12 June 2014

A phantom limb



When Job's friends come to visit him, when he is covered in boils and sitting in ashes, they sit in silence for a week.
And when they lifted up their eyes afar off, and knew him not, they lifted up their voice, and wept; and they rent every one his mantle, and sprinkled dust upon their heads toward heaven. So they sat down with him upon the ground seven days and seven nights, and none spake a word unto him: for they saw that his grief was very great.
Job's friends in Evangelical Christian discourse have a bad reputation, but like Pontius Pilate, I have an affinity for them: they are just doing their best.

I finished Moby Dick last week and have been turning the last couple of chapters over and over in my mind. My famed older brother said that it's a shame people have to read these great novels in high school when they can't necessarily appreciate them: I feel that way about Moby Dick. Obsession is hard to understand as a life force until you are obsessed for years and years. I love when Ahab finally comes off the rails in the end:
I feel deadly faint, bowed, and humped, as though I were Adam, staggering beneath the piled centuries since Paradise. God! God! God!—crack my heart!—stave my brain!—mockery! mockery! bitter, biting mockery of grey hairs, have I lived enough joy to wear ye; and seem and feel thus intolerably old? Close! stand close to me, Starbuck; let me look into a human eye; it is better than to gaze into sea or sky; better than to gaze upon God.
Yes, I can see how it would come to this.

The obvious Biblical metaphor for chasing a whale is Jonah, but I love that Melville continues to allude to Job, to the leviathan. Job is the better metaphor for being forsaken and destitute, provided you avoid the creamy, impossible ending. The real question is the one Ahab gets stuck on, 'Canst thou draw out leviathan with an hook? or his tongue with a cord which thou lettest down?' The answer is obvious.
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