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

"How it is that we still refuse to be comforted for those who we nevertheless maintain are dwelling in unspeakable bliss; why do all the living so strive to hush all the dead; wherefore but the rumor of a knocking in a tomb will terrify a whole city."


Melville's brilliance is in how deftly he places the contradictions within humans side by side so we can see what a universal mess we all are. If, as we have heard, people die and go to a 'better place,' then why would we grieve them so? That part of the passage is easy to interpret. Then there is the second part of Melville's quirky passage: Why do we so fear ghosts? Why are haunted houses intriguing to us? If we genuinely believe our loved ones have passed on to a better place, how can we even justify a belief in ghosts? We are living in strange times right now. Somehow it comforts me to know that, so far as human nature goes, we always have.

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