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the topic of evil in M-B

[ Edited ]
Bob F. wrote:
So I applaud Melville once again for explaining in terms of real life what seems uncomprehendable in Ahab. Evil incarnate? Let's talk about the accumulation of life's indignities, and the tragic response to them.
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Evil is a subject on its own. To keep the threads somewhat organized here perhaps we could discuss it separately.

What makes Ahab evil, why is it obvious, why not? Did you meet any "Ahab" IRL? How do you define evil? Is there any 'purpose, meaning' to evil?

ziki

Message Edited by ziki on 01-24-200705:08 PM

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Re: the topic of evil in M-B

Bob wrote elsewhere:

Ahab is America. Why not start there?
--------
In his recent speech president Bush made clear he wants to send more troops to Irak eventhough the majority of the nation is against it (my paraphraze).

So yes. Not to discuss the contemporary politics as such but rather the relevance of M-D's theme of Ahab today, the enigma of Ahab, the force that drives him.

I see now that personally I was alerted by my subconscious and I stopped reading M-B midway for awhile and dived instead into Scott Peck's book on evil (People of the Lie).
Naming the evil is half of the success. Sometimes evil is overt (like i.e. in the case of the pig farmer presently on trial in Vancouver, Canada who at least can say 'I am a bad dude'.

In that case there is some recognition of the evil element and thus also the possibility of the opposite, the good. But when the evil isn't recognized and is covert then it gets really nasty.

How was it with Ahab?

ziki
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scapegoat

[ Edited ]
from Laurel's chosen quote:

He piled upon the whale’s white hump the sum of all the general rage and hate felt by his whole race from Adam down; and then, as if his chest had been a mortar, he burst his hot heart’s shell upon it.
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Evil searches for a scapegoat. The projection needs to be pinned onto something or somebody so that the narcissistic self-image can be preserved intact. All that unconsciously of course which makes it even more horrid and dangerous.

Is M-D a scapegoat or is Ahab trying to get revenge and 'punish' him because of the loss of his leg?
symbol: legs help us to move on...in what way did Ahab stagnate? Why is he unable to move on? Is it because he fails to make a connection with the go(o)d in him and is unable to [forgive=see, aknowledge, trust the good]?

Evil is not pure emptiness. Rather it is an attempt to deny emptiness. A futile attempt to fill the perceived lack of something. A real illusion.

Here the discussion might get 'compilcated'. Some would say that evil is real. Others would say it is not. I say evil is real in duality as an opposite to good. But in the Real-ity of the Absolute (which is just a hypothesis for many) just God=good is, better say there is no polarity present just a Presence... there are no longer any opposites to play with and in that respect evil is an illusion perceived as real.

How can you empower yourself to deal with evil?


ziki

Message Edited by ziki on 01-24-200706:28 PM

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fanuzzir
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Re: scapegoat

I was really trying to remove the label of "evil" from Ahab by working through Melville's own words. They are more psychologically acute than moralistic. By the definition you give below, most of us are evil: we all look for scapegoats, we all deny emptiness. That's what makes Ahab so attractive a character!
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Re: Chapter 29 : The Cabin - Is Ahab evil?

[ Edited ]
1 King 21:25 KJV: 'But there was noone like unto Ahab, which did sell himself to work wickedness in the sight of the Lord, whom Jezebel his wife stirred up.'

Mmmm....So who was Jezebel? Moby Dick or...?

I find it difficult to judge Ahab because I see him as physically disabled and mentally sick. His injury had unhinged his mind and he was not really responsible for his actions. He acknowledged this himself when he spoke these words to Pip, the cabin boy, who also went insane, and who tried to dissuade Ahab from the chase:-

'Weep so, and I will murder thee! have a care for Ahab too is mad [My italics.] Listen and thou wilt often hear my ivory foot upon the deck and still know that I am there. And now I quit thee'. Thy hand! - Met! True art thou lad, as the circumference to its centre [doubloon ref?] So: God for ever bless thee; and if it comes to that, - God for ever save thee, let what will befall.'

Ahab shows humanity in this chapter and does not want to draw Pip into 'worse horrors'. He knows he has sealed his own fate but is perhaps having regrets about drawing others into it? It is all the more significant because Pip is a negro and when Ahab gives his cabin over to him he says: 'What an odd feeling, now, when a black boy's host to white men with gold lace upon their coats.' Is this Ahab's Anagnorisis?

I also found Chapter 129 The Cabin very Shakespearean but couldn't quite pin down the play Melville was thinking of - Laurel???






fanuzzir wrote:
I was really trying to remove the label of "evil" from Ahab by working through Melville's own words. They are more psychologically acute than moralistic. By the definition you give below, most of us are evil: we all look for scapegoats, we all deny emptiness. That's what makes Ahab so attractive a character!

Message Edited by Choisya on 01-25-200704:07 PM

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Laurel
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Re: Chapter 29 : The Cabin - Is Ahab evil?



