deeper ulterior motive behind asking it. I hope you have some sort of pithy or striking response planned based on my answer.

Otherwise, equating the hunters of murderous terrorists to captain Ahab, and comparing OBL to the whale is sort of silly...at least in my book.

Lysis said...

To the new Anonymous, and Mindmechanic;

Another hero of mine, one who really lived, was a man named Jim Corbut. The largest Game preserve in India is named after him. In his later years he became a hunter of man-eaters. In India leopards and tigers often become man-eaters, and the people of the districts in which they lived suffered greatly until Corbut would come, and with courage, skill, and strength; risk his life to destroy the killers. Were the people any less blessed by his service or any less abused by the beasts because the killers could not reason?

Another hero is a man named John Patterson. The movie *The Ghost and the Darkness* us based on his experiences building a bridge in Uganda. Two lions began to feed on his workers, and he goes out, day after day night after night, in the greatest danger to hunt down and kill these two murdering beasts. He too is successful I the end and the people freed from danger and death by his service.

Moby Dick is based partly on an actual whale attack against a New England whaler in which the ship was sunk. When a whale becomes wise to the tactics used by the hunters, he becomes exceedingly dangerous. But, as Starbuck would explain, Nantucket men hunt whales they do not run from them.

Is Osama a reasoning man? He is at least unreasonable. His weapon is not fang or claw or tail, it is his “human” mind, but he is a rouge none the less. Hunting him is no less dangerous or noble because he has forsaken his humanity, and it is all the more necessary.

Our struggle is not against a man, or group of men, reasoning and rational. We fight against what Osama (who is most likely dead) represents, the evils of totalitarian domination, the loss of freedom of choice and religion, the suppression of reason by blind submit ion to an unreasoning god. It is not Osama that we fight; it is mindless fanaticism, it is Moby Dick!

MindMechanic said...

In the hillsides surrounding LA the settlers build houses higher and higher on the hillside. They build nature trails to observe and commune with nature. Then they react with surprise and horror when nature (a mountain lion) attacks. And of course, they hunt down the rogue mountain lion and kill it.

I am not pretending that I dont see the allegory in the book or the significance attached to both Ahab and the great whale. The meaning, intended or implied, is what gives the book value and has given us cause to reflect.

However...your explanation sounds correct enough...the whale figures out the motives of the whaler...the whale is less than appreciative of the whaler, and the whale strikes...not with vengeance, but in self defense.

Unless you assign evil purpose to the whales behaviors.

I am fine with the concept of whaling. I am also OK with the concept that the whale might not take it lying down.

I have known people who wade through hip high weeds and grass armed with a pistol hunting wild boar. There are reasons for the wild boar hunt. The natural enemies of the wild boar have been eliminated or driven higher into the mountains and the population is excessive. And wild boar, slow roasted in a pit, tastes GREAT. So...I am OK with the hunt. I am also understanding if the wild boar (which has a decided advantage in the habitat) should decide to charge the hunter and use those wicked tusks for more than scratching.

"We fight against what Osama (who is most likely dead) represents, the evils of totalitarian domination, the loss of freedom of choice and religion, the suppression of reason by blind submit ion to an unreasoning god. It is not Osama that we fight; it is mindless fanaticism, it is Moby Dick!"

I agree with this notion. However...and I think this is where the valid debate comes in and I suspect is why you used the example...much of society see's the enemy or foe as Ahab...as fantacism gone terribly wrong...as Bush and our nations entry into the war.

To me this is where the modern day comparisons all break down and it is why I say "define the foe."

In Moby Dick, the whaling industry could have continued to thrive and the Pequod could likely have continued it's industry had they ignored the foe and gone about their business. In our life, we cannot count on a future if we ignore the foe.

Lysis said...
This comment has been removed by the author.
Lysis said...

Mindmechanic;

Perhaps we need to enter Melville’s mind a little, put the hunting of whales in the context of the early 19th century. The hunting of whales was the birthright and purpose of those Nantucket types. The world needed the oil. Melville goes to great length to explain its indispensable role in all aspects of “modern” civilization. It is indeed ironic that oil still plays such an important role in the world, and in the conflict with monsters.

Put simply, without the oil people die. There are those who think the chickens have a right to fight at the slaughter house door, that man as no right to the lives of animals. That would be an excellent subject for debate at another time, but it is not pertinent. What is, is that the killing of whales was not for sport or for the barbeque, it was for survival. So might a coal mine refuse to be delved, the sun refuse to give up its rays as for a whale to challenge the purpose of the whaler. It is this justifiable harvest of giants that Moby Dick challenges, it is human supremacy that the brut seeks to deny. Ahab recognizes this; to run from any whale is to abdicate man’s right of stewardship.

It would be possible in a day of petroleum, in a day of nuclear power, in a day of light by electricity; to question man’s entitlement to the blubber of whales. Melville and through him the crew of the Pequot, would not have questioned the need for whale oil any more than the Indians of the planes would have questioned their need to hunt the buffalo than you would question the people’s right to breath the air.

