Herman Melville

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In existographies, Herman Melville (136-64 BE) (1819-1891 ACM) (IQ:145|#957) (RGM:341|1,350+) (PR:1430|65AE / writer:160) (Gottlieb 1000:716) (Bloom 100:37) (EPD:F12) (CR:7) (LH:6) (TL:13) was an American religion and unbelief philosopher, novelist, short story writer, and poet, noted for his 1851 Moby Dick, a story about a vengeful hunt for a whale in the context of purpose and religion and or unbelief.[1]

Overview

In 1851, Melville published his novel Moby Dick, narrated by Ishmael, a happy-going, adventurous, religious nonbeliever, who leads readers up to the character “Captain Ahab” (EPD:M1), a college educated, mysteriously, monomaniacal captain of the ship Pequod.[2] The book was dedicated to Nathaniel Hawthorne (1804-1864) (IQ:155|#850) (Cattell 1000:527) (Gottlieb 1000:675) (Bloom 100:36), his neighbor and reputed genius (Sterns, 1906) in his own right.

Ahab

In 1697, Pierre Bayle, in his Critical and Historical Dictionary, Volume 5, discusses a Chinese atheism sect called “Foe Kiao” (65BC), whose founder he refers to as “Foe”, which renders as “no man”, whose creed was the following:[3]

“There is nothing to seek, nor anything to put one’s hopes on, except the nothingness and the vacuum that is the principle of all things. Our parents came forth from this vacuum and they returned there after death.”
— Foe Kiao (c.65BC), Publication

Daniel Herman (2014), in respect Kiao, asserted that Herman Melville had read this philosophy and had this mind when he penned the character of Captain Ahab of Moby Dick, and that what Bayle was referring to was the “Ch’an school” of China or its equivalent the “Zen Buddhism” school in Japan.[4]

The name Ahab resonates as the philosophical anchor point of several noted films: Platoon (1986), Warrior (2011), and the Punisher series (2017-2019).

Monkey rope

A sketch[5] of the “monkey rope” tied to Queequeg, while he stands on the spinning whale, kicking off sharks with his feet, while he attempts to get the blubber hook into the blubber hole, the other end tied to Ishmael, the "rope" envisioned metaphysically by Melville as a marriage bond or social bonds, depending, that everyone has to everyone else in a society, which thus obviates free will.

Melville, in his §72: the Monkey Rope, while describing the so-called “monkey rope”, one end affixed to the man on the ship, in his case Ishmael (or Melville) himself, standing on the deck of the ship, the other affixed to a man, in this case Queequeg, standing on top of the spinning whale whose job it is to get the blubber hook into the whale or the whole cut into the whale:

Spiral peel (Melville).jpg

while it is de-blubbered or stripped:

