Last fall the New Bedford Whaling Museum sent an email to the membership inviting them to read in the 13th annual Moby Dick marathon in early January.
Dork that I am, I signed up for a slot and was told on the automated voice response system that I would get a confirmation in early December.
I didn’t get a confirmation until last week, on Monday, and I was informed by the nice lady that my reading time was 5:20 am on Sunday January 4 (today) and that I needed to arrive at least an hour beforehand. Let’s see. 4:20 am in New Bedford. Need to find a parking place by 4 am. New Bedford is 45 miles from Cotuit. So …. Wake up at 3 am on the last night of the holiday break to read ten minutes from an assuredly great novel that was the ruination of its author and wasn’t “discovered” until 1920, many decades after his death?
I asked family what they would do and they all said I was an idiot and none would come to watch me be an idiot. Then I asked Uncle Fester who said, and I quote from the IM exchange:
“Are you f%^king kidding me? Loser! That’s worse that being a Trekkie going to a ComicCon. Reading Moby Dick from the deck of a whaling ship in the dark in front of other Moby Dick Trekkies. I’ll only respect you if you do it dressed as Spock.”
Not having a Spock suit, but getting Fester’s point, I slept in this morning and am glad for it. There was only one passage I wanted to read, and that is the piece I read at my father’s funeral in 1980.
Here it is:
“Round the world! There is much in that sound to inspire proud feelings; but whereto does all that circumnavigation conduct? Only through numberless perils to the very point whence we started, where those that we left behind secure, were all the time before us.
Were this world an endless plain, and by sailing eastward we could for ever reach new distances, and discover sights more sweet and strange than any Cyclades or Islands of King Solomon, then there were promise in the voyage. But in pursuit of those far mysteries we dream of, or in tormented chase of that demon phantom that, some time or other, swims before all human hearts; while chasing such over this round globe, they either lead us on in barren mazes or midway leave us whelmed.”
One thought on “Moby Trek: Mission Failure”
That’s a great passage you chose – the journey round the world with those we left behind, now waiting ahead of us at the end is roughly analogous to our journey through life, with those who depart and lie behind us, now waiting for us to rejoin them after our journey has ended with our death here.
To my mind, the great value of such a written passage is in it’s ability to provoke thought, self awareness, and growth within ourselves. Sometimes, special circumstances are required for humans to give weight to things and to ponder them.
Maybe for some, standing on the deck of a ship in the middle of the night and reading (by lantern light?) passages from such a work allows the opportunity to step outside the familiarity of our daily lives and to experience a personal epiphany.
Or, maybe it was just a bunch of folks standing around, and reading passages out of a book – no great loss that you slept in.