Moby Dick Book Club? January through March 2023

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7Wannabe5
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Re: Moby Dick Book Club? January through March 2023

Post by 7Wannabe5 »

@Hristo:

I hated being compelled to perform the same sort of exercise with my classrooms. At one very tough crowd middle school, the kids had to do it for all 5 hours of classes every semester, and/or whenever a new teacher showed up (however temporary.) They were entirely bored with the process, so not highly invested. What worked better was pretending like my top goal was having the cleanest classroom in the school and assigning everybody a job on my crew.-lol.

I can't remember many specifics from my decades ago reading of "Moby Dick", but I think it is kind of odd that it is often referred to as "The Great American Novel", because it is such a very unique work, so not representative of American novels, or even "the novel", as a whole. I might nominate "The Adventure of Augie March" as better candidate.

Hristo Botev
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Re: Moby Dick Book Club? January through March 2023

Post by Hristo Botev »

@7w5: It's been an interesting contrast having one kid in public school (middle school) and the other kid (upper elementary age) in homeschool; dinner conversations are very interesting.

DD: We all got permanently switched to Ms. X's class for Civics today.

DS: Why?

DD: I don't know; "they" didn't tell us.

DS: How'd you know to go to Ms. X's class instead of Ms. Y's?

DD: We didn't; we just showed up to Ms. Y's class and they told us that Ms. X was going to teach us Civics now, and that we had to move over to that classroom.

DS: Just like that; abruptly with no explanation given? What about your pending assignments and projects?

DD: Yep; just have to start over, I guess.

Me: You know DD, you don't have to go that school, you can homeschool like DS and still be able to play for the school sports' teams.

Many such conversations. I'm sure DS will be back in a "school" eventually; but, it'll be a difficult transition. It's one thing to have your dad in your ear all the time talking about how the emperor has no clothes; it's another thing to experience the phenomenon from both sides, like DS has been doing--he will be insufferable in a public school setting.

DD seems to have good "grey man" instincts; DS not so much--he's much more the type to end up a martyr.

7Wannabe5
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Re: Moby Dick Book Club? January through March 2023

Post by 7Wannabe5 »

DD: We didn't; we just showed up to Ms. Y's class and they told us that Ms. X was going to teach us Civics now, and that we had to move over to that classroom.
Yup, happens all the time these days. Only upside is that it provides a lot of niche employment opportunities for somebody like me. For instance, it may be the case that I am currently the only person available to tutor math above the level of trigonometry in the collapse-early-and-beat-the-rush county where I currently reside. I kind of feel guilty that I'm not teaching full-tiime, because it is such a disaster out there.

Hristo Botev
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Re: Moby Dick Book Club? January through March 2023

Post by Hristo Botev »

7Wannabe5 wrote:
Tue Jan 10, 2023 2:03 pm
Yup, happens all the time these days. . . . I kind of feel guilty that I'm not teaching full-time, because it is such a disaster out there.
I don't think I get this feeling anymore, and I'm not sure what that means. I used to feel this sort of amorphous guilt wrt to "others"; it's part of (admittedly, probably a very small part) why I joined the Peace Corps. Also why I spent some time as an education major in college (a yearlong course focused on nothing other than how to go about "un"-mainstreaming a kid certainly broke me of any interest in becoming a public school teacher), why I've taught Sunday School and ESL classes here and there, why I've been involved with the Knights of Columbus charitable type stuff over the years, etc. But anymore, I don't really feel that generalized sense of guilt. I have a duty to my immediate family, and to a lesser extent to my extended family, and to a lesser extent to my neighborhood and my Parish community. But any duty beyond that seems best served by doing the most I can to fulfill more immediate duties closer to home, which are already well more than I could ever satisfactorily meet.

ETA: Any diagnostic reference to a "color" or a "Wheaton Level" will be entirely ignored.

7Wannabe5
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Re: Moby Dick Book Club? January through March 2023

Post by 7Wannabe5 »

Hristo Botev wrote:Any diagnostic reference to a "color" or a "Wheaton Level" will be entirely ignored.
Lol- I'll just nod in agreement with you and reference the character of Mrs. Jellyby from Dickens' ,IMO greatest novel, "Bleak House." As you may recall, Mrs. Jellyby is a very assertive character who devotes all her energy and attention on her African charity work while completely neglecting her own family and household. So, I often think of her in conjunction with the admonition to "put on your own oxygen mask first." OTOH, Dickens' protagonist, Esther, is very much in the model of good, nurturing, homemaker, and she does help care for Mrs.Jellyby's household which is not her own. So, kind of a mixed message...