Melville intended to write an allegory, whether inspired by his own Muses or those of Hawthorn. Perhaps we would argue that man can now live without the death of whales but can man live without freedom, without the right to reason, without consenting to his government. Perhaps he can – but he should not. He is duty bound to fight for these things against the forces that would take his birth right from him.

Moby Dick was not benign; he was disruptive to the industry that was the life of the whale-men. For Ahab to have run from his pray would have been a sin against nature, to let fear govern his duty to seek to destroy the abomination would have been a sin against humanity.

Islamic fanaticism is not benign; it seeks the destruction of reason which is the purpose for the life of man. For us to run from our obligations to defend our natural rights would be a sin against that nature, for us to allow the spread of fear and fanaticism would be a sin against humanity.

MindMechanic said...

Lysis...

I dont disagree with anything you wrote. I understand the need for the industry...have never expressed a problem with it.

I dont know that Ahabs single minded obsession was to free the industry or exact revenge. I think in order to see him as championing the industry and making the practice of whaling safe for all, you have to assume that Moby Dick was as conscious as was Captain Nemo in taking down vessels.

Or maybe he was as the man-eating lions you previously referenced.

Either way...it is hard for me to find fault with the whale. That doesnt mean I root for the whale, nor does it mean I dont understand the reason for the hunt.

Muslim extremism is somewhat different. It is a very deliberate and conscious efort to destroy the free will of others.

Anonymous said...

Is Osama a reasoning man? He is at least unreasonable. His weapon is not fang or claw or tail, it is his “human” mind, but he is a rouge none the less. Hunting him is no less dangerous or noble because he has forsaken his humanity, and it is all the more necessary.

Exactly. My point in my question MM is that your metaphor is far too overly simplistic. Because Ahab is the hunter and the agressor and the whale the hunted, that defines who is good and evil? Of course it doesn't. There are many examples of hunting evil and being an agressor against evil.

You post, "Either way...it is hard for me to find fault with the whale. That doesnt mean I root for the whale, nor does it mean I dont understand the reason for the hunt."

Does this mean that because the whale is an animal, you can't accept the metaphor that it represents more? You say you understand the reason for the hunt. Really? Simply put, Ahab isn't perfect, and his obsession is even off putting at times. The whale isn't a cut and dry image of either good or evil either. I offer to you that it is possible for Ahab to be imperfect, even disturbed, and still be the metaphor for good. It is possible for the whale to be a whale and still be the metaphor for evil. Since you have offered us the fact that Melville gleaned so much from Hawthorne, I would think you recognize this possibility right away.

You say radical islam is different. Why? I don't think the metaphor falters here just your comparison that Ahab's character is somehow lessened because he is the hunter and the agressor.

MindMechanic said...

Anon...

"My point in my question MM is that your metaphor is far too overly simplistic."

Then you miss the point. I am not MAKING a judgment.

This is the first thread of conversation where I have seen Ahab portrayed as the noble...as the valiant. Even in his initial post, Lysis refers to the tendency of scholars and artists to define Ahab as an obsessed megalomaniac at the least and usually, far worse.

I dont bother to make the judgment. I admit my experience is too limited to make a fair comparison.

"Because Ahab is the hunter and the agressor and the whale the hunted, that defines who is good and evil? Of course it doesn't."

Agreed. How many times do I have to say it?

"You post, "Either way...it is hard for me to find fault with the whale. That doesnt mean I root for the whale, nor does it mean I dont understand the reason for the hunt."
Does this mean that because the whale is an animal, you can't accept the metaphor that it represents more?"

OK...I'll try again...

"I am not pretending that I dont see the allegory in the book or the significance attached to both Ahab and the great whale. The meaning, intended or implied, is what gives the book value and has given us cause to reflect."

Not clear enough?

"You say you understand the reason for the hunt. Really? Simply put, Ahab isn't perfect, and his obsession is even off putting at times. The whale isn't a cut and dry image of either good or evil either. I offer to you that it is possible for Ahab to be imperfect, even disturbed, and still be the metaphor for good. It is possible for the whale to be a whale and still be the metaphor for evil."

As I have said on at least three occasions...I do not disagree. I dont disagree with the assigned meaning you and Lysis (and others that disagree with you for that matter) have given the story. I am not attempting to assign meaning to the story.

Isnt it a little bit ironic to you that the "great American book" title assigned by Jung and many others was assigned by people who see it completely different than those HERE who believe it a great work of American literature? One great work...two COMPLETELY DIFFERENT and opposite reasons as to why. THAT is all I have commented on as to intent.

"You say radical islam is different. Why? I don't think the metaphor falters here just your comparison that Ahab's character is somehow lessened because he is the hunter and the agressor."

And yet you CAN NOT be blind to the great majority that disagree with you...correct? The great majority that see's Ahab as the obsessed evil and his single minded anger as the ultimate cause of his vessel and crew's destruction. Right? And in continuing the anaology they then see Ahab as Bush and Bush's single mindedness as leading us to the same result.

Which is the point I depart from the book and the interpretations and the distinction I have tried (I almost said 'desperately' but that is far too dramatic) to make. I dont know...maybe I am having an off-day. Or maybe I am not the one with the axe to grind today. Either way...

for clarity sakes...

