Dreamed 1994/1/10 by Chris Wayan
Back in school. For a class I have to reread Moby Dick. Come to a key chapter: Ahab and his mate have formed a Harpoon Society, harpooners who live by the creed of Ahab's famous speech "all visible things are as pasteboard masks... Pierce, pierce through the veil!"
At this point I realize the whole book is basically a sermon expressing one extreme of male religious experience, the hunger for spirituality, using a HUNTING metaphor. The hunt for God. Tracking the truth like a whale. Piercing through appearance like a harpoon through blubber. Stabbing God through the heart!
And the trouble is, I haven't even read the damn chapter in 25 years. Oh, I did recently read a comicbook version my housemate Alder brought home. Nasty brutish and short--but even it included that key speech. It so characterizes Ahab.
And a lot of men.
I'm terribly ambivalent about it. I understand the impulse, I have this hunger for the other world, like many anorexics who are unhappy in this one. Heaven, Oz, Pepperland, anywhere but here. But Ahab and his hunting metaphor so quickly slide into hate and obsession and revenge. Emotional trophy-collecting. God's head on the wall. Ahab attacked the whale, it defended itself. Now Ahab wants revenge? For what?
I think "The book's been such a classic because it illuminates the spiritual problems of men who see the world as a big brutal thing, and that's been the central problem of our time. But not mine! I just find him sad. Let the White Whale eat him. I wash my hands of his self-destruction."
NOTES NEXT MORNING
When I was 13 or so, I had to write an essay on Moby Dick. I felt the same way then: Ahab went out hunting his own unconscious, an image of God, the wicked world, whatever... but whether he attacked a symbol or a real whale, AHAB picked the fight. The whale, quite reasonably, defends itself. Ahab's the "brute."
And you know, despite all the Japanese accusations that California hippies like me are cultural imperialists who sentimentalize whales and project our unconscious onto them... in all these years of further research, I haven't changed my opinion one bit.
Anyone who eats other beings with brains bigger than their own, while claiming they KNOW these are mere animals, has some nerve bringing up cultural imperialism and projection!
But then, this isn't about California and Japan. The only people who can afford whale meat are rich. And the rich are their own culture. Their own species--unreasoning brutes, swathed in financial blubber, till nothing gets through... short of a harpoon to the heart.
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