Hristo Botev
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Re: Moby Dick Book Club? January through March 2023

Post by Hristo Botev »

415 pages in to a book called “Moby Dick” and still no sight of the book’s namesake.

Hristo Botev
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Re: Moby Dick Book Club? January through March 2023

Post by Hristo Botev »

Oh! many are the Fin-Backs, and many are the Dericks, my friend.

candide
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Re: Moby Dick Book Club? January through March 2023

Post by candide »

Hristo Botev wrote:
Fri Jan 20, 2023 7:30 am
415 pages in to a book called “Moby Dick” and still no sight of the book’s namesake.
And barely from Ahad after the pep rally and then the chapter from the perspective of his thoughts. I know a lot more about processing whale flesh than I thought I ever would, though.

To play with a line from Dune, Melville made Moby Dick to train the faithful.

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Re: Moby Dick Book Club? January through March 2023

Post by candide »

Getting nearer and nearer the 2nd checkpoint provided the motivation to make some time.

Alright. Now a normal length novel to go.

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Re: Moby Dick Book Club? January through March 2023

Post by candide »

I was reading ahead of pace, and then today was called a snow day for school, so I put my back into it and finished.

... Also, I will hold to our deal and not talk about the bathtub scene until after March 12th.

Hristo Botev
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Re: Moby Dick Book Club? January through March 2023

Post by Hristo Botev »

Shoot, I unintentionally came across a Moby Dick reference via substack this morning (https://fiddlersgreene.substack.com/p/a ... -activists), before I even got to the part of the book where the Leviathan makes his first appearance, and now the remainder of my reading of the book will be through the left v. right lens, where Ahab represents some sort of true believer "conservative" right winger, and Moby Dick represents the march of progress itself. So much for trying to come into this book with relatively fresh eyes.
Well, for starters, the Cathedral is big and resilient; really big, and really resilient. Most of its institutional body is just BULK, accumulated fixtures totally unnecessary to its core functioning. Trying to attack the Cathedral in broad strokes by lashing out at random institutions is like firing a .22 caliber rifle into the side of a Blue Whale and hoping to explode its heart. Even if you chance upon the exact vector to its aorta, the damn thing is surrounded by layer after layer of blubber, superfluous to the functioning of the whale's circulatory system. Take a shot at it if you must, but I am not expecting a kill. In the meantime, for the Melville Fans out there, the whale doesn't enjoy being shot, and as nature designed it, the leviathan has more than a few ways of crushing random pisants in the process of antagonizing it.

Likewise, in the case of the Cathedral, the institutional "Blubber" comprises nearly all of the of the ordinary organizations that ordinary people come in contact with. Here I am referring to the establishment media, the local teacher unions, and the junior professors who baby-sit undergrads in their Diversity, Inclusion, and Equity (DIE) seminars. Of course, all of these institutional appendages are designed to strike non-progressives to the core, but conversely none of them are even close to the core of the Cathedral itself. Remove or destroy one and the system will simply go on functioning without a hitch. If you humiliate a junior professor, defund a local teacher-union, or even get a mainstream journalist fired, nothing about the Cathedral’s main operations will be changed at all.

candide
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Re: Moby Dick Book Club? January through March 2023

Post by candide »

Without trying to leak out spoilers, it would be just as easy to cast Ahab as a belief in humanism or progress and the whale as traditions/the natural way. The real thing going on in the book is hubris and nemesis. And if anyone wants to set up their enemies as insurmountable forces, well that is both their choice, but also something that serves the incentives of those who want to build a following :
Mass movements . . . pretend to give you power, while stealing what little you had; they pretend to solve your problems, while entrenching them. Movements make the frustrated more frustrated and they self-perpetuate with no regard for those who perpetuate them. The seed that they sow is frustration.