1-There is plenty of disagreement re the interpretation of the story. while I may ramble in thought about the possible interpretations or authors intent-or in fact the authors intent that is assigned by other learned men-, I DONT MAKE one. I am not learned enough to do so.

2-In our real world I dont see the enemy as a mindless foe. The enemy is driven by their THOUGHTFUL motivation. THEIR belief is that it is not only their right but mandate to force all to the will of Allah and Sharia and in the process kill maim and torture any and everyone that gets in their way. That mindset is neither Ahab nor Moby. THAT foe deserves to be fought. That fight is NOT a mindless single minded obsession.

It bothers me not in the least that my conclusion and that of others, in the end, happily coincides.

MindMechanic said...

Lysis...

"I was so disappointed in the mini-series of Moby Dick staring Patrick Stewart. It seemed that if anyone could fill Gregory Peck's boot – it seemed to me to be Picard."

Picard couldnt fill Kirk's boots- how could he fill anothers?

Lysis said...

Perhaps if Picard would have put both feet in Ahab’s boot (he only had one) he could have filled it – but he surely did not. I must admit I am an “old “ Star Trek fan myself.

Anonymous said...

For unconventional interpretations of literature, I am strictly OPEN minded. But, what I'll ALWAYS oppose is the AUTOCRATIC arrogance of some who pretend to have the ONLY TRUE interpretation!

Lysis can and will post interpretations of "Moby Dick", MASH, or "Lord of The Flies" for
which I can ponder and see merit, however, when he starts DICTATING the meaning of a piece of literature, or even worse, using a novel like "Moby Dick" to play partisan games; ie, Ronald Reagan is equal to Ahab, I feel the net effect of doing so is to VANDALIZE a great literary icon and turn it into a political CARTOON!!!!

Choosing an agenda that makes "Moby Dick" into a transparent "Little Mermaid" of Republican political bias is the MEAT GRINDER Lysis renders ALL art into -- His standards of literary merit are only means for foisting a political slant that he can bend into propaganda -- check the postings for the last two years!!!!

Like Johnson said, "It's like a dog walking on his hind legs. It is not done well; but you are surprised to find it done at all."

Lysis said...

Mindmechanic;

This is of course a difficult challenge, but like Ahab, we need to rise to the challenge. On your last two points:

1. I would ask that you consider the agendas of all who interpret Ahab and the entirety of *Moby Dick*. There are indeed many such interpretations, I am putting forward one; but those interpretations need to be squared with the story, or they are reveled as what they are, deceptions.

2. Moby Dick was not mindless, nor are the enemies we face, but they are without just reason for their actions. The hate, greed, power lust, and distain which they bring to their determination to crush pluralism, freedom, and reason itself are manifestations of evil implemented by humans but not solely embodied in them.

Flaccid;

It is the merit of the lesson drawn from literature that must be considered. I was not the one to craft the political cartoon above, but what is wonderful is that an absurdity drawn to mock Ahab and Reagan turned into a testimony of the salvation of the world from the evils of Soviet Communism.

Some interpretations are propped up by an agenda and soon flop, others are universal truths that stand the test of time. Great literature contains such universals, it is our job to find them and draw inspiration from them.

You accuse me of Mermaidizing Moby Dick, but once again, provide no support for your claim; not even the simply courtesy that cutting a pasting a flawed comment would have given.

There are those, usually neo-libs that call the truth Propaganda. It is usually their last feeble attack before the retreat to ad homonym assaults against those whose arguments they cannot challenge.

truth to power said...

"ad homonym assaults"?!! Oh, wow! This can't have been intentional; no one can make up a pun that good!

Few people I know appreciate fine literature the way Lysis does. He's a true bibliophile. He's good at using works of fiction to make his philosophical and political points, but no one could think that's the primary value he sees in them, let alone the only one.

Anonymous said...

Yah, I know, the TRUTH is YOU and YOU is the TRUTH. That's all we know and ALL we need know -- meglomania mixed with intransigence/a dangerous concoction.

Everyone is quite familiar with this all too common Lies.is.us rhetorical parachute.

"Universals need to be found" -- only if YOU have lost them in political cant.

ART provides profundity and expression to Universals -- without ART, Universals are the prosaic "NOTS" of the Ten Commandments. Without artistic expression "Moby Dick" is an adventure tale for children --"Hamlet" a parody of unhallowed ghostes -- "Othello" a TV sitcom.

"Moby Dick" is NOT the story and it's NOT the analogy,(ye Gods it's not the anology) it IS the METAPHOR -- Beauty is Truth; truth beauty -- that is all/ ye know on earth, and all ye need to know!!!!

When Lysis goes "looking for universals", he, like Narcissus, keeps falling in love with the same lie -- over and over!!!!

Anonymous said...

TTP
You are right!!!!
No one can . . . and . . .
No one did.

The "love" you found is NOT "love" of literature. For Lies.is.us, Literature is ALWAYS made to KNEEL to serve.

Go digging.

From Apocolypto to Rockwell to Melville to MASH -- NEVER a difference.

Lysis said...

Truth to Power;

I really do need to learn to spell, I’m sorry – I’ll get on it about as soon as Flaccid gets around to reading *Moby Dick*.

Flaccid and friend;

You’re nothing if not predictable.

I suppose Narcissus, a truly beautiful man, did indeed love a man – so your attack was in fact “ad homonym”. I’m feel like Elijah; the one in *Moby Dick* not the one in the *Bible*.

MindMechanic said...

Lysis...

Re 1 and 2...

1-I agree...most everyone has an agenda when they make their interpretation. It is usually obvious in their writing.

2-Mindless? I dont know...Moby Dick was (fictionaly of course) a mammal and so it is likely it had conscious thought but even in the story I highly doubt it had evil intent and what malice it held it did for those that would do it harm. Maybe in its conscious thoughts it saw itself as an avenger or protector. Or maybe it was practicing the basic instinct of self defense.

Of course there is allegory. It would be nice to hear Melvilles side of the story.

I have taken advantage (and far too much time) of modern convenience to blast through as much of the book as I could. There is a great online resource for ebooks.

The writing is much as I remembered it. I would compare Melville to Tom Clancy. The story is good, the writing is good, but sometimes you just want to shout GET ON WITH IT!!!

At the end of the day, I still think there is a lot of room for different interpretations. Melville would probably be pleased about that.

MindMechanic said...

I've re-read some of the posts...

More fodder...

The story states "Ahab did not name himself". True enough, but then...neither did Ahabs' mother. %The author named Ahab and then provided a disclaimer, then set about to MAKE him Ahab.

What was the point?

Lysis said...
This comment has been removed by the author.
Lysis said...

Mindmechanic;

I am glad you have been reading up. I agree with you that Millville gives us a lot to consider, and many opinions will be formed. It is always valuable to put such opinions out into the “bright light” of discussion.

Just a quick review of my basic positions:

1. Moby Dick represents evil – and I would say all the forces against which man is forced to fight. He can fight, sometimes win, or he can succumb and be destroyed. Such forces are gigantic; they make the individual tiny by proportion. They are daunting and dangerous.

2. Ahab is the hero, (unlike the Bible Ahab) he is a just, if firm, master, his skill and courage benefit his ship, and bring his men willingly to the place where they must fight and die in the never ending struggle against the powers that would make them less than men. They do not go into battle resentfully or under terror of Ahab – they have caught his vision and do what men must do in such circumstances.

I would be delighted to debate these positions.

I also maintain that those who have not read and do not understand the story – in all its magnificent detail – misrepresent the characters - actually presenting Ahab as evil the whale as noble. There is indeed a parallel to the conflict in which the West now finds itself engaged. Today I listen with such horror as the House of Representatives prepares to pass a resolution of no-support of our troops at war. It is the same misdirected and uneducated interpretation this time applied to current events that leads them to this error.

To Anonymous;

This comment by you is particularly amusing to me:

“The "love" you found is NOT "love" of literature. For Lies.is.us, Literature is ALWAYS made to KNEEL to serve.

Go digging.

From Apocolypto to Rockwell to Melville to MASH -- NEVER a difference.”

What is funny is that it is only natural for me to express my opinions of the things that interest me here in the Agora. I say what I think about art, movies, politics, even TV. You are invited to come in and express ANY opinion you like. This is an open forum and you are encouraged to counter any of my arguments, tear down any of the positions I offer, but you never do. Instead of countering my praise of Ahab with examples of his flaws, instead of challenging my call to continued action against Islamic Fanaticism with evidence that there is no danger, or that there is no hope, or that a better way - a way to assure victory; you only call me names and accuse me of being arrogant or narcissistic for stating my views. What an odd way to search for truth.

I am led to believe that you have no considered position on art, or literature, or politics, or even TV. Your responses indicate intellectual laziness and political programming. Please prove me wrong with reason. Spitting more bile will only foul your mouth, you can’t hit me.

Anonymous said...

Lys.is.us:
I have no problem with "your" interpretation of "Moby Dick" -- Ahab as hero -- OK
Moby Dick as villain -- OK.

"Your" interpretation offers defining hero and villain in unique ways and also offers new insights while avoiding seeing Melville's characters as stereotypes -- good on ya.

However, I read an analysis characterizing Ahab as an archtypical Greek hero in my Senior Honors English class at Davis High School in ('63-'64) -- for many years reading Moby Dick was compulsory in ALL Senior English classes at DHS.

I remember THAT analysis because it seemed consistent with what I had read in the novel and felt about Melville himself, and it also explained much about the paradoxical themes I'd had trouble understanding.

As has been previously posted, MY OPINION (don't ignore it again) is . . . "What I'll always oppose is the autocratic arrogance of some who pretend to have the ONLY TRUE interpretation . . . and DICTATING the meaning of a piece of literature, or even worse, using a novel like Moby Dick to play partisan games; ie, Ronald Reagan is equal to Ahab."

Also, Lies.is.us' noxious compulsion to ALWAYS, ALWAYS, ALWAYS, "package" great ARTISTS and their ARTISTIC EXPRESSIONS into neocon slogans and sound bites, is creepy, bizarre and perverse.

