Chapter 99: The Dubloon

And some certain significance lurks in all things, else all things are little worth, and the round world itself but an empty cipher, except to sell by the cartload, as they do hills about Boston, to fill up some morass in the Milky Way.

We live in an ocean of information. I don’t mean information as in media, advertisements, etc. I mean that even with civilization totally stripped away, we would find ourselves naked in the woods in an ocean of information — the snap of a twig, the coloration of each mushroom, the taste of a breeze — too many details to recognize, let alone integrate into one’s understanding of the world. To cope with this impossible situation, we make a series of decisions, conscious and subconscious, about what to care about and why to care about it. In the process, each individual person writes the story of the world, based on our unique filtered set of significance. In the end, it’s less about perspective, or even interpretation, and more about the act of imposing meaning onto the world — somewhere in the process of reading the world as a text, we find ourselves writing the world as a text.

These ideas are the basics of the modernist principles found in “The Dubloon.” The gist of the chapter involves Ahab — then Starbuck, Stubb, Flask, the Manxman, Queequeg, and Pip — looking at the dubloon that Ahab nailed to the mast in “The Quarter-Deck” and “reading” its markings in widely varying ways. Of course, Ishmael throws in a number of subtle twists along the way. Before Ahab’s reading, Ishmael details the markings on the dubloon as objective fact. We have to remember, though, that Ishmael himself is a viewer, and a re-teller, and has imposed his own story of the dubloon simply in the details he chose to relate.

And then suddenly you may recognize that Ishmael is effectively reading his crew-mates’ readings as he recounts them, and then suddenly he starts reading Stubb’s reading of another character’s reading, which that character reads through the lens of a tattoo or something, and none of it really means anything anymore — to even assume that each man’s reading of the dubloon speaks to his inner self is itself a meaning imposed on events.

Chapter 99: The Dubloon

A thing yet precious in itself,
Stamped with the symbols of a collective memory
And then stamped again, each eyes
Create reflections in the ridges, shaped alike.

And a man can filter text through any text,
And a man himself is text filtering text:
Come along and write the world with me!
You make me precious, and I make you precious.

I look, you look, he looks; we look,
Ye look, they look are crazy as a thing can be.
And we recognize these truths
And yet oblige the process, meaning be the rule.

And a man can filter text through any text,
And a man himself is text filtering text:
Come along and write the world with me!
You make me precious, and I make you precious.

A thing yet precious in itself,
A purpose at the center of our waning lives,
It’s a story that we make —
Unscrew the navel and will everything unwind?

And a man can filter text through any text,
And a man is but a text filtering text:
Come along and write the world with me!
You make me precious, and I make you precious.

(c) and (p) 2008 Patrick Shea
Words and music written by Patrick Shea October 11, 2008
All parts performed, arranged, and recorded by Patrick Shea November 15, 2009

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