Tuesday, April 20, 2010

Here on Earth, our Comfortable Inn

now reading: Moby Dick by Herman Melville
now also reading: a bunch of other stuff. mostly for work/projects

Totally have not been posting frequently about the Moby, but hereby getting back on the stick!

So. We had been thinking about Ishmael and Herman and religion. (Hadn't we? Who's out there reading this, anyway?) I know I'm still quoting from the first hundred pages of the book and it's high time to move along to the next centennial page grouping, but first:

"Now, as I before hinted, I have no objection to any person's religion, be it what it may, so long as that person does not kill or insult any other person, because that other person don't believe it also. But when a man's religion becomes really frantic; when it is a positive torment to him; and, in fine, makes this earth of ours an uncomfortable inn to lodge in; then I think it high time to take that individual aside and argue the point with him." --p.94

First of all, you can tell we get kind of a Melville mix in this paragraph. Ol' Herman clearly is positive about Ishmael's live-and-let-live stance, while also taking care to emphasize that in order for a live-and-let-live stance to work, those who we let live also have to let us live, an often overlooked crucial point. In other words, no freedom for your religion once you start doing crazy stuff like oppressing women and killing people. That goes for everyone - no killing. No killing abortion providers, no killing women who commit adultery or wear comfortable clothes or show skin, no killing people whose oil you want, and definitely no killing "blasphemers" who depict an image of your prophet. (Three cheers for South Park!)

But also in the quote I like Herman's layered subtext, because Ishmael does what most of us do once we outline our broad, charitable philosophies: he starts carving out an exception for himself. This just further supports Herman's point in the first place about how dangerous we are when we hold fervent beliefs. I love this man. I also, by the way, love that he was BFFs with Nathaniel Hawthorne. Would that I could go back in time to have a drink at ye olde New England pub with those two. Or meet up with them in the afterlife, in which I do not believe. Religion.

The final thing to love about this quote is how Ishmael characterizes what happens when the religious person crosses the line: his religion becomes a "torment to him." That's what's so true! The zealot himself is tormented! Let alone the people around him, since it makes the world, for the rest of us, "an uncomfortable inn to lodge in."

Since Herman said it best, I have little to add about religion, but it is fun to consider what other sorts of things/people make "this earth of ours an uncomfortable inn to lodge in." Some of my suggestions:
  • George W. Bush (obvio)
  • Wal-Mart
  • Bill O'Reilly
  • Fur coats
  • Long Island(ers)
  • Rock of Love
  • Post-1990 video/images of Michael Jackson
  • Also him talking
  • Twi-hards
  • Green Jell-O with carrots
  • Tequila
I'm sure there are more. But when those things come around, it is definitely "high time to take that individual aside and argue the point with him."

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