To ALWAYS do so is "love" of something . . . but for sure, it's NOT "literature", unless it can be made to fit on a bumper sticker!!!!
_______________
Bad news

I will have to forego having so much fun discussing things with my friends here at the Agora -- some family illness. I do not know about computer and internet availability, but will look forward to again being around soon -- I'll miss all the affection Lysis has for chums like "hippie buddy" and myself.

MindMechanic said...

Anon...good luck with your family illness...I hope all goes well.

Lysis said...

Flaccid;

Ahab is indeed a type of the Classic Greek Hero – he must struggle against the Gods, and surely against all nature, even if it is to destroy him. It is the “divine” nature of his humanity.

It seems that you are too busy opposing my arrogance to admit that you agree with my opinion; that is understandable if not particularly reasonable.

I watched yesterday as several Democrats, including ones hoping to be President of the United States, came out against our troops and their efforts to bring stability to Iraq. They did this not because they want the destruction of American but because they cannot stand to see President Bush, who they deem arrogant, win anything, not even a war involving their own survival. I guess it is an understandable position, it surly is not reasonable.

I would point out that the cartoon depicting Ronald Reagan as Ahab was an anti Reagan mock. That Reagan’s tenacity and determination to carry on even in the face of constant opposition from politicos in his own country saved the world was an outcome that those who tried to make a joke of Reagan and Ahab did not anticipate. I did! This is not arrogance – it is being right.

If words like truth, justice, freedom, stay the course, victory, patriotism, and love have become neo-con slogans and sound bites; that speaks highly of neo-cons. Bring on the bumper stickers.

I point out that I titled this week’s post “Rooting for Ahab” in a clear announcement of which way I intended to go in any discussion that might arise. Since it seems we have always agreed about Ahab it has been rather odd that we should have spent several days sniping at each other. But I must admit that, as always, it was fun. Sadly the Democrats constant sniping at Bush’s war efforts will not have such benign results.

I wish you all the best in dealing with your challenge of family illness. You and my “hippie buddy” will always have my respect and affection. Bless you and yours. I look forward to your return.

Test said...

Test

Dan Simpson said...

I have been quiet, mostly because I have never read Moby Dick, and that makes it hard to intelligently comment on the piece.

One thing that anonymous said, however, I would like to comment on. That of having one, and only one, interpretation of literature.

I remember that I always hated that in High School. Those english teachers that allowed us to interpret literature, in my mind, taught us much more than the ones who gave us 'the' interpretation.

I cannot, and do not, argue that Lysis' interpretation is false, or unreasonable, however, I wonder. If one reads the book, and gets a message of the dangers of obsession (a very parsed down tidbit of the idea that I have heard about Moby Dick before), is that bad? Is it wrong?

Before anyone goes off on a relativist rant, I do not think such ideas as relativism, or absolutism, have the same place in a discussion of literature. Literature, in my opinion, can have a myriad of themes, and even opposing interpretations depending on what the reader brings to dance.

I don't find it dangerous or wrong for someone to claim that Moby Dick has the exact opposite meaning that Lysis has proclaimed. The only mistake would be for them to claim, or teach, that that is its 'true', or only meaning.

I think that would be counter to the idea of literature.

Lysis said...

Dan;

I think you speak to a very important challenge we have in dealing with all Ideas, one I hoped to highlight when I said at first that I was “Rooting for Ahab”.

I’m sure all are aware of the nasty arguments at the highest levels about the “Framer’s intent” regarding the constitution. When something as short as the Constitution of the United States can spawn infinite interpretations and endless debate; what hope *Moby Dick*? There are similar challenges facing all most any document or comment of weight of impact. One of the problems the world faces today is that when some people read the Quran the read “kill the infidels”, or die trying if you want to get to heaven. History revels Bible readers who justify war and mass murder on the words of Jesus, the Bible was used to uphold Slavery in the American South and justify apartheid in South Africa.

Today we have the U.S. House of Representatives debating a “non binding” resolution which its proponents claim is to support the troops. I have NO DOUBT that it will be read differently by many of our heroes on the battle field and by our enemies around the world.

My point – Yes there are many interpretations of Moby Dick, like the Constitution the book is ambiguous at best, but that does not preclude the need to seek for a true meaning amongst the words.

Croesus of Lydia sent his messengers to the Oracle at Delphi to ask what would happen if he made war on the Persians. The answer returned that he would destroy a great empire. He did, and he did – his own. He choose an interpretation of Apollo’s council, he did not choose wisely, Themistocles of Athens sent to Delphi to ask how Athens could be saved from the might of the Great King. “Find safety behind the wall of wood,” the god replied. There were those in Athens who proposed rebuilding the stockade that once encircled the inner city, but Themistocles REASONED that such a wall could not serve his people he built the ship, removed the citizens to Salamis and in the battle in the channel destroyed the Persian fleet and saved the West with a fleet of wooden ships.

In this time of trouble and indecision we can read Moby Dick as a warning of the fruitlessness of resistance against the inevitable victory of terrorism, monstrous and unchangeable power, or we can see the struggles and triumphs of Ahab as a type for the struggle we must be willing to maintain.

In the end I’m still rooting for Ahab.

MindMechanic said...

Lysis...

We talked about this a little bit earlier...it is that "true meaning" that is the challenge.