“In the tumultuous business of cutting-in and attending to a whale, there is much running backwards and forwards among the crew. Now hands are wanted here, and then again hands are wanted there. There is no staying in any one place; for at one and the same time everything has to be done everywhere. It is much the same with him who endeavors the description of the scene. We must now retrace our way a little. It was mentioned that upon first breaking ground in the whale’s back, the blubber-hook was inserted into the original hole there cut by the spades of the mates. But how did so clumsy and weighty a mass as that same hook get fixed in that hole? It was inserted there by my particular friend Queequeg, whose duty it was, as harpooneer, to descend upon the monster’s back for the special purpose referred to. But in very many cases, circumstances require that the harpooneer shall remain on the whale till the whole flensing or stripping operation is concluded. The whale, be it observed, lies almost entirely submerged, excepting the immediate parts operated upon. So down there, some ten feet below the level of the deck, the poor harpooneer flounders about, half on the whale and half in the water, as the vast mass revolves like a tread-mill beneath him. On the occasion in question, Queequeg figured in the Highland costume—a shirt and socks—in which to my eyes, at least, he appeared to uncommon advantage; and no one had a better chance to observe him, as will presently be seen.
Being the savage’s bowsman, that is, the person who pulled the bow-oar in his boat (the second one from forward), it was my cheerful duty to attend upon him while taking that hard-scrabble scramble upon the dead whale’s back. You have seen Italian organ-boys holding a dancing-ape by a long cord. Just so, from the ship’s steep side, did I hold Queequeg down there in the sea, by what is technically called in the fishery a monkey-rope, attached to a strong strip of canvas belted round his waist.
It was a humorously perilous business for both of us. For, before we proceed further, it must be said that the monkey-rope was fast at both ends; fast to Queequeg’s broad canvas belt, and fast to my narrow leather one. So that for better or for worse, we two, for the time, were wedded; and should poor Queequeg sink to rise no more, then both usage and honor demanded, that instead of cutting the cord, it should drag me down in his wake. So, then, an elongated Siamese ligature united us. Queequeg was my own inseparable twin brother; nor could I any way get rid of the dangerous liabilities which the hempen bond entailed.
So strongly and metaphysically did I conceive of my situation then, that while earnestly watching his motions, I seemed distinctly to perceive that my own individuality was now merged in a joint stock company of two; that my free will had received a mortal wound; and that another’s mistake or misfortune might plunge innocent me into unmerited disaster and death. Therefore, I saw that here was a sort of interregnum in providence; for its even-handed equity never could have so gross an injustice. And yet still further pondering—while I jerked him now and then from between the whale and ship, which would threaten to jam him—still further pondering, I say, I saw that this situation of mine was the precise situation of every mortal that breathes; only, in most cases, he, one way or other, has this Siamese connexion with a plurality of other mortals. If your banker breaks, you snap; if your apothecary by mistake sends you poison in your pills, you die. True, you may say that, by exceeding caution, you may possibly escape these and the multitudinous other evil chances of life. But handle Queequeg’s monkey-rope heedfully as I would, sometimes he jerked it so, that I came very near sliding overboard. Nor could I possibly forget that, do what I would, I only had the management of one end of it.”

Here, we recall Mark Granovetter and his “The Strength of the Weak Ties” (1969), wherein, based on the hydrogen bonding models he had learned in chemistry class, he outlines a "weak tie" and "strong tie" mode of human associations, as illustrated as below, wherein strong ties are akin to covalent bonds, and weak ties are akin to hydrogen bonds, according to which, via surveyed data, the latter of which are the method or "connect" wherein people obtain jobs:

Granovetter bond model (1969).png

This, is a precursor to the human chemical bond model.

Religion

Melville, initially, was raised in his father Unitarianism. On 28 Jan 1832, when Herman was age 12, his father, Allan Melville, passed (died, ceased, or de-reacted, or de-bound-stated), two months before his 50th birthday, owing to a combination of pneumonia and financial debt, after which, Herman was forced to begin working, and to switch to the orthodox Calvinism of his mother's faith. In 1839, Melville, aged 19, became a cabin boy and sailed the South Seas, later joining the US Navy, during which time he was shipwrecked among the Typee cannibals, later being rescued, during which time he observed the Typee religion.[6] The contrast between the three religions is frequently laughed about, from a far, albeit with respect, unless the religious belief kills or hurts another, in the words of the character Ishmael of Moby Dick,

“I cherish the greatest respect towards everybody’s religious obligations, never mind how comical, and could not find it in my heart to undervalue even a congregation of ants worshipping a toad-stool; or those other creatures in certain parts of our earth, who with a degree of footmanism quite unprecedented in other planets, bow down before the torso of a deceased landed proprietor merely on account of the inordinate possessions yet owned and rented in his name.”
— Herman Melville (1851), Moby Dick (§17: The Ramadan, character: Ishmael)

This was penned when Melville was age 42.

Other

In 1971, Burt Katz opened Pequod’s Pizzeria in Morton Grove, followed by a second location in Lincoln park; the restaurant named after the Pequod the main Nantucket whaling ship of Melville’s Moby Dick.

