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Recently I caught the classic 1956 movie, Moby Dick, based on the famous book by Herman Melville, starring Gregory Peck, directed by John Huston, screenplay by Ray Bradbury. I was reminded of how hypnotic and meaningful the movie is, with symbols about Divinity and messages about the Law of Attraction, and more. I loved it. Always have.

You probably know the Melville book is an American classic first published in 1851. You probably also never read it. At least not all of it. Even Ray Bradbury admitted he could never get through the thing.

I have read it. I’m a fan of the book. I read everything by Melville when I was in college in the 1970s, including Billy Budd, Typee, and The Confidence Man, and even his overlooked poetry, such as Clarel.

But I wouldn’t read Moby Dick today.

Instead, I’d watch the 1956 movie.

Here’s why:

Moby Dick is actually a story about the war between ego and, well, let’s say it: God. Captain Ahab is out to kill God. Yes, the great white whale is a symbol. But everything in life is. In this case, the whale represents the Divine. And Ahab wants it on a stick. Or at least a harpoon.

As Pip says in the movie, “That ain’t no whale; that a great white god.”

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But why does Ahab hate God/Whale?

The movie cuts to the chase and tells the story best. Ahab went fishing one day, ran into God in the appearance of a huge white whale, and God/whale challenged him. Ahab lost a leg. Got a facial scar. And was royally upset. He devoted the rest of his life to revenge. Of course, trying to blame God for your life is a losing battle. After all, God’s in control, not you.

And this is Ahab’s problem.

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Ahab thinks he can find and destroy God/whale. He bribes his crew with a Spanish gold coin to find the whale. He uses maps and math to help pinpoint the next appearance of the great white.

Along the way Ahab ignores another ship in need of help. Ignores his crew who needs to work. Ignores Starbuck, his first in command, trying to warn him of his choices. And ignores his own mission: to hunt for whales so the world has light from burning their fat.

Listen as Ahab declares how he would “strike out the sun” if it insulted him:

“Speak not to me of blasphemy, man; I’d strike the sun if it insulted me. Look ye, Starbuck, all visible objects are but as pasteboard masks. Some inscrutable yet reasoning thing puts forth the molding of their features. The white whale tasks me; he heaps me. Yet he is but a mask. ‘Tis the thing behind the mask I chiefly hate; the malignant thing that has plagued mankind since time began; the thing that maws and mutilates our race, not killing us outright but letting us live on, with half a heart and half a lung.”

Ahab is pure ego.

He’s hypnotic, as most madmen are.

He’s obsessed, as most madmen are.

And he’s going to fail, as most hypnotic, obsessed, madmen do.

He’s not going to be able to kill “the thing behind the mask” because that thing is God/Divine/Life.

How do we know Ahab failed?

The only reason we know of the story at all is that there was a lone survivor. Ishmael, played by actor Richard Basehart in the movie, is a detached observer. He’s a witness. He’s a reporter of the event. He lives to report the lesson back to us.

Why?

Because you and I need reminded that there is God and there is our ego. When you battle God/Divine/Life/Whale, you lose.

Here’s the lesson as I see it (with apologies to Melville, Bradbury, et al): Accept what happens to you in life as a gift, learn from it, turn it around if need be, and then get on with your life mission.

Feeling resentful, angry, unforgiving and driven by revenge is only going to do one thing: sink your ship.

The secret to living a happy life is to go with the flow. That doesn’t mean roll over and play dead. Put up your sails to use the God-given winds to get you where you want to go, but don’t blame God/Divine/Whale when you hit any bumps in the road. You attracted them as an unconscious dance of energies with life. Just adjust your sails and get back on track. Life goes on.

Beware The Ahab Syndrome.

It’s self-sabotage at the extreme.

What whale have you been fighting, anyway?

Ao Akua,

Joe

PS — Here’s sci-fi legend Ray Bradbury giving a misleading (it wasn’t as easy as he claims in this clip) but fun account of how he wrote the screenplay to Moby Dick for egocentric director John Huston by becoming author Herman Melville:

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29 Comments

  1. July 13, 2010 at 7:29 am

    Thanks for this Joe!