Regarding the constitution, it is blatantly obvious the politics that go into interpretation. Apparently, the founding fathers meant only precisely what supports peoples personal political bent.

Its not that we dont have history on our side. It's not that we dont have documents to support our theories. Its not that we dont have their very words. And yet, people will still take the Bill of Rights and twist and mangle them to fit their belief system.

When it comes to the works of great authors past, we are seldom so lucky as to know their intent. I've never read anything written or spoken by Melville as to the meaning of the characters in Moby Dick. I wonder if it had been a 'success' at the time if he might not have given us more. But the facts as I have seen them are that he first simply sat down to write a story, then magnified the story.

I dont get the sense that in the story he meant for there to be grandiose meanings. I think that is left for the reader. I actually think that is a good thing.

Earlier, I posted interview comments by Ondaatje on "The English Patient". This story has been used by many English professors (which was the reason it came up...because a class my wife was currently in) as one of the definitive works of our time. They magnified the meaning to make it a powerful testimony against war and against the use of the atom bomb. Critics gush over the meaning and intent. Yet when Ondaatje was asked point blank his response was "yes...well...thats interesting...of course...it was just a story and thats how the story played out...but I see your meaning..."

I wonder what Melville would say.

truth to power said...

You gotta love Mark Twain:

"PERSONS attempting to find a motive in this narrative will be prosecuted; persons attempting to find a moral in it will be banished; persons attempting to find a plot in it will be shot.
BY ORDER OF THE AUTHOR,
Per G.G., Chief of Ordnance."

I want to address Constitutional interpretation a bit. Absolutely part of the problem is that people bring their political prejudgments to the table. But I think an important part of the problem is that some people (including SCOTUS on occasion) want to do an end run around the amendment process. They know what it says, but it doesn't cover our current situation in the way they think it should. It's hard to change what the Constitution actually says, but I believe that's both intentional and a good thing.

Lysis said...

Truth to Power;

First of all, Mark Twain was a liar; a wonderful liar, a purposeful lair, but a liar none the less. But like all great story tellers he counts on the fact that his readers knows he is lying in the story in order to teach a greater truth. Like Jesus making up stories about Kings giving away talents and cities so his disciples could learn the value of reaching their potentials. Of course Twain had a motive in writhing Huckleberry Finn. The moral is powerful and clear, and Twain knew it. When Huckleberry Finn, stands up from his prayer and says he’ll go to Hell rather than send Jim back to Slavery, Mark Twain is proving to all that it is not reasonable to go against the absolute truths of nature no matter what they teach you in church. He is echoing the message of Antigone. No man made law can counter the universal laws of nature and the gods. Twain’s “lie” is no more hypocritical than Huck’s.

I see the very problem with judicial activism which you highlight. Yet as you have said, the Constitution was intentional written to allow form some elasticity. What is important is that it be stretched to provide justice not unjust statutes. Once more the absolute truth is well worth finding and rooting for.

Mindmechanic;

I believe in the Muses; that art is a manifestation of the gods not simply the creation of a man. Great literature is collaboration between author and muse, between mortal and infinite, intent and effect. Having said that, and despite any disclaimer by Twain, Melville was intentionally writing an allegory. While it might be reasonable to admit that there will be many interpretations of his words it would not be legitimate to deny that he had intent in making them.

Jesus told allegorical stories – We are perhaps free to reinterpret them to say other things to and for us. Ex – the Good Samaritan teaches that its alright for brothers not to forgive each other, or the maidens with the lamp teachers that God will forgive selfishness if we are selfish in order to get into God’s party. That doesn’t mean Jesus didn’t have specific and powerful reasons for telling his stories, nor does the fact that some might misconstrue His words de-legitimize those who seek, teach, or live by the true meaning of His stories.

Moby Dick represents those forces, as Anonymous pointed out in his Greek Hero comments; that are insurmountable to man. They could be nature; they could be racism, fanaticism, hunger, disease, grizzly bears, or whales. It doesn’t matter – what matters is that man must fight against them, must not succumb to them no matter what his chance of success.

I reiterate two of the examples presented above. Ahab faces the mysterious electromagnetic phenomena of the St Elmo’s fire. His crew is stricken by their ignorance, made cowards by superstition, but Ahab uses he mind, his knowledge, and his reason to dispel fear and over come the mystery, even us it to his own advantage.

Later when the compass fails, those who have no knowledge and no reason, see the hand of the devil, Ahab, like a true human, uses his mind to dispel the fear by creating a new needle for the compass. This is the lesson Melville presents us with.

We are facing a terrible force bent on our destruction. There are those who council retreat, surrender, and acceptance of eventual domination by forces beyond our control. The lesson of Ahab – not the words of Melville - is that we must not give up, that we must use our reason, and courage, and skill, to fight on. That there is nothing we cannot do, so we should at least try, even in the face of seemingly insurmountable powers. Ahab applies the same tenacity and intellect to solve the problems of the St. Elmo’s fire and the loss of magnetism in the compass as he does in dealing with Moby Dick. That he survives the first two incidents and not the third does not diminish from the power of the lesson his “actions” are meant to teach.

