Captain Ahab commanded the Pequod to its doom, his monomania driving him to sacrifice everything, his money, his friendships, his ship, his crew. The madness of his powerful ego made his revenge against Moby Dick, a symbol of the power of all nature, more important than anything else in all the world.
His first mate on the other hand cared nothing of the killing of any particular whale. Starbuck was a whaler, willing to kill the white whale if it came within reach, but only as a part of his livelihood. He was in the business of getting whale oil, the stuff for lubricating machinery, lighting lamps, and anointing kings.
Ahab was mad, insane. His insanity more clearly revealed when reflected in the calm eyes of the man charged with carrying out his orders.
The literary term for characters which reflect qualities in another is a “foil,” as in a shiny metal used in the Renaissance to illuminate jewels.
Ahab himself was unable to see his madness though Starbuck tried to tell him, show him.
I think most people look at those around them to help them judge themselves, and the inability to see the norm in those we are near is a dangerous weakness, a step towards a hubris that leads to self destruction.
In short, being near others helps us remain humble, remain true to ourselves, to recognize where we differ and helps us to raise our standards for our own behavior.
That is but one of the benefits of friends.
The other day I wrote of Adam’s loneliness, though he was in the company of God. It is a mistake for us to claim that we find all we need in God, for even God Himself (Themself?) saw that Adam needed a mate, someone like him, in order to be happy.
I was at Starbucks today. I met with a friend. He cares for me, and I for him. He said he’d buy me a cup of coffee, and I told him I would repay him by mentioning him in my blog.
So, my friend, thank you for the coffee. I appreciate it. You are a hero.
Aside from the free dose of caffein, I got something more important from him.
I got to look in his eyes, talk about things in my life, things of importance and things of no import at all. And in the reflection of his eyes I could read myself. I could see the insanity I was feeling as I choked up in commenting about the loving elderly couple I had seen chatting sweetly with each other a few minutes before. I didn’t have to say how that affected me. He knew what it meant to me.
He looked at what I had been writing in my Moleskine and we chatted about the strange idea there.
(Hang on, sideways shift in topic here.)
Here is what I had jotted down:
A Divine Idea
Premise; Act of observation affects the object of observation (a quantum mechanics detail of modern physics). ?: What role does thought play in the universe? ?: Might powerful ideas be spread aside from communication? Independent of speech? They might present themselves to minds. Ex.: God is love. Love permeates the universe in the way that God sustains the existence of the universe, the atoms themselves. Might the concept of love be independent of minds, of thought? If a mind is constrained by the brain (which I believe it is, independent of the physical organ itself), might an idea be constrained by a mind? Could love, as an idea be a “living” thing?
He looked it over, smiled, asked if he could write a quote onto the page. (I’d share it with you, but it would reveal who my friend is, and I’m unsure if he would appreciate that much attention in my blog. No sense in giving him too much of the shadow of notoriety!)
What does all this mean?
Nothing in itself.
In sharing my notes with him I could better judge if what I was thinking made sense, or if I’m nuts. (Of course, that is supposing he isn’t nuts!)
What is more important is the time itself we spent together.
It didn’t matter what we spoke of. What mattered was we were together.
I think God intended for us to be with each other, to share our lives. It occurs to me that people must have people around them or they get strange.
Just as Ahab encapsulated himself in his obsession, in excluding all rational thought or input from others, those who eschew others become... odd.
Think of those we know who live apart from people. The hermits, the loners, the self-absorbed.
I once spent a couple of months alone in a cave, reading. When I rejoined society I had difficulty fitting in.
Is there an example of this in the Bible? Well, Jesus surrounded Himself with people, with friends, with disciples. The company of others is good, healthy I (though gettijng away to prayer is also immportn]ant.) Is there a loner in the stories there? Sure. John the Baptist, the wild man of the desert. Though John played a very important role in the gospels, it seems evident he was a little... odd. You know, eating bugs, wearing camel hair clothing and ranting and railing against the establishment.
One of the things I love about where I work are my coworkers. They are family to me.
I haven’t shared much with them of what has been happening in my life, yet it is clear they know something is up, that the are looking out for me, cutting me a little slack.
One of the things I love about where I worship are the members of my church family. Though I haven’t shared much with them of what has been happening in my life, yet the know something is up, and they tell me they are praying for me, the send me notes, they offer to bring food over.
One of the things I love about this blog are the readers who visit. They have prayed for me, sent me encouraging notes, told me I am not alone. And these are people I have never laid eyes upon.
Why do we need people so?
Because we are made in God’s image. Not only have we souls, eternal spirits, but we are built for community, just as God Themself is three individuals in a single being.
From the obvious importance we place on having a partner, to the examples of those who reject true companionship for omphaloskepsis.
It is clear that being with others is healthy, needful, and the way God made us.