    I have found in my own life that the stories I tell myself about what’s going on and what I’m doing are the key to my success or lack there of.

    Even when I get inspired, it’s so easy to think that my first interpretation of the inspiration is the inspiration. It almost never is – it’s just my interpretation of it – so as I create and work I need to stay open to messages from the universe in whatever way they come that suggest course corrections in what I’m doing.

    Sometimes I end up in a totally different place then where I thought I’d been “told” to go, but it is the RIGHT place and that’s what matters!

    Thanks for the reminder!

    Be Well!

    Andy

    • July 13, 2010 at 8:49 am

      Hi Andy. Yes, stories are the key, aren’t they? Thank you for reminding me of them, too.
      Joe

  2. Great post, Joe, and funny video!

    Beware The Ahab Syndrome!

    Claus 😀

    • July 13, 2010 at 8:50 am

      Hi Claus. I loved seeing Ray Bradbury talk about becoming Melville to write the script. He apparently forgot it took him an entire year to do it.
      joe 🙂

  3. Great post, Joe, and funny video!

    Beware The Ahab Syndrome!

    Claus 😀

  4. July 13, 2010 at 8:43 am

    Thanks Joe!

    I confess I have not read the book through, nor did I see the movie, so I appreciate your bringing the message to light. ( no pun intended)

    ‘coming about’ and changing direction to catch some wind in my sail.

    Ao Akua to you too my friend!

    KK

    • July 13, 2010 at 8:51 am

      Hi Karen. The movie is worth seeing, for sure.
      Very hypnotic.
      joe

  5. July 13, 2010 at 9:19 am

    Great reminder – don’t fight god – you’ll loose.:-)

    However, sometimes we are also told we are god, or at least god energy, so why can’t we fight the part of us that doesn’t give us the experience we want?

    Maybe because we are unable to rid ourselves of ANYthing, if we fight it?

    • July 13, 2010 at 9:23 am

      Great question. You’re referring to the “shadow” of your self. We are God but we are also awakening to the parts not in alignment with our Divinity. That’s our work. That’s what we have to clean. Ahab was driven by his “shadow”. We want to be more aware than that, and free the shadow with forgiveness and love.
      joe

  6. July 13, 2010 at 9:39 am

    Hey Joe —

    Great story and great analogy for us to observe what “whale” we’re fighting in our own lives. Andy brings up a great point and good reminder about listening to what stories your ego is telling yourself. When I can tap into being the observer and not the reactor (ego) I know I’m no longer fighting the whale but going with the flow!

    Ao Akua,

    Kelley

  7. July 13, 2010 at 9:48 am

    Joe, thank you for such a thought provoking post.

    It can be difficult to ‘let go and let God’ (go with the flow)– especially when you’re a driven individual who wants to ‘make things happen.’

    When you said, “Accept what happens to you in life as a gift…” that’s in alignment with Scripture that says, “And we know that in all things God works for the good of those who love him, who have been called according to his purpose.” (Romans 8:28)

    However, later in that same sentence you said, “… turn it around if need be.” Which means that we DO in fact have to DO something to chart our own course in life.

    Thanks again,

    Stacey

    • July 13, 2010 at 10:00 am

      Great followup insights Stacey. thank you.
      joe

  8. July 13, 2010 at 12:14 pm

    Thanks, this post was exactly what I needed to read. I’m learning to face my self-limiting beliefs and it helps to think “What part of my ego is getting in the way.”
    I can’t wait to share this not because I think other people should learn something from it (that would be ego 🙂 ) but because I hope they will help me face my ego.
    And if they get something out of it, great.
    So thank you for the “hand up,” Joe, and hope you’re not getting too overheated in the Texas summer.
    Warm regards,
    Lara

  9. July 14, 2010 at 8:14 am

    Hi Joe,

    Great article. I listened to Moby Dick as a book on CD driving through a long road trip on the west coast.

    The Book on CD lets you immerse yourself in the story… for a long time.