In 1971, Burt Katz (1938-2016) opened Pequod’s, a pizzeria in Morton Grove, that was themed on the “deep dish” pizza invented[7] by Ike Sewell and Ric Riccardo, the theme of Pizzeria Uno opened in Chicago in 1943, but with the twist of having a caramelized crust.[8] The restaurant was named after the Pequod the main Nantucket whaling ship, of three, of Melville’s Moby Dick.[9]

In 1986, Keith Jackson, owner of Gunzo’s Sports Center and pharmacist, bought Pequod’s for a “few hundred thousand dollars”, who then perfected the recipe with better cheese, cooking temperature, and opened a second location at Lincoln Park, in 1991, with a Blackhawk’s theme.[10] In the 2010s, Libb Thims has bumped into Jackson a few times, talking with him about the Blackhawks and the origin of the name "Pequods", which Thims was ignorant about, until Feb 2021, when Thims discovered a time slot way to make Audible "fiction" books available to him, such as Moby Dicky.[11]

Quotes

Quotes | On

The following are quotes on Melville:

“He can neither believe, nor be comfortable in his unbelief; and he is too honest and courageous not to try to do one or the other. If he were a religious man, he would be truly one of the most truly religious and reverential; he has a very high and noble nature, and better worth immortality than most of us.”
Nathaniel Hawthorne (c.1855), Source; cited by Nathaniel Philbrick (2011) in Why Read Moby Dick? (pg. #)[6]
“That is not to say that this is not a smart book. Herman Melville's IQ probably bordered on genius and he pulled out all the stops with Moby-Dick.”
— Jan Berg (2020), “Moby Dick: Herman Melville”, Sep 11[12]

Quotes | By

The following are quotes by Melville:

“Tell me, does the magnetic virtue of the needles of the compasses of all those ships attract them thither? Once more. Say you are in the country; in some high land of lakes. Take almost any path you please, and ten to one it carries you down in a dale, and leaves you there by a pool in the stream. There is magic in it. Let the most absent-minded of men be plunged in his deepest reveries—stand that man on his legs, set his feet a-going, and he will infallibly lead you to water, if water there be in all that region. Should you ever be athirst in the great American desert, try this experiment, if your caravan happen to be supplied with a metaphysical professor. Yes, as every one knows, meditation and water are wedded for ever.”
— Herman Melville (1851), Moby Dick (§1: Loomings; character: Ishmael)
“The transition is a keen one, I assure you, from a schoolmaster to a sailor, and requires a strong decoction of Seneca and the Stoics to enable you to grin and bear it. But even this wears off in time. What of it, if some old hunks of a sea-captain orders me to get a broom and sweep down the decks? What does that indignity amount to, weighed, I mean, in the scales of the New Testament? Do you think the archangel Gabriel thinks anything the less of me, because I promptly and respectfully obey that old hunks in that particular instance? Who ain’t a slave? Tell me that. Well, then, however the old sea-captains may order me about—however they may thump and punch me about, I have the satisfaction of knowing that it is all right; that everybody else is one way or other served in much the same way—either in a physical or metaphysical point of view, that is; and so the ‘universal thump’ is passed round, and all hands should rub each other’s shoulder-blades, and be content.”
— Herman Melville (1851), Moby Dick (§1: Loomings; character: Ishmael)
“Again, I always go to sea as a sailor, because 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 receives money is really marvellous, 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!”
— Herman Melville (1851), Moby Dick (§1: Loomings; character: Ishmael)
“Though I cannot tell why it was exactly that those stage managers, the Fates, put me down for this shabby part of a whaling voyage, when others were set down for magnificent parts in high tragedies, and short and easy parts in genteel comedies, and jolly parts in farces—though I cannot tell why this was exactly; yet, now that I recall all the circumstances, I think I can see a little into the springs and motives which being cunningly presented to me under various disguises, induced me to set about performing the part I did, besides cajoling me into the delusion that it was a choice resulting from my own unbiased free will and discriminating judgment.”
— Herman Melville (1851), Moby Dick (§1; Loomings; character: Ishmael)
“Better sleep with a sober cannibal than a drunken Christian.”
— Herman Melville (1851), Moby Dick (§3: the Spouter Inn; character: Ishmael)
“Twas not so hard a task. I thought to find one stubborn, at the least; but my one cogged circle fits into all their various wheels, and they revolve. Or, if you will, like so many ant-hills of powder, they all stand before me; and I their match. Oh, hard! that to fire others, the match itself must needs be wasting! What I’ve dared, I’ve willed; and what I’ve willed, I’ll do! They think me mad—Starbuck does; but I’m demoniac, I am madness maddened! That wild madness that’s only calm to comprehend itself! The prophecy was that I should be dismembered; and—Aye! I lost this leg. I now prophesy that I will dismember my dismemberer. Now, then, be the prophet and the fulfiller one. That’s more than ye, ye great gods, ever were. I laugh and hoot at ye, ye cricket-players, ye pugilists, ye deaf Burkes and blinded Bendigoes! I will not say as schoolboys do to bullies—Take some one of your own size; don’t pommel me! No, ye’ve knocked me down, and I am up again; but ye have run and hidden. Come forth from behind your cotton bags! I have no long gun to reach ye. Come, Ahab’s compliments to ye; come and see if ye can swerve me. Swerve me? ye cannot swerve me, else ye swerve yourselves! man has ye there. Swerve me? The path to my fixed purpose is laid with iron rails, whereon my soul is grooved to run. Over unsounded gorges, through the rifled hearts of mountains, under torrents’ beds, unerringly I rush! Naught’s an obstacle, naught’s an angle to the iron way!”
— Herman Melville (1851), Moby Dick (§37: Sunset; character: Ahab)
Prometheus, who made men, they say, should have been a blacksmith, and animated them with fire; for what’s made in fire must properly belong to fire.”
— Herman Melville (1851), Moby Dick (§108: Ahab and the Carpenter)
“But now that he had apparently made every preparation for death; now that his coffin was proved a good fit, Queequeg suddenly rallied; soon there seemed no need of the carpenter’s box: and thereupon, when some expressed their delighted surprise, he, in substance, said, that the cause of his sudden convalescence was this;—at a critical moment, he had just recalled a little duty ashore, which he was leaving undone; and therefore had changed his mind about dying: he could not die yet, he averred. They asked him, then, whether to live or die was a matter of his own sovereign will and pleasure? He answered, certainly. In a word, it was Queequeg’s conceit, that if a man made up his mind to live, mere sickness could not kill him: nothing but a whale, or a gale, or some violent, ungovernable, unintelligent destroyer of that sort. Now, there is this noteworthy difference between savage and civilized; that while a sick, civilized man may be six months convalescing, generally speaking, a sick savage is almost half-well again in a day. So, in good time my Queequeg gained strength; and at length after sitting on the windlass for a few indolent days (but eating with a vigorous appetite) he suddenly leaped to his feet, threw out his arms and legs, gave himself a good stretching, yawned a little bit, and then springing into the head of his hoisted boat, and poising a harpoon, pronounced himself fit for a fight.”
— Hermann Melville (1851), Moby Dick (§110: Queequeg in his Coffin)