I admit that it is legitimate for an author to write a book, say *The English Patient*, that carries the agenda that war is never worth its cost, that we should never fight; a kind of anti Ahab. I am all for letting student read and discuss such books. But I am confident that in the light of reason I will be found rooting for the truth if I am rooting for Ahab.

Dan Simpson said...

I think my point has been slightly misunderstood.

I am not saying that all interpretations are valid. If someone were to read Huck Finn and get, slavery is okay look Jim was a pretty good guy, and stuff worked out. That would be wrong, because the end premise is wrong.

If someone were to read Moby Dick and see the dangers of becoming obsessed to the point of ignoring all rational warnings and putting those close to you at risk for your obsession. This is also a true premise. Now, it may not be a premise that you see in the book, heck it might not be one I would see in the book, my argument isn't that it is there, my argument is that literature has many divergent messages.

If someone comes to a wrong premise (not wrong in the fact that you disagree that it was there, but wrong in the vein of "rape is good", 'Mass murder is okay".), then they have erred in literary interpretation.

If they merely see a different lesson in the work, I don't see the problem. I don't think Ahab has to be seen as a hero for a true lesson to come out of the work.

Lets change direction a little, when the constitution is brought in, we have a totally different argument. The constitution is not a work of fiction. It isn't something someone can read and go, ahhh the symbolism. Man that ninth amendment, what it is really speaking to is the idea of man's inhumanity to man.

The constitution is law, as TTP pointed out, the problem comes when the constitution does not speak to something. There are two ways to fix that, pretend that it does, or put it in there. One is easy and wrong, the other difficult but correct.

Of course we have already gone down the path of SC interpretation, I know I am fairly alone here on that one.

Anyway, my points are.

First, I believe that multiple interpretations are not only okay, but almost inevitable.

Second, one cannot really compare interpreting a fictional sea captain, in a fictional story, with a fictional whale, to interpreting the constitution.

MindMechanic said...

TTP...

My father in law and I often have discussions about the constitution and amending it. His position is probably more correct than mine and my wife often points out that we are two sides of the same coin in most ways...the intent is the same. His concern is for preservation of the document and of course I agree...but it IS a living document and there are procedures for ensuring the integrity of the document. However...when both parties of the government are out of integrity...where then is the security of the document? And when do politics threaten the very freedoms we espouse?

The positions on the Bill of Rights is interesting. The BoR is a safeguard of personal freedoms. Except of course the second amendment which REALLY means government and militias. Freedom of religous expression actually means freedom FROM religious expression. Free speech means freedom to say anything without consequence. Unlawful search and seizure means freedom of consequence if the official doesnt cross every 't' and dot every 'i'. freedom of the press means radio stations MUST provide a liberal slant for every conservative slant...however it DOES NOT apply to the liberal news and print media.

Somewhere along the way someone got the idea that the constitution guaranteed their right to not be offended. And dont they look deep for offense.

And on and on and on...

MindMechanic said...

Lysis...

Once again we dont disagree...I am sure melville may have had intent...especially after being so inspired. I just dont know what his intent was.

Your vision of Ahab fits better with my personal perspective on fighting evil so it makes it easy for me to go along with that. At the same time...I can certainly find value in the other perspective.

In my previous life I can tell you that I at times worked for Captain (or Colonel) Ahab. I saw in their practices things that would certainly destroy morale and could actually get people hurt or killed. Those people attacked a problem with single mindedness and pity the fool who pointed out the error of their ways. Luckily, those people are often easily swayed by appealing to their ego and pride and making them believe that a different and better idea is actually THEIR idea...

MindMechanic said...

Dan...

"If someone comes to a wrong premise (not wrong in the fact that you disagree that it was there, but wrong in the vein of "rape is good", 'Mass murder is okay".), then they have erred in literary interpretation"

David Koresch...Jim Jones...the muslim fundamentalist terrorists, they come to mind right away...

Dan Simpson said...

Just to clarify, MM, is this an argument against what I said.

I never meant to imply that individuals cannot come to erroneous, or dangerous, premises. Only that it is the premise, not the story that in my mind is an absolute.

(and the Bible is a whole nother ball of wax. Believing the bible to be true, as I do, there are only two choices, correct interpretation, and incorrect. This is because it is not fiction.)

Dan Simpson said...

And to head off the invariable, but then whose interpretation is correct.

That is my point. In the case of a non-fiction, whose interpretation is correct matters, and is a right focus for argument/discussion.

In a fiction, it is not important how one interprets the work, so much as wheter the premise reached is true or not.

MindMechanic said...

No Dan...that was an agreement with what you said and some extreme examples. You know how I love the extreme...

Lysis said...

Dan;

Let me quote two excellent points you have made and expand on them:

“1. If someone comes to a wrong premise (not wrong in the fact that you disagree that it was there, but wrong in the vein of "rape is good", 'Mass murder is okay".), then they have erred in literary interpretation.”

*It is against such interpretive errors that I am asking us to make consideration. The course we must take is obvious to those who seek to reason it out. To use Ahab as inspiration will be supportive, to use him as reason to abandon the fight is errant.

“2. Second, one cannot really compare interpreting a fictional sea captain, in a fictional story, with a fictional whale, to interpreting the constitution.”

