Wednesday, January 23, 2013

Moby Dick

Dad says read.  Someday.  You gotta.

So I had a dream last night.  I dreamed I was in front of a healthy class of community college kids and I was teaching a class.  The class was on Moby Dick.  That's it.  One novel for the whole semester.  The big times.  After being introduced by one of my former graduate advisers,  I started teaching and asked the class the BIG question.  Why Moby Dick?  I then started to pontificate on the importance of Moby Dick.  I don't recall what I said, but I was on a roll, saying really brilliant stuff.  Then I woke up. Moby Dick has been on my mind ever since. 

Moby Dick, the Big Whale, with long time pal Ahab, teaching us all valuable life lessons.

It's a brilliant novel.  My favorite novel, really.  Read it in community college myself.  First English class.  American literature to 1865.  Professor Baumann.  Great man.  Amazing novel.  My sons need to read it.  Can't read it yet.  Too young, for now.  But I want to share it with them.  So here, on the Steffen family blog, I intend to share a little Moby Dick with them to read someday.  Chapter by chapter, one day at a time.  So here we go.

Moby Dick Chapter 1:

My sons,
"Call me Ishmael " the novel opens.  Parker, we never actually know that this guy's name is Ishmael   It could be Bob for all we know.  Or it could be Parker, Carter, or Anderson. (Sometimes I like to think that.)  "Ishmael" is just saying that this name is as good as any, so let's use it.  So we do. It's a good name because Ishmael wanders the ocean in Moby Dick, which is what the Biblical Ishmael did a lot of, albeit on land.  Melville was probably unaware of it, but Ishmael is in the Book of Mormon too, who wanders away from Jerusalem with Lehi and his family to ultimately sail to the Americas across the waters.  Again, appropriate for our Moby Dick narrator.  Who spends his wandering on the waters. Boys, all you need to know is that Ishmael has a habit of getting to sea whenever he life begins to feel unsatisfying.  Unsatisfying in the sense that he finds himself "pausing in front of coffin shops" and using all his patient to keep himself from "knocking the hats off of passer-bys" just because he can.  So he decides to go.

Our man Ishmael (Biblically)

Here is what else you need to know: You need to get to sea yourself someday.  Not the real sea, although it could be.  But you need that escape that is yours for when life gets a little bit too much.  For your father that escape is teaching, reading, writing, running, and a good dose of chess.  For your mother, It's helping people (she is better than me) as well as crafting, and doulaing.  These activities are more than hobbies, my boys. Instead, they are tickets to high personal adventure as you seek to explore and perfect these interests.  So call yourself Ishmael and go wander into them.  Your mother and I don't want you living in our basement in twenty years.  We want you out and about.  And not just out and about because it is the "right" thing to do, but we want you out and about because if you weren't, you'd go crazy.  As President Hinckley said in General Conference before you were born, it's not just enough to be good, but to be good for something.  Make that happen. -Dad.

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