Thursday, April 26, 2012

The White Whale

The white killer whale, called "Iceberg" got me thinking about that other famous white whale.
"There she blows!- there she blows! A hump like a snow-hill!" (on sighting Moby Dick)

"No doubt the first man that ever murdered an ox was regarded as a murderer; perhaps he was hung; and if he had been put on his trial by oxen, he certainly would have been; and he certainly deserved it if any murderer does. Go to the meat-market of a Saturday night and see the crowds of live bipeds staring up at the long rows of dead quadrupeds. Does not that sight take a tooth out of the cannibal's jaw? Cannibals? who is not a cannibal? I tell you it will be more tolerable for the Fijian that salted down a lean missionary in his cellar against a coming famine; it will be more tolerable for that provident Fijian, I say, in the day of judgment, than for thee, civilized and enlightened gourmand, who nailest geese to the ground and feastest on their bloated livers in thy pate-de-foie-gras." (Melville making a great case for vegetarianism)
"I have no objection to any person’s religion, be it what it may, so long as that person does not kill or insult any other person, because that other person don’t believe it also. But when a man’s religion becomes really frantic; when it is a positive torment to him; and, in fine, makes this earth of ours an uncomfortable inn to lodge in; then I think it high time to take that individual aside and argue the point with him." (Melville must have known Rick Santorum)
"Towards thee I roll, thou all-destroying but unconquering whale; to the last I grapple with thee; from hell's heart I stab at thee; for hate's sake I spit my last breath at thee." (such a great line it made Star Trek 2 a classic movie)

And my favorite all time sentence in Moby Dick:
 "Better sleep with a sober cannibal than a drunken Christian."

Moby Dick is a great little book (okay, it's not very little) and it's free now as an e-book. It's a great read if you have the time and patience. Even the thirty-second chapter, which take a break from the story for a long discourse on the natural history of whales, is interesting. An modern editor would probably cut that chapter but it is a fascinating look at what little biology of whales was known while they were being hunted to near extinction.

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