    Blessings,

    William

  10. Juanma-Reply
    July 14, 2010 at 11:30 am

    Hola SR. Joe me gustaria poder enviarle un email con un pequeño texto que he realizado y que en la otra pagina me rechaza el correo que pone, solo le molestare una sola vez, por favor.
    Hi SR. Joe would like me to send an email with a short text that I have done and that the other page I reject emails that it only bother you once, please.

  11. Juanma-Reply
    July 14, 2010 at 6:25 pm

    Hi SR. Joe would like me to send an email with a short text that I have done and that the other page I reject emails that it only bother you once, please.

  12. July 15, 2010 at 1:34 pm

    I haven’t watched the movie either…not yet. Thank you for keeping me on my tiptoes 🙂

  13. July 16, 2010 at 10:59 am

    WOW – I like that 🙂

  14. July 17, 2010 at 1:08 pm

    Dear Joe;

    I always love the way you write, which means I love the way you think…taking ‘classic’ things and bringing new or thought-provoking insight to them — always with a sense of humour!

    I’m especially enjoying your reader comments on this one, as well. I like Andy’s point about watching the stories and interpretations we tell ourselves, “…as I create and work I need to stay open to messages from the universe in whatever way they come that suggest course corrections in what I’m doing.”

    Thanks, as always, for the inspiration and food for thought. Continued, wild, massive, fabulous success to you and yours!

    ~ Shauna ♥

  15. Joe-
    Interesting thoughts. I found your blog about “Capt. Ahab Syndrome” interesting-as did the Bradbury family. I hope you liked the “Moby Dick” DVD also. Like you, I give books away and related items away, when I think appropriate. I think your readers would find another “Ahab-like” monster extremely interesting- one “super egocentric sea-related character” (as the sea is “the big conscious unknown” of the mind–or to me the “unknown” spiritual self, yes?) just as “terrifying”-Capt. Wolf Larsen of “The Sea-Wolf”….this “Ahab -related syndrome” I would call “The Wolf Larsen Syndrome.” Larsen is from Jack London’s masterpiece “The Sea-Wolf.” As a collector-reader of the great Jack London for years, London was (and still is to me) a paradoxical enigma of a man that folks might find very interesting. London, who died at 40, not from suicide, but from uremic poisoning and a heart attack. He wrote 50 books over a 17 year period. He is forgotten by many now, except for “The Call of The Wild” and writer of dog books-such as “White Fang.” Quite the contrary, he wrote about time travel, astral projection, aliens, plagues wiping out civiliation, a Chinese invasion of the US, social conditions, the very very socially deprived and abuse of the poor masses of humanity and on and on. His real masterpiece is “The Sea-Wolf” –not “The Call of The Wild.” This character of Capt. Larsen is worthy of a few words, a nightmare mad man who was also “learned” with racks of books by intellectuals, poets and scientists, all shelved on his true ship from hell. He created a world of social Darwinism and horror in his universe so unbearable, so terrible, that for himself that the only escape was death. (My mind also goes back to Ernest Miller Hemingway when I mention this, another genius…) All this kind of world perception and “collective thinking” can be paralleled to what is happening today in our society, as I look around. Many will not agree with me. Now, I am coming back to my good friend Ray Bradbury and his masterpiece “Fahrenheit 451″ (of whom Dr. Werhner von Braun, the inventor of the V-2 Rocket, said of Ray Bradbury – he had it “all figured out way ahead of all of us”). “Fahrenheit 451″ is a perfect parallel of what is happening today, “firemen” burning books…I could go on about this, but it is all in the book-just think forward a few years. We do attract our own miracles-I truly believe this. We need not be book burners, Ahabs or Larsens. Everything is LOVE. That is Ray Bradbury’s mantra, as I have heard him say this over many many years. As another lovingly put “aside” comment from a forgotten author: “Books were once men.” This one comes from George Barr McCutcheon-creator of the magical kingdom of “Graustark.”—Peace, love and good karma, John.

