The men and women of our humble Caravanserai are catching up on their reading in these Covid-19 times.

Overheard: a veteran seafarer on merchant ships across the oceans was re-reading Herman Melville’s classic, Moby Dick, that great chronicle of 19th century whaling, seafaring and the multitudes of our human condition, and he read aloud these choice quotes to approving members of our New Silk Road tribe…

“Whenever I find myself growing grim about the mouth; whenever it is a damp, drizzly November in my soul; whenever I find myself involuntarily pausing before coffin warehouses, and bringing up the rear of every funeral I meet; and especially whenever my hypos get such an upper hand of me, that it requires a strong moral principle to prevent me from deliberately stepping into the street, and methodically knocking people’s hats off–then, I account it high time to get to sea as soon as I can. This is my substitute for pistol and ball. With a philosophical flourish Cato throws himself upon his sword; I quietly take to the ship.”

“It is not down on a map. True places never are.”

“For there is no folly of the beast of the earth which is not infinitely outdone by the madness of men.”

“Heaven have mercy on us all – Presbyterians and Pagans alike – for we are all somehow dreadfully cracked about the head, and sadly need mending.”

“There are certain queer times and occasions in this strange mixed affair we call life when a man takes this whole universe for a vast practical joke, though the wit thereof he but dimly discerns, and more than suspects that the joke is at nobody’s expense but his own.”

And, after the defeat of Captain Ahab and his crew by the Great White Whale, Moby Dick, the last lines haunt the reader as the ceaseless tide of nature rolls on:

“Now small fowls flew screaming over the yet yawning gulf; a sullen white surf beat against its steep sides; then all collapsed, and the great shroud of the sea rolled on as it rolled five thousand years ago.”


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