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  • Writer's pictureDenise Tolan

The Daily Dick: Musings on the Relevance of Moby-Dick Today

From The Monkey-Rope

"If your banker breaks, you snap; if your apothecary by mistake sends you poison in your pills, you die. True, you may say that, by exceeding caution, you may possibly escape these and the multitudinous other evil chances of life. But handle Queequeg’s monkey-rope heedfully as I would, sometimes he jerked it so, that I came very near sliding overboard. Nor could I possibly forget that, do what I would, I only had the management of one end of it."


Musing: Pandemic time certainly got in the way of my ability to think! I returned to Moby-Dick today and found this passage, right where I left off in April. Melville speaks so sagely to the times we live in. In the scene above, Ishmael is helping Queequeg stay atop a recently caught whale while the whale is tied to the ship. Sharks swim below, waiting for a slip and a fall. Melville writes how our individual actions impact the lives of others. If I lose hold of the rope, you fall. If you tug too hard, I follow you into the water. We only have management of one end of our lives. (I use the term "management" very, very loosely.) These days, I have to count on you to wear a mask. Wearing a mask is how you can manage your end of the rope for me. I will do the same for you. It's how we can help each other right now.

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