Chapter 132: The Symphony

“The Symphony” is perhaps where we see Ahab at his most human, and we have a rare opportunity to empathize. As far as I can recall, this is the one time in the book where we see Ahab cry. Starbuck tries to console him, and much of this chapter then revolves around the question of choice: can Ahab turn back, can he change his intents? Interestingly, considering the time period, we’re not talking Protestant philosophy here; questions of choice aren’t framed as Calvinist predestination.  Ahab seems to be talking of his life as a series of moments all adding up to the the present moment, and he wonders in a way if one plus one can ever equal anything but two. Having lived the life he lived, has he really been making this choice all his life, before he even knew it was his choice to make? Ahab’s answer, I guess, is “yes,” and so he continues on even though he knows that may objectively be a bad idea.

Our nation could fit this model, too. We have a history. We are the sum of all our past choices. Are we at the helm, or have we been making today’s choices for the last two hundred fifty years? A sane person would say this is nonsense. An insane person would need an excuse to feel better about such shoddy and opportunistic logic.

Almost as an afterthought to his questions of choice, Ahab blames God: “Is Ahab, Ahab? Is it I, God, or who that lifts this arm?” I ask the following: does God enter the equation as a form of cognitive dissonance? Does Ahab know he’s crazy, that his logic of choice leads back to Calvinism anyway, that of course he has a choice despite his past? Is God an excuse for all involved?

Chapter 132: The Symphony

Remember.
Remember.
Remember when I was a boy?
I was a boy.
I was a boy.
I was a boy when I first killed a whale.

For forty,
For forty,
For forty years I fought the…
I fought the…
I fought the…
I fought the dark portentous…

Here’s a motion,
A decision
Of devotion.
It’s a choice
But here am I blind:
How do I know it’s mine?

And now I,
And now I ,
And now I weep into the sea.
The sea has,
The sea has,
The sea has finally felt the soul of me.

Who makes the,
Who makes the,
Who makes the hunter kill the lamb?
The lamb is…
The lamb is…
The lamb is never peaceful but apprised.

Here’s a motion,
A decision
Of devotion.
It’s a choice
But here am I blind:
How do I know it’s mine?

I was a boy.
I was a boy.
I was a boy when I first killed a whale.

(c) and (p) 2008 Patrick Shea
Words and music written by Patrick Shea August 5, 2008
All parts performed, arranged, and recorded by Patrick Shea September 27, 2008

Published in: on October 12, 2008 at 10:52 am  Comments (1)  
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One CommentLeave a comment

  1. great post.


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