03-04-2007 12:48 PM
Civilization is also an interface or a skin for the human being, protecting him from Nature. Removing layers can eventually lead to death.
Interesting...how do you mean removing layers of civilization? Tell me more, please.
03-04-2007 05:44 PM
03-04-2007 09:41 PM
Man forms society to survive, to essentially prevent himself from dying. I think Melville uses the example of a pyramid as a representation of civilization- it is a building, contains a language(heiroglyphics), has a notion of an afterlife or a religion, wealth, a heirarchy or an aristocracy, etc. etc. But all these things and everthing you can think of represents a layer of civilization. Or you can take each stone from the top down and "unlayer" civilization, so to speak. But removing one or all of these layers could mean societal break down or death. One important layer would be language- I think he compares the example of whale markings and hieroglyphics on the walls of ancient Egypt, these were visible, however. So, a civilization's language is also its skin- try removing it. Anyway, civilization, the pyramid is an interface between man and Nature, separated by layers, some, if removed would cause death, and you get the picture...
Chad, you can't imagine how compelling the symbol of the pyramid and the hieroglyph was to nineteenth century American writers.
03-05-2007 11:29 AM
03-05-2007 09:09 PM
The dicsussion never took us to the free masons, which may have formed the backbone of American society. But Ahab, the Pequod, and the whale are all compared to a pyramid: all seem to have a center or an apex, layers of skin, are amalgamation of parts, but are also parts themselves of a larger organism or pyramid. The larger they become, the more obscure the connection to the rest of the world or the universe. The whale, however, in contrast to civilization, maintains a mystic connection to Nature that confounds Man. I imagine that Melville believes that the human has amasssed very unreal or unnatural entities we call cities...
Mystic connection, I agree, one that Ahab tried to stitch together by calling Moby Dick the pasteboard mask. What lies beyond is really not the issue, he found; a pyramid, like a whale, carries its own sense of divinity within its mass.