Thursday, August 3, 2023


My second favorite passage in all of literature is from the opening harpoon thrust of Melville's "Moby Dick; or, The Whale."

Choosing and stating your favorite passage of literature isn't really fair. Different moods call for different favorite bits--and there are times--I went through a couple of them during the decade I spent with my mother-in-law this weekend, where my favorite passage could be found from this, sung by Joe Williams with Basie tickling the tusks. Especially starting around 2:03. (And check out the note he holds for 17-seconds starting at 5:02.)

But back to my second-favorite passage, from the opening of Moby Dick. 

"Whenever I find myself growing grim about the mouth; whenever it is a damp, drizzly November in my soul; whenever I find myself involuntarily pausing before coffin warehouses, and bringing up the rear of every funeral I meet...then, I account it high time to get to sea as soon as I can."

There are a lot of people who were assigned Moby Dick who never read it. Why would anyone read a centuries-old book about whaling. But Moby Dick isn't about whaling any more than this blog is about advertising.

As a grown-up, when the world lets me down, when the people who say they love me and the people I work with dial life in, I find myself growing grim about the mouth.

When a $X0,000 assignment is looming (Melville's chapter, btw is called 'Loomings,') and there's no one to earn the $X0K, crack the brief, have the ideas, write the words, and give the client more than they've asked for than me, I often feel a "damp, drizzly November in my soul..."

I don't have a whale ship to escape to.

I have the dark recesses of my dark recesses.

The dark recesses of my dark recesses and my typing fingers. 

When I feel strain like Ishmael, I account it high time to get to work as soon as I can.

Get to work as soon as I can.

Would I rather stream something?

Would I rather jibber-jabber with friends.

Would I rather go for a run or take a nap?

The thing about work--the sorrow and the pain and the joy and the pleasure of it--is that work is yours to do. 

You can avoid it, slough it off, concoct a million and twenty-seven reasons why you can't do work, but if you're serious about life itself, and being what we Yids call "a mensch," that is, the apotheosis of humanity itself--a responsible, caring, generous human being--if you're serious about work and life and being a mensch, you work. 

You work, you work, you work.

You deal with the damp, drizzly November of your soul by getting to work.

You might not like it.

You might not like the Loomings.

But it's my second-favorite passage.

And, besides, what's the alternative?

Floating in the ocean with a coffin as a life-raft?


OK. Maybe watch this too. The joy of work.

No comments: