A great accomplishment!
When i first read moby dick, i'd already seen the movies that were made about it. i thought i knew what the book was about. i was wrong. moby dick is a great classic american novel about a whale hunter. yet it hinted at some ideas that are not easily rendered, and many times can best be communicated with metaphors. on the surface, we have the story of ahab, as narrated by ishmael; ahab was the captain of the whaling ship that was driven mad after the white whale bit his leg off. a classic example of obsession. yet if we look deeper, the book has very little to do with "monomania" and everything to do with understanding one's true nature and purpose in life - and doing it to the exclusion of all that isn't your own purpose. the whale itself is - among other things - the constant opposition that we face in order to achieve the fullness of our being. this struggle never ends. it cannot be defeated in this earthly existence. it is entropy which we struggle against, and only in dying do we conquer death. "and that the great monster is indomitable, you will yet have reason to know". ahab wasn't so crazy as most people would have us think. his "monomania" was simply the focus upon a purity of purpose. like when you throw a punch; you think of nothing but the punch - if you think at all. zen and the art of face punching!! the old buddhist saying "never whistle while you're pissing". but even this hints at a greater reality, that all that exists is the manifestation of god's will. not in some vague christian sense, which can contain no real meaning. but in the sense of what it actually is. "is ahab, ahab? is it i or god that lifts this arm?" and there is within this the inescapable truth that we ourselves must strive toward the purity of purpose. we cannot know anything unless we immerse ourselves in it. but doing so will always change us, forever. i am not the same musician i was 20 years ago. i am trying to face truths about music that i couldn't even imagine back then, and dared not contemplate at the time. so it is with all things we do when we're in this earthly life. the old jazz musicians; they pursued their own white whales; at the risk of everything. and they paid dearly for it, and were rewarded dearly as well. "so there is no earthly way to know what the whale really looks like. and the only way in which you can derive an even tolerable idea of his living contour is by going whaling yourself; but by doing so you run no small risk of being eternally stove and sunk by him. wherefore it seems to me that you best not be too fastidious in your curiosity concerning this leviathan." these greater jihads, these inner struggles, are the only thing that truly make us noble creatures; for without them, we are less than primates. "from beneath his slouched hat ahab dropped a tear into the sea; nor did all the pacific contain such wealth as that one wee drop" have you ever noticed how in may buddhist paintings, the boddisattvas are always standing in hell? if you look at the chapter "the symphony", which precedes the pequod finding the whale, you'll realize that it was in that chapter when ahab won his inner battle. it was when ultimate truth finally came to him. it was the supreme moment of realization in the same way that arjuna in the bhagavad gita faced his own moment when he stood on the battlefield and fell to the ground because of the truths that krishna had revealed to him. the greatest warrior in the world was defeated by a truth larger than his heart could contain. it was too much for him to bear; and he could only bear it when he went through that transition. his own soul had to evolve: and that evolution was not slow and easy: it was cataclysmic. an apotheosis. same thing with jesus telling his disciples that he had many things to tell them, but they couldn't bear them yet. the last three chapters and epilogue of moby dick were the inevitable result of accepting that truth; and the flow taking him through to the next phase. ishmael! strange that the narrator should have that name! ishmael was one of abraham's sons, as you know. and despite what jewish and christian fools claim, the book of genesis made it clear that prophecy and a mighty nation was promised to him. the biblical ahab was a king who was killed and dogs ate him. again, going through a trial by fire, and emerging transformed. and here's another thought: could it be that ishmael was not a member of the crew, and that he was actually ahab who survived the encounter with the whale, and was transformed by the "transitional phase" of his death? he spoke rightly of ahab in the second person because he was no longer that person. ahab "died" and emerged a different person. you'll also recall that he used queequeg's coffin as a boat to make his way to land. why do you suppose that its; because it floats? the "old" self dies and a "new" self is born - another painful experience. the ego protesting against its own growing pains. and all this is driven by the soul's desire for union with divinity: an act of love. the erotic is the same primordia as spiritual ecstasy vibrating at a lower frequency. all this, ironically, the base part of our being struggles against. "he knows himself and all that's in him, who knows adversity. to scale great heights, we must come out of lowermost depths. the way to heaven is through hell. we need fiery baptisms in the fierce flames of our own bosoms. we must feel our hearts hot - hissing in us. and ere its fire is revealed, it must burn its way out of us; though it consume us and itself" there are kinds and kinds of deaths! have you forgotten the sufi idea of "death before dying?" "glimpses do ye seem to see of that mortally intolerable truth; that all deep, earnest thinking is but the intrepid effort of the soul to keep the open independence of her sea; while the wildest winds of heaven and earth conspire to cast her on the treacherous, slavish shore? but as in landlessness alone resides the highest truth, shoreless, indefinite as god - so, better is it to perish in that howling infinite, than be ingloriously dashed upon the lee, even if that were safety! for worm-like, then, oh! who would craven crawl to land! terrors of the terrible! is all this agony so vain? take heart, take heart, o bulkington! bear thee grimly, demigod! up from the spray of thy ocean-perishing - straight up, leaps thy apotheosis!" have you noticed that people often think struggle and suffering are the same thing? you think pain and misery are two words describing the same experience? ah, my dear readers! meet the little "whale" hidden within linguistic constructs that bites off our legs again and again! ahab's place in the flow was to meet the whale and conquer it. to face that "whale" was the only right choice he could make. do not think moby dick was only about a whale that bit off ahab's leg, then he lost his mind, and went fishing. killing the whale in a mad act of revenge is the last thing moby dick is about. people have been making that mistake for a century and a half. the obvious is in front of them and they miss it. they see only the surface; and are blinded by what they see. its no wonder moby dick was unknown for decades and melville died in obscurity. to this day, only a handful of people understand the books' real message.