Moby Dick – Ahab’s Obsessions

When I first came to New York, and if I am not careful even now, I had a tendency to walk looking upward. At stoplights my eyes are drawn to the topmost floors of the tall buildings lining Manhattan where angry NYPD helicopters flit to and fro, like huge metal dragonflies startled from their rooftop sunning sessions. I follow their rippling reflection along the dark glassed building sides till they are hidden from view and their rattling sound fades away only to morph into the high pitched whine of the Fedex freight truck pulling off at the green light.

There is life around everywhere in this city filled with a bustling, frenzied sea of people. An ocean of humanity, endlessly bubbling up from the subway stations and eddying down the side walks. They surge like the tides during peak hours; tourists congregating in whirlpools of confusion.

Maybe that was when it struck me again. It is an ocean of us. We are trapped in our own vastness. A throbbing, ebbing, sentient ocean. An ocean whose jelly like stickiness if viewed with enough scrutiny will yield tinier oceans of very similar qualities.

Swimming somewhere in this ocean is each person’s Sperm Whale, Moby Dick.

Ahab’s Rage **********mild spoilers**************

“Ahab is for ever Ahab, man. This whole act’s immutably decreed. ’Twas rehearsed by thee and me a billion years before this ocean rolled. Fool! I am the Fates’ lieutenant; I act under orders. Look thou, underling! that thou obeyest mine.”

Captain Ahab, fashions a leg of ivory from the bones of a whale he kills, tempers his harpoon with lightning and monomaniacally conveys the ship under his command to chase a white headed sperm whale. All his rage, uncertainty, ambition and passion is thrust with stupendous singularity to kill the leviathan wherever he may roam in this world.

After reading literary classics where subtle social impropreities hold back caustic remarks (cough*Jane*cough*Austen*) this was such a refreshing tour-de-force. Ahab’s character evolves as we proceed till we see Ahab slowly starting to soften and harden, wavering in his resolve when confronted with Pip, the cabin boy’s innocence. Ahab created a purpose to go whaling and he imposed that purpose onto those who were onboard his ship.

Aren’t we all Ahabs in many ways? Dont we all have an Ahab moment?

When the gentle weariness creeps up in the evenings as we commute back home on auto pilot we temporarily forget our whale. But other times, when nothing makes sense and yet decision is the need of the hour, we become Ahab, conjuring phantom whales and setting sail towards that blinding misty cloud of spouted jet, dragging along everyone in our wake unwillingly. When sudden searing white anger burns through your being unconsciously there materializes a ripple showing where our Moby Dick has sounded to the depths. We stare at the expanding ring of waves waiting for his cresting.

He is always there. We want him there.

But I caution you. Do not go searching for Ahabs. They are alarmingly charismatic when commanding their ships, standing with feet apart, the wind blowing into the face and the sun trailing a deep orange foam behind him.

When in times of truth you become Ahabs, unbecome him. I warn you. I warn you.

“Close! stand close to me, Starbuck; let me look into a human eye; it is better than to gaze into sea or sky; better than to gaze upon God.”

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