Perhaps Melville’s Ahab didn’t drown, maybe he let go, let go of his passion. Then he fell to earth, where he, alive but not well—aliens and alcohol do not mix—where he sells re-presentations of that lost passion piece by piece. But who can blame him? Life is not love (passion) any more than it is death and sometimes you have to choose—he chose life.

“We are born with infinite possibilities, only to give up one after another. That’s inevitable. But what can you do? That’s what is to live. To choose one thing means to give up on another.” —Hayao Miyazaki.

But our stories don’t tell it like that. They say life and love are sewn together, all or nothing, a happy ending or death; cue Tchaikovsky, Prokofiev or Rota, even.

Not so in the theme park we live in, it’s a world without love/passion, as often as not. We get by, like the twice fictional “Old Thunder” perhaps simulated here by a costumed minimum wage “associate,” retailing bits and pieces of what we we’d like to remember mixed with what we’d like to sell. But consider this from Ahab himself:

“…All visible objects, man, are but as pasteboard masks. But in each event—in the living act, the undoubted deed—there, some unknown but still reasoning thing puts forth the mouldings of its features from behind the unreasoning mask. If man will strike, strike through the mask! How can the prisoner reach outside except by thrusting through the wall? To me, the white whale is that wall, shoved near to me. Sometimes I think there’s naught beyond. But ’tis enough…”

So what is it that’s “naught beyond” Is it a god, or his agents and idols, a corporate conspiracy or a career within same, even love, whatever that means? What “‘tis enough” for any one sane enough to not expect an answer?

Sources—not that I’ve read or seen all of these, most though, but that they popped up in my research and seemed relevant:

  • “Moby Dick” (with the Rockwell Kent’s of course) and “The Piazza Tales” by Melville
  • Movies by and about Miyazaki
  • “The Man Who Fell to Earth,” the movie by Roeg and the book by Tevis.
  • “Stalker,” the move by Tarkovsky, not the book.
  • “Simulacra and Simulation” by Baudrillard
  • “The World Beyond Your Head…” by Crawford
  • serendip.brynmawr.edu/sci_cult/evolit/s04/web3/a1hussein.html
  • americangloom.wordpress.com/tag/moby-dick/
  • epicureandealmaker.blogspot.com/2012/05/behind-wall.html