This is for one obvious reason: competition. Groups that maintain frustration, or are better at sowing it, will outcompete the others. The strength of a movement is directly proportional to its size and the fanatacism of its adherents, and the fanatacism of its adherents is directly proportional to the frustration they’re trying to escape. Mass movements that are good at what they do: a) make previously content outsiders frustrated; b) further frustrate their adherents while pretending to advance the movement. This means that the strongest mass movements are inevitably going to be the ones that are the best at not delivering the goods. Any movement that actually succeeds for (advances the interests of) its frustrated adherents will make them less frustrated. Hence, they’ll stop being members. Or it will succeed at its purpose, they’ll still be frustrated, and they’ll just join another.
So I'm very distrustful of this kind of framing in general and see no connection between it and the fact that whales have thick blubber.

A reading of Moby Dick using Moldbug's idea of the Cathedral shows a misunderstanding of the historical period that Moby Dick was written in. While Melville was writing this book what would be the core of the Cathedral -- the moral intuitions, heavily grounded in monism, that form the groupthink of academia -- were precisely what got Emerson banned from Harvard for 30 years and got Thoreau (briefly) jailed and generally laughed at. Colleges had not metastasized yet, and even those that existed were conservative. Anyone pushing the ideas that would become the Cathedral -- if the term is even good, which I'm not sure it is -- were doing so outside of institutional support. There is no way Melville would have cast it as the great force that could not be beat.

Also, again trying to avoid spoilers, but Ahab is an awful character to pick to represent conservatism, especially religious conservatism.

Hristo Botev
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Re: Moby Dick Book Club? January through March 2023

Post by Hristo Botev »

candide wrote:
Tue Feb 07, 2023 9:15 pm
Admittedly I am only partly interested in what Melville may or may not have meant Ahab and the great white whale to symbolize; but the monomaniacal and ultimately futile and suicidal pursuit of the Leviathan serves as a way to frame all sorts of things, regardless of the historical period. Would probably serve as a good prompt for a personality or psychological or political spectrum test--what does Ahab symbolize? Moby Dick? Certainly a more defeatist conservative type (Kingsnorth, perhaps) would necessarily say Moby Dick represents the inevitable march of progress, given the antinomian arc of history, with Ahab representing some sort of Boomer/Karen type "I'm going to write a letter to the editor" trope--sticking his finger in the dyke (the "pleb-activist" in the essay I linked to above). Which makes Ahab the perfect representative for that form of conservatism, as it is necessarily the sort of irreligious conservatism that refuses to accept the fallen-ness of humanity and puts the individual at the center instead of God, attempting to conserve and preserve, focused on the past instead of accepting that "nothing gold can stay" and "danc[ing[ with the way things are moving," to quote Kingsnorth for the n-teenth time (https://paulkingsnorth.substack.com/p/w ... great-fall, no paywall), when Ahab should be focused on his young wife and child at home--building new "gold."

And I could see your defeatist progressive type flipping the script, as you suggest above, with Moby Dick representing the immovable nomian impulse and/or stubborn human nature/law of man/the religious impulse/etc--all that stands in the way of progress; with Ahab representing the visionary forward thinking progressive idealist.

And the scripts would probably flip again if you took the more optimistic versions of these folks--with Moby Dick representing their own "side" of the dichotomy, whether that be the immovable "First Things" or the inevitable march of progress.

As for this:
candide wrote:
Tue Feb 07, 2023 9:15 pm
While Melville was writing this book what would be the core of the Cathedral -- the moral intuitions, heavily grounded in monism, that form the groupthink of academia -- were precisely what got Emerson banned from Harvard for 30 years and got Thoreau (briefly) jailed and generally laughed at. Colleges had not metastasized yet, and even those that existed were conservative. Anyone pushing the ideas that would become the Cathedral -- if the term is even good, which I'm not sure it is -- were doing so outside of institutional support. There is no way Melville would have cast it as the great force that could not be beat.
I only have a passing, Wikipedia level, almost entirely second hand understanding of Moldbug and this idea of the Cathedral (bloggers continue to prove just how essential a good editor can be), but I suspect you and I might disagree as to what the ideas of the Cathedral were at the time of Melville's writing, and just how metastasized those ideas had become. For one, I'm a Catholic, and from my perspective there was no such greater antinomian historical event/happening/revolution than the "Reformation." I think that the reason Moldbug picked the name "the Cathedral" (assuming he was the one that picked it) was because it symbolized the control the Church had on all things before and during the time of the Scholastics, before the Enlightenment; and it is with some irony then that he uses the term "The Cathedral" when the Church has in fact been replaced as the driving force behind the institutions of the Cathedral. So I would think that the progressive Enlightenment and antinomian ideals that had manifested themselves in the Ivy League institutions of Melville's times and even in the nature of American government itself could very much have represented a great force that could not be beat.

