Sunday, February 20, 2005

The Disadvantaged Commodore.

I picked up a copy of Melville's Moby Dick, or The Whale. Hadn't read it, and intend to. I am sure it was on some one's required reading list when I was in High School, but I confess, I didn't read any required literature in High School. My rule then was, if it is required, I will hate it. I am in a scramble to read many of the great books.

Becuase Cornel West so highly regarded Melville's book and made many references to it in Democracy Matters, I thought I would tackle it. With two young boys to parent, I don't get a lot of down time to read and so it takes a long time for me to finish a book. I was going to get it out of the local library, but I figure with the money I would save in late fees, I could afford a copy of my own. Found a 1926 print on Ebay and it came the other day.

I already thorougly enjoy the story. Great writing is timeless. So, I thought I would share with you my favorite passage so far as there are a rich set of lessons therein.

From page 5 of my copy (Random House's "the Modern Libary"):

...I always go to sea as a sailor, becuase they make a point of paying me for my trouble, whereas they never pay passengers a single penny that I ever heard of. On the contrary, passengers themselves must pay. And there is all the difference in the world between paying and being paid. The act of paying is perhaps the most uncomfortable infliction that the two orchard thieves entailed upon us. But being paid, - what will compare with it? The urbane activity with which a man recieves money is really marevellous, considering that we so earnestly believe money to be the root of all earthly ills, and that on no account can a monied man enter heaven. Ah! how cheerfully we consign ourselves to perdition.

Finally, I always go to sea as a sailor, because of the wholesome exercise and pure air of the fore-castle deck. For as in this world, head winds are far more prevalent than winds from astern (that is, if you never violate the Pythagorean maxim), so for the most part the Commodore on the quarter-deck gets his atmosphere at second hand from the sailors on the forecastle. He thinks he breaths it first; but not so. In much the same way do the commonality lead their leaders in many other things, at the same time that the leaders little suspect it.

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