Today I finally finished ‘Moby Dick’ (oh my god major cheers crying with happiness) and despite being thoroughly bored with the long-winded paragraphs (or should I say 500 pages) about whales and wishing it would be more action-packed, it is actually really interesting to analyse. Today I came across a particular phrase that struck me which I’d like to talk about here!
“All the things that most exasperate and outrage mortal man, all these things are bodiless…”
This phrase stemmed from a description about the wind and how it can’t ‘receive a single blow’ as you simply ‘run through it’. It’s one of those moments in a book where out of nowhere you just stop and think about it and that’s exactly what I did. Because somehow thinking about the wind as a target and someone trying to hit it never occurred me (which isn’t surprising because it’s not exactly an everyday occurrence, but still).
I think this idea of humans being destroyed the most by things that are bodiless is just so interesting because when you think about it, aren’t we hurt most of all by mere concepts? You might say we suffer through relationships by other people, but isn’t that from the concept of love rather than the individual themselves? Without the love aspect, they’re just any other person. The same with if someone took your ball in the playground in primary school and you were hurt because they wouldn’t give it back. Isn’t that suffering from the concept of justice rather than the person themselves, because if it wasn’t unfair, it wouldn’t be bad in the first place?
Also when you consider mental health, there is no arguing this is pain that is bodiless because it’s all in your head. However, if other situations, like I’ve mentioned above, were bodiless too, wouldn’t they be treated in the same way as mental health? But they’re not. So perhaps they’re not bodiless after all.
What actually defines a body or makes something bodiless? Does it literally have to have arms and legs and a brain? Does it merely have to be visible? I guess it’s hard to say. In relation to the quote, I think perhaps it’s talking about verbalised pain – racism, verbal abuse. But is saying these things that are bodiless outrage man the most even fair? Surely any kind of pain, whether bodiless or not, is awful.
I guess perhaps Melville is saying that invisible pain is somewhat worse because of its invisibility. If it cannot be seen, how can it be understood? How can it be treated? And this in itself adds to the pain to make it worse. If just we had depression in the form of a walking body or a physical being embodying the love in a relationship. Although these things are exuded through our bodies, they aren’t ultimately seen as a body in themselves; we as humans hide and repress so much that they can’t possibly be shown in their fullest extent through us. Maybe this is for the better. Who even knows?
To be honest I don’t know what I even agree with so far in this post because all these ideas have suddenly sprung to my mind, but it’s certainly something to think about.
If you could wish all pain to have a body, would you?