Chapter 117: The Whale Watch

Show of hands: Three women living in a cave tell you that you won’t die until the forest walks itself over to your castle. Any takers? I’m often tempted to think Macbeth is just plain stupid in the ways he interprets the words of others, especially in the way he interprets the prophecy of his coming death.

Macbeth is not stupid, however, nor is Ahab. In “The Whale Watch,” Fedallah prophesies Ahab’s death, and Ahab interprets those prophesies as telling of Ahab’s immortality. Ahab hears what he wants to hear, and in so doing, loses a chance to avoid his death.

“The Whale Watch” serves as a reminder to recognize perspective in our analysis of the day to day. It can be tempting to force all events into our desired interpretation, but that temptation likely leads to a distorted picture. Certainly no picture of the world can avoid all distortion, but perhaps the more perspectives contributing to a picture, the closer to truth that picture gets.

Chapter 117: The Whale Watch

Haven’t you read Macbeth, old man?
Though the prophecy promised you’ll never die
It’s gonna be bad.

‘Til Burnham Wood comes to Dunsinane,
And nothing but hemp can kill you —
Ahab, you’re fucking insane.

You hear what you want
Whenever you want it.
You do what you should
Whenever you choose.

Everybody heard Fedallah say:
You’re gonna die, you’re gonna die.
And Fedallah knows what he’s telling you:
You’re gonna die, you’re gonna die.

Neither coffin nor hearse can be thine —
It’s a civilized comfort to be buried inside
That your nature denied.

We can’t even call it irony —
He told you that you’ll die when the Pequod sinks
And he said it plainly.

You hear what you want
Whenever you want it.
You do what you should
Whenever you choose.

Everybody heard Fedallah say:
You’re gonna die, you’re gonna die.
And Fedallah knows what he’s telling you:
You’re gonna die, you’re gonna die.

Haven’t you read Macbeth, old man?
Though the prophecy promised you’ll never die
It’s gonna be bad.

(c) and (p) 2008 Patrick Shea
Words and music written by Patrick Shea August 19, 2008
All parts performed, arranged, and recorded by Patrick Shea April 5, 2009

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