On March 11th I wrote a semi-prophetic first post about the plague. I remember that I wrote it while sitting in my favorite bakery for what would be one of the very last times until we don’t know when. For its title I took a line from the song in the post that says “I’m not sick, but I’m not well.” Yesterday I found it prophesied early in the pages of Moby Dick, as Captain Peleg says of Ahab that “In fact, he ain’t sick; but no, he isn’t well either.” I like it when life shows persistence like that. It makes sense on Easter Sunday. Ahab also “lay like dead for three days and nights.” This according to Elijah — sometimes authors don’t make you work too hard for the meaning.
This is Easter. I would love to sound my soul for something beautiful and reverent, and to turn it out here for you. But I know where I am just now, and it is not there. I also know that I am not religious. I trust God and am respectful of holy things, but I am not religious. I don’t say this as a boast, neither as a confession. It is simply information, meaning to support me when I say that Easter doesn’t excite me for the devotion, or for the story, or for the faith. Though in many ways I wish it did. I wish Sunday mornings saw me in suits, and I wish the darkness above my bed was haunted by peace. It would be something, in the place of nothing.
I say too little when I try to mean too much.
The Pequod has only just got underway in my reading. The two erstwhile captains, Bildad and Peleg, have stayed on board as long as they could stand it. Readying the ship (perhaps more than is their duty) out of fealty to their investments in both money and history. With some reluctance they have sailed back to port, leaving her in the hands of the as yet unseen Ahab. Green Ishmael boards with a cartload of philosophy; black Queequeg skips from capstan to capstan with his great harpoon and a small wooden idol.
I like to think that at a fresh 45 years old, my Pequod is similarly still in sight of land, though with a grand, blasted adventure still ahead. I have a mighty crew about me, indeed, and I don’t mind not knowing yet who among us steers, who commands, who merely toils, and who’ll be heaving the harpoons when we find us under siege. Who might give a leg, and more, and all, to the whale. Let’s make it me.
It’s Easter, and maybe the song below isn’t full of rejoicing and light. But it seems full of worry and respect and self-doubt, and the self-awareness to know that what we do wrong we do mostly out of fear. Out of confusion. It’s a good day to ask for help seeing a little more clearly.
My wife, who worries (understandably but incorrectly) that her job takes too much of her and that she isn’t mother enough, manged to cobble some goodies together for Easter baskets. She is always the one, not me, to cover the details: the Easter baskets and the Christmas stockings, the birthday cards and thank you’s. She manages, and she does it with the magic of the Good Woman – the magic that respects you far too much to trick you, but leaves you awed just the same. Every day she resurrects me. She spent much of last night with our daughter, preparing a French toast casserole for this morning’s breakfast. We will eat today, and expect a lot of sun, and I will cook with charcoal and woodsmoke, and, God willing, we will rest.