    • July 27, 2010 at 9:05 am

      Hi John. Thank you for the DVD. It was a GREAT gift and surprise. I’m well aware of Jack London. I have every book of his. His novel Martin Eden inspired me, as did London’s prolific writing life.

      • July 27, 2010 at 4:22 pm

        Hi Joe! Great! Jack London was an interesting man. You are one of the very few people whom I know that have a full set of his works! Wow! That sets a person apart for sure! “Martin Eden” has been an inspiration for many talented people who are original thinkers. In a copy of “Martin Eden” that I have seen he has inscribed to another author “Here’s poor lad Martin Eden that I’m glad you were willing artistically should de. But, ye Gods, how it did hurt the Ruths who read the yarn!” This was written just 16 days before his own death, ironically. My grandfather was an MD who had a practice in San Luis Obispo, CA and tended London on occasion with his associates (along with Wm. Randolph Hearst). London used to have a big yellow Packard (I believe it was a Packard) and ride down the coast with his Japanese driver. Grandma Lil told me this as well as my father. Some interesting stories exist of a most “paradoxical man”…who grew more and more spiritual as he got sicker. I will send on more signed RB’s as time passes. Best of everything to you! As Ray B. would say…”Onward!” -John. PS: Jack said that he would rather be a “flaming meteor than a sleepy and permanent planet…the proper function of a man is to live and to use his time…” or something to that effect. PPS: Oh, and “People of The Abyss” — what a book!

        • July 27, 2010 at 4:27 pm

          I don’t have anything signed by Jack, and that I regret. I wrote a play about him in the 1970s but the copyright owner on London’s life wouldn’t allow it to be performed. Alas. Onwards!

          • July 27, 2010 at 5:02 pm

            I would love to see you have that play performed about his life. Peoples’ attitudes and spirituality are (hopefully?) different now in the year 2010 than in the 1970’s. I am wondering now, since he is a public figure and most of the people associated with London’s life have passed on – if that performance could be reality now. It would be VERY interesting coming from your mind. One of these days I would love to read a blog by you about “The Star Rover” – or “The Jacket” as published in the UK (maybe just wishful thinking here). That is my favorite novel-also it was his daughter Becky’s favorite novel. (Boy, was she a “chip of the old block!”) It never really got off the ground because of WWI and its “far-out” topics of astral projection and reincarnation, and abuse of people in the prison systems, etc. More later!

  16. July 22, 2010 at 11:11 am

    I Love this statement in the article Here’s the lesson as I see it (with apologies to Melville, Bradbury, et al): Accept what happens to you in life as a gift, learn from it, turn it around if need be, and then get on with your life mission. I also love that if you get off track you can always get back on track and start to attract what you want in life.

  17. July 25, 2010 at 1:01 pm

    As Ray Bradbury has told me many times,
    the greatest thing in the Universe is
    LOVE. I have noticed his great power of
    attraction on all levels is embedded in
    that love. From him: ‘Do what you love, love
    what you do.” He does not think of doing
    any of his creative processes that comes
    from his love (ie: “Witness and celebrate…”)
    for money. He will be 90 years old on Aug 2010.
    He still has not wavered in his outlook of
    life or love. Like a fine wine, he has actually
    improved over time.

  18. August 1, 2010 at 5:20 pm

    Brilliant!
    Melville mentions Vishnu twice in Moby Dick, specifically the first incarnation where Vishnu appears as a giant fish.
    Definitely a God thing.
    Your interpretation is great, there are many themes in the book but the overall mythology in the book is exactly how you state it.

    It depends on which mythology or philosophy you are filtering the story through of course, your version fits great with the transcendentalist or general New Thought movement.

    Looking forward to the new book.

  19. September 8, 2010 at 10:03 am

    Mister Fire!
    LOVE your perspective on things! The fascinating Whale as symbol of God, who we get mad at for not delivering “Perfection”…surf with the Life that is delivered and LEARN…Awesome 🙂 I also am enlivened by Rhonda’s newest tome: what an inspiration to me, BOTH OF YOU! Lucky ME!

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