Wednesday, 30 December 2015

Thar she blows!

Catching whales, JE Carl Rasmussen


I LOVE Moby Dick. Love it. Along with Hawthorne, Fenimore Cooper and Dickenson, they formed some of my best memories in university. Like some many others before and since, I loved everything about Melville's masterpiece. The detailed descriptions of seamanship. The descriptions of dismembering a whale. The characters in it. Their names which now even come down to us in popular culture. The way he wove the entire story into a parable. It could be read upside down and inside out. The story around it. Nantucket! How Melville became very depressed. How Hawthorne had to tell him to hold it together. The sheer craftsmanship. The complete lack of recognition. I went on to read almost everything he had written and I loved it.

ANYWAY, the reason I am writing about Moby Dick is that I went to see The Heart of the Sea, in the cinemas yesterday. I went thinking that it was about a story which was inspired by Moby Dick, but it really was a film about the story which purportedly inspired the book. Because I did essays on Moby Dick,  I was forced to learn a little about the whaling industry in the 19th century, and it was horrific. I think that a lot of the things I read in university are responsible for my outlook on life. What I took away from this was the exploitation of the working classes and the impoverished and nature by the bankers and how completely crazy human beings are. But also how noble. And how we are so flawed.

When I think of the first three words in the novel Call me Ishmael, it still gives me goosebumps.

For the first half hour I was completely unconvinced - the terrible acting and the accents were so hard to follow. Christ Hemsworth may be a good Thor, but he is a terrible actor when it comes to actually having to act. Thankfully there was Brenden Gleeson and Cillian Murphy, and then there was the screenplay and the actual film. If you make it through the first half hour, you will be quite impressed by the craft and the actual story. If it is nominated for the Best Screenplay, it will win. It was a homage to American literature, American workers and it was also a parable of our times about oil, finance and greed. Only Ron Howard could have made a film like this and gotten away with it. Like the novel you would read what you wanted to read into it (although it is difficult to miss the message when it is so in your face), but at the same time it was a story well told. I loved it. Yes, there was a clunkiness, and unreality about it, but those moments I thought were more like metaphors, symbolic, even Brechtian. The non-realness was meant to be non-real - you were not meant to be absorbed, but to stand apart. To say, I do not find resolution in this.

It makes me want to go a read the book all over again.

There was been so much rain this past week. I was shocked by the terrible news coverage which the BBC had on its website about the floods. How could they possibly say that it looked quite beautiful? The way a Hellfire missile or an Apache look quite beautiful? How come people are so easily seduced by the image? Even a BBC news reported. How could they say that when people's homes had been inundated and people have lost everything?

I don't know really what is going to happen to the world if we continue on this course. Someone said in a FB post that the system was corrupt, not the people who run the system. But we ARE the system. The system is not some disembodied thing which does things to us. We create the system. If we are part of the corrupt system, then we are also corrupt. I have worked as a civil servant and I have seen how self-interest and fear keep people in check beautifully. They can dress it up as anything they want, most innocuously and infuriatingly, as bureaucracy, but I have seen what it does to people. It tells you, to leave your brain at the door, if you had a brain in the first place. Only someone who has voluntarily given up their independence or someone who has no idea what is going on, will be able to operate in something like that. If you don't or won't, then you will be made to suffer. That is how organisations work. How much are you willing to give up before you say, enough, no more.

Yesterday we talked about the paradox of surrender. You can only surrender something if you have something to surrender. If you have no individuality, then you cannot say, I give this to someone else. I give this up.

So if you never nurture your individuality then you can never give it up - and there is something about this dance that is essential about the human condition. We are given much so that we can give it away. If we keep too much of it, it will make us sick.

It is still pitch black and it is almost 8 am. Well, I am going to clean Oisin's room today before I head off for the service. After taking forever to get to Monday, time is once again speeding up. Today there is going to be a talk about the Luciferic and Ahrimanic impulse. It is fascinating. Can't wait.

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