Choisya wrote:
I also found Chapter 129 The Cabin very Shakespearean but couldn't quite pin down the play Melville was thinking of - Laurel???



King Lear

Boris Godunov
"Truth must of necessity be stranger than fiction, for fiction is the creation of the human mind, and therefore is congenial to it." ~~G.K. Chesterton
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Choisya
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Re: Chapter 29 : The Cabin - Is Ahab evil?

Mmmmm....with Pip as the Fool chastising Lear/Ahab for giving away his kingdom?




Laurel wrote:


Choisya wrote:
I also found Chapter 129 The Cabin very Shakespearean but couldn't quite pin down the play Melville was thinking of - Laurel???



King Lear

Boris Godunov


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fanuzzir
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Re: Chapter 29 : The Cabin - Is Ahab evil?

We should take this discussion up in the thread encompassing chapter 129; it's too good to be just a discussion about evil. It's about madness, and fidelity, and racism, and narcissism. Yes, I do see Ahab as Lear but I don't see Pip as the fool--possibly Cordelia in his subservience. For another version of the white captain and the dutiful black slave, see "Benito Cereno" by Melville. You won't believe what he does to this scenario. Thanks, Choisya, for finding this.
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Re: the topic of evil in M-B (spoiler whole book)

[ Edited ]
Denise wrote:

"Even before we see Ahab as part of the ship there are allusions to him being a ship: his losing a leg is referred to him as being "dismasted" and his wooden leg is referred to as a "spar". Then he later merges into the ship.
-------------

These are paralells: a ship without a mast is not much worth and a captain without a leg is more vulnerable. We see that when Ahab needs the help of others (i.e. to be hoisted up onto the masthead or onboard the English ship). The missing leg hurts him. Both physically and mentally. His physical wound took a long time to heal (before and after he boarded the ship). The whale bone perforated him in the groin (weak point) like a harpoon. His mental wound never healed.

It is the inability to accept his own vulnerability and in consequence mortality that brings about the very disaster he actually fears= the destruction of himself.

After loosing his leg Ahab perceives himself as more vulnerable (=my qualified guess) and he tries to assert his greatness and mastership more forcefully. To get energy he focuses that wish through his vengeance, hatred and he projects his anger outward.

It is this mechanism that lies at the core of any evil action, attack. We project the evil outward and we thus imagine ourselves more powerful, able to conquer the outer world, the potential enemy and we think that our attack will protect us. But we can't escape the guilt this creates, no matter what.

What happens is actually the total opposite to our wish to win: We all loose- as Pequod- because ego wishes no one well. It is an insane belief that the more anger you invest outside yourself the safer you are. But we all do it. And in so doing we attack ourselves (only) and that is the seed of any self-destructiveness. This works like a bumerang: what you throw out comes back at you with double force.

What Ahab demonstrated was a pseudo-power. He couldn't find love in himself for himself (and consequently others). He didn't trust his greatness that lies in that recognition of good. With Starbuck at the end he was close but he couldn't take the leap because his unconscious indentification with the evil (his own weakness) was too big, too precious. No matter what, he believed himself to be a victim and therefore couldn't forgive and move on; thus saving also all others. Instead he invented a scapegoat and thought that by destroying the scapegoat the redemption was certain.

It is the victim thought that hooks both parts in this dance macabre.
That is also why the facist idea was projected on Ahab in 1950s. An agressor needs a victim and if there is a victim/guilt in a nation or an individual the agressor vill seek him out, the thought of weakness hooks them together in the delusion. On a national level USA is playing the same game with Iraq, they moreover are caught ina double bind, seeing themselves as victims, 'scapegoating' each other mutually.

Some say: evil can't be forgotten. That only means that one needs to recognize this mechanism and understand it fully. But in order to heal, evil needs to be forgiven because in its appearance it is not real. That doesn't mean suffering doesn't exist. It does, the pain is real, inescapable untill you ket go off it.

Christians get fixated with the cross. We are all nailed eternally on that cross thanks to that doctrine. And we fail to see the salvation that lies in the meeting point of the horizontal (thinking mind) and the vertical mind (timeless awarenness). On that very junction we need to live any moment. Jesus on the cross has that point very close to his heart.


But evil is a blind illusion. We say 'love is blind' but what we mean by that (the romantic love) works on the same principle of projection. It is katexis, some magic thinking , empowering of idols (like Queequeg's Yojo), we're making the other all powerful and a king above us. We see the good outside of ourselves and chase after that. We project the good as well as the evil. What happens is that we end up needy. We could say that evil is blind but true love sees, and it sees all equally beautiful.

In their own essence all individuals are strong and capable but we fail to own that fact and there the catastrophy starts. We fail to love. We do not seize the potential and without even knowing we turn into controlling Ahabs.


ziki

Message Edited by ziki on 01-31-200707:25 PM

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