Saturday, July 23, 2011

The Battering-Ram Blues

These past two weeks I have been plowing through Moby Dick with an interest heightened by the uncanny parallel experiences in my life. Melville begins "The Battering-Ram" with, "Ere quitting, for the nonce, the Sperm Whale's head, I would have you, as a sensible physiologist, simply-particularly remark its front aspect, in all its compacted collectedness.  I would have you investigate it now with a sole view of forming to yourself some unexaggerated intelligent estimate of whatever battering-ram power may be lodged there."  The Sperm Whales massive head has side-set eyes and ears, a boom-like lower jaw and a formless flat front.  The head being nearly one third of the whale's length without a single bone until you get twenty feet from the forehead.  "Wherefore, you must now have perceived that the front of the Sperm Whale's head is a dead, blind wall, without a single organ or tender prominence of any sort whatsoever."  
TERRIFYING!  I could picture Moby's dead, blind wall coming straight toward the slow bulk of the whaling vessel and almost feel the forceful, jarring impact.  I could see the stunned sailors, in that still moment of realization that comes after a shocking event.  It must be something like being hit by a large pick-up truck while driving a small foreign car distractedly through a red light early one sunny Saturday morning.  At least, that's what I thought a few days after reading this chapter. Cruising through the calm streets of my small country town, I was wishing I'd finished my morning cup of coffee before leaving the house. In a fraction of a second, I became horrifyingly aware of the blind, unfeeling flat front of a battering-(Dodge) Ram pick-up, crashing through the driver side door and front end of the car, sending it spinning through the intersection, and yes my friends, the halter round my neck was painfully present.  There it was, just like Melville said it would be, with the realization that mortality is ever present, hidden by a thin veil of sophomoric security, and I didn't feel devil-may-care at all. 
Harvey, my loyal Golden Retriever, and I crawled out of the passenger door of what used to be my little Honda, now completely totalled.  Thankfull that no one was injured, we made our way to the sidewalk and stood in shocked silence, our six legs shaking.  In minutes, my handsome husband was at my side, giving me a hug, saying, "everything will be all right", and taking Harvey and me home.  Eventually, we picked out a sensible used Chevy Malibu, ironically the same dark, bluish-gray of a Right Whale.  I've named the car, Moby, to remind me to pay better attention while driving and to be on the look out for battering-rams on the road. 
Moby Dick, is right around the corner from the lonely Pequod, but Ahab won't have the luxury of contacting his insurance agent to replace his totalled ship or to cover the cost of any damage the men or the whale may suffer after the devastating impact.  Poor Ishmael, Queequeg, and Tashteego.  I wish I could tell them everything will be all right and whisk them home.

1 comment:

  1. Thank Goodness you (and Harv. Hi Harvey!) are okay, because, alas, things are not always all right.

    Sometimes the whale hits the ship and everyone winds up in Davy Jones' Locker.

    I am now off to find some pictures of a sperm whale on the netz.