chenda
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Re: Moby Dick Book Club? January through March 2023

Post by chenda »

I couldn't find the copy of Moby Dick which I mistakenly thought I owned so have not been able to participate in this but I've enjoyed reading people's thoughts on it. Btw @hristo have you ever read Brideshead Revisited ? I think it's right up your street.

candide
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Re: Moby Dick Book Club? January through March 2023

Post by candide »

@hristo I see you get what I am saying.
Hristo Botev wrote:
Wed Feb 08, 2023 1:57 pm
Which makes Ahab the perfect representative for that form of conservatism, as it is necessarily the sort of irreligious conservatism that refuses to accept the fallen-ness of humanity and puts the individual at the center instead of God, attempting to conserve and preserve, focused on the past instead of accepting that "nothing gold can stay" and "danc[ing[ with the way things are moving," to quote Kingsnorth for the n-teenth time (https://paulkingsnorth.substack.com/p/w ... great-fall, no paywall), when Ahab should be focused on his young wife and child at home--building new "gold."
Ah, I see. That is in a interesting perspective and fits Ahab, making Starbuck a great foil as the book reaches its end-game.
Hristo Botev wrote:
Wed Feb 08, 2023 1:57 pm
(bloggers continue to prove just how essential a good editor can be)
Hehe.

... The combination of work and 6 month old child has been rough during the week, so I don't have much mental energy to write out any further thoughts right now on the Cathedral. I may get back to it on the weekend, but no promises. I have a lot of other things I really should be doing, and might even use my ERE writing a journal entry instead.

Also, I should add that I choose "Candide" as a handle because I have spent far too much of my life thinking about the myriad problems and horrors of the world (particularly trying to wrap my mind around political philosophy due to my debate background) and I have found it best to not let my attention go to the doings of the powerful and fallen but instead to "tend my garden." ... A commitment that does require periodic reminding.

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Re: Moby Dick Book Club? January through March 2023

Post by jacob »


Hristo Botev
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Re: Moby Dick Book Club? January through March 2023

Post by Hristo Botev »

jacob wrote:
Sun Feb 12, 2023 11:15 am
Thanks! Will definitely give that a listen after I finish the book; I enjoy listening to that Hermitix guy from time to time, though I think the last thing I listened to was when he last had JMG on. IIRC the Hermitix guy is converting to or recently converted to Catholicism?

Started part 3 of 3 of MD this morning; 96 chapters in and still waiting on the eponymous protagonist/antagonist of the novel to make his appearance.

candide
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Re: Moby Dick Book Club? January through March 2023

Post by candide »

7 more days for Moby Dick, then we'll be allowed to talk about the bath tub scene.

Hristo, I assume you finally got your white whale? Page 620 in my book.

Hristo Botev
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Re: Moby Dick Book Club? January through March 2023

Post by Hristo Botev »

candide wrote:
Sun Mar 05, 2023 9:43 am
Hristo, I assume you finally got your white whale? Page 620 in my book.
Yes indeed! Lots to think about. I've got my seminar coming up this weekend and will need to review my notes in preparation and process the book a bit, now that I've finished it.

Upon finishing the book I listened to the Hermitix podcast @Jacob linked to upstream (
jacob wrote:
Sun Feb 12, 2023 11:15 am
https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=Ijz6D67c0ss Hermitix just reviewed it.
, which was a nice treat.

candide
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Re: Moby Dick Book Club? January through March 2023

Post by candide »

Today is the day!
chenda wrote:
Sun Dec 18, 2022 11:28 am
When I was a child I saw a play of Moby Dick. It was weird and awful. The only scene I remember was some guy going mad and waving about a bath toy (possible of a whale) in a miniature bathtub. I don't know if this actually happened in the book or if it was all some post-modern conceptual 90s take on it all. I've disliked theatre ever since. I'm sure the book is better.
And..
Hristo Botev wrote:
Sun Dec 18, 2022 3:07 pm
[...] we are not allowed to talk about the bath toy until after March 12.
So here we go...

There isn't one.

Thus ends our running joke. Thanks for attending my TED talk.

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