There are mountains of the written word. Scripture is inspired of God. Neither the creation of scripture nor the voice of the Holy Spirit were silenced at the end of the New Testament.
Dumps full of books have piled up since , some even claiming credentials of divine inspiration. Only a few in their vision and craft reveal truth so clearly that many can agree the result is inspired. Moby Dick is such a book.
Why Melville? Apparently a perfect man is not required to write scripture. Clearly Melville was intimate with the dark side: obsession, resentment and pride. Probably very poor company at tea. He was thirty-one at its completion.
By all accounts a man's life which might have run a prosperous and conventional course after Moby Dick never emerged. He was financially dependent on his family for the rest of his life. He grew estranged from his wife. His relatives could not decide if he was a fool or a lunatic. His gift which created the beauty of A Bosom Friend was perverted into cynical diatribe in The Confidence Man. Mortally wounded. Destined there in the first place. Lost in his pride and resentment, he never found the path.
Melville was not perfect, but in the summer of 1851 he finished the perfect study of a man's reckoning with pride, that all-consuming hatred evil that brought us Hitler, the Ku Klux Klan and the Oklahoma City Bomber.
Is there enough written about this unique subject? We already had the Lucifer myth. Pride is but one of a dozen life-threatening toxins to be avoided in a life journey,
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and then only for the few who possess the
passion to pull dead black out of the crayon box to color
Moby Dick is scripture; that is the answer. Some will not find its truth compelling. Others will intuit the greatness that lies in the masterpiece. An explorer need not jump into the cataract to know it will kill.
For those who have survived the experience of passionate hatred, which is pride, which is evil, Moby Dick will be felt and understood at its core.
Many have not survived. Ahab who had a glimpse of redemption in The Symphony could not recover from his evil madness. Starbuck despaired in the face of it, failed as a man and died anyway. Melville, in his turn was no more able to cast overboard his own doubts and confusion than was Starbuck to overthrow Ahab.
The pictures. Why the pictures? They are inspired by all of this. They are not decorations. They pretend to nothing. They are not commercial. They are a weaving of original materials with new hands. They bespeak the artist's vision of the men who in their relations reveal truth. Perhaps the portraits will add another perspective to Melville's meaning.
What greater tribute to a man's masterpiece than his characters take on immortal identity to be woven again and again by men and women who care about truth.
And...it has not been done. The canon could use a few good pictures to help tell the tale.
John Sheller July 1995