*t is not the fictional account of the hunt of the whale that is to be considered here. It is the truths that this story of fiction bring to our consideration to which we must attend. The Constitution is indeed a Law and not a story, but that law is vague and easily misapplied if reason and experience are not applied. It is in the light of the truths found in great literature and life experience that men are capable of applying “cold hard laws”. It is for the reasons presented by Melville in *Moby Dick* that we seek to have a more perfect union with freedom and justice for all. Freedom, welfare, justice, tranquility, defense and the other beautiful poetry of the Constitution are not defined therein. It is to our common reason, informed by the wisdom of art that we must turn for understanding.

Mindmechanic;

Your point on “right not to be offended” is as excellent example of an erred literary interpretation of the Constitution. It’s just not their, it is the agenda of the person seeking power through pretending it is.

On the other hand your descriptions of “Captain (or Colonel) Ahab’s” doe not fit at all with the Ahab in the story. His leadership was a constant inspiration to his crew, his life their salvation. It was only the first officer Starbuck that questioned him, and in the end Starbuck also accepted the truth – Nantucket men do not run from whales they kill them.

As for the Bible being any more true that any other book – The truth exists independent of the covers in which it is found. Some where I read that we should seek knowledge out of the best books, by reading and also by faith. I would go so far as to say, thank God there are better books than the Bible.

Dan Simpson said...

I agree with what you say of my two points. It is what I was getting at: The premise (eternal truth, etc.) is the important thing, not the story itself.

I also agree that it is those truths that must guide is, be it in Iraq, or in Constitutional law. Truth is truth, no matter what subject it is applied to.

MindMechanic said...

Lysis...

Lets just say that the Ahabs I have met fit the obsessed Ahab interpretation and not the committed Ahab.

Apollo said...

Yes my friends, after a long absence I am back! No you have not gotten rid of me.

Now as for the blog, I think it important to remember that Moby Dick had just as much reason to kill Ahab as Ahab had to kill Moby Dick. These two heros, and yes they are both heros, were destined to fight on another. It's like in the poem by Thomas Hardy "The Convergence of the Twain". It cites how that at the same time the Titanic was being made in a ship yard, another titan was being forged and sent away to fulfill it's destiny. These two were meant to come against one another and destroy one another. The iceberg sank the ship, and the ship made us forget about what was to happen to the monumental iceberg. The lesson to be learned here is that we all have our opponents that we are destined to come against and attempt to outsmart, outmuscle, and outdo in every way, and yet we need to remember that they are trying to do the same.

In finale, we need to remember that it was only when Ahab stepped into the home of a, literally, bigger fish that he was destroyed. The same goes for the Titanic, and the same could be said about the terrorist groups on 9-11. Let us not make the same mistakes that Ahab, and men in general have made in the past. After all, that is the point of literature and life itself, to teach. "Every mans life is an object lesson to the world." and "Whenever you read a novel, you do not find out something new about the book, but about yourself."

For what it's worth

Apollo

Lysis said...

Apollo;

Welcome back – I am sure we are all most grateful for your comments; but:

Isn’t it interesting that we have come to the exact opposite conclusion. I would ask you, most humbly, if you have ever read *Moby Dick*. It seems almost impossible for someone who has to come to the conclusion which you have reached.

I do not think you can reasonably support the position that the Titanic, the ice burg, or the whale are heroes.

As I alluded to before – one may as well assign hero status to the HIV virus.

Comparing terrorists who murdered so many on 9/11 and continue to kill and kill and kill for NO REASON to this day with those who fight against them is illogical.

Remember, Ahab brought an end to Moby Dick. The stricken whale never resurfaces. But that does not matter, what does matter is that Ahab did not heed the warning of the cowards and fools. He fought on and became the master of the whales “home”. The Pequot was as much at home on the sea as Moby Dick was in it, Ahab was more its master than any of the thousands of whales he made into candle wax.

Wouldn’t it have been silly for mankind to forsake the sea with the sinking of the Titanic, or our nation to retreat from space with the loss of Apollo One of the explosion of the Challenger? It is just as stupid to consider deserting Iraq to the terrorists or hiding behind our boarders while the fanatic muslims take over the world.

We must take a lesson from Ahab indeed, a lesson in determination and courage, in willingly sacrificing much of the now for the existence of tomorrow. Let the terrorists beware of our Ahabs,

For what it’s worth.

By the way, the translation of the Latin words of Ahab at the time of the tempering of the harpoon was done by my wonderful daughter. Who is studying Latin at the University of Utah and reviled what I had never known in a matter of moments. The apprentice repays the master by surpassing him!! I have been more than replayed!

Colton McBride said...

"Whales are drinking all our water and eating all our sailors."
-Maddox.


There is a man who runs a website similar to this one, although his is not so much a blog so to say. He goes by the screen name and pen name of "Maddox." He did a document about how whales. You should read it. The obvious truth about the nature of whales is found in this document:

http://www.thebestpageintheuniverse.net/c.cgi?u=whales_suck

Storm said...

I know this is long gone re: blog viability, but how does your perspective work when thought about alongside chapter 128, The Pequod Meets the Rachel?

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