In class yesterday, I was assigned the role of "major responder" to the paper of the unfortunate undergraduate student sitting next to me. Her paper was a brief comparison of the "Veiled Lady" in Hawthorne's "The Blithedale Romance" and the White Wale in Melville's Moby-Dick. It's a potentially interesting comparison that she wasn't quite ready to make. Her comments reminded me of Colonel Kurtz's monologue in Apocalypse Now.
Horror. Horror has a face, and you must make a friend of horror. Horror and mortal terror are your friends. If they are not, then they are enemies to be feared. They are truly enemies.
Why does Melville's Ishmael paint a picture of the color white as horrible?
Because white is the color of hope, and when it belies a deep malice, it's truly an enemy to be feared. White belies the horror of a pastor who preaches hope and equality and intense community and leads his people to a cup of Flavor-Aid in a Guyanese jungle. White belies the horror of a marriage ceremony that ends in infidelity and immeasurable loss. White belies the horror of a nation who invades to liberate and instead rapes and tortures and kills despite its best intentions. White belies the horror of a Colonel in a jungle who set out to follow orders and ends up a demagogue in a self-made feudalism.
Thwarted hopes are the horrors of the world below.
And all of these things make us plead weak-kneed for God to make his face known as we sweat out those dark nights of the soul that give Evil an opportunity to whisper that it just isn't true. But hope, hope comes in the morning and with it comes courage to face a Red Dawn. Hope that will not ultimately be disappointed because, after all, has he not told us he went to prepare a place?
So bold I go before the mast knowing the sinking of the ship will be the victory of my soul. And if it is not, I cling bravely to the only lifeboat I know and face down the waves beneath the spreading sky.