End matter

References

  1. Stearns, Frank. (1906). Life and Genius of Nathaniel Hawthorne: Letters, Dairies, Reminisces and Extensive Biography. Badger.
  2. Melville, Herman. (1851). Moby Dick: the Whale (txt). Publisher.
  3. (a) Bayle, Pierre. (1697). Dictionary: Historical and Critical, Volume Five (pg. 202). Publisher.
    (b) Hecht, Jennifer M. (2003). Doubt: A History: The Great Doubters and Their Legacy of Innovation from Socrates and Jesus to Thomas (Bayle, pg. 328; Foe, pg. 330; bible for doubters, pg. 331). HarperOne.
  4. Herman, Daniel. (2014). Zen and the White Whale: a Buddhist Rendering of Moby-Dick (pg. 20). Rowman.
  5. Moby Dick (covers) – Harpune-Books.com.
  6. 6.0 6.1 Hermann Melville – Freedom From Religion Foundation.
  7. History of Chicago Deep Dish Pizza – PequiodsPizza.com.
  8. Ward, Joe; White, Lisa. (2016). “Burt Katz: Chicago Pizza Legend and Original Owner of Pequod’s, Dead at 78”, DNAInfo.com.
  9. Pequod (Moby Dick) – Wikipedia.
  10. Sadur, Adam. (2012). “Caramelized Crust Delight at Chicago favorite Pequod’s Pizza” (), DePaulia Online, Oct 19.
  11. Note: while reading non-fiction books, has always been a mastery of Thims, reading "fiction" books, has always been troublesome, per reasons, such as having to memorize dozens of names and read through pages of adjective descriptions of scenery; a new time window availablity + audible books, however, has solved this issue.
  12. Berg, Jan. (2020). “Moby Dick: Herman Melville”, J11g.com, Sep 11.

External links

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