how to catch a whale

Call me a below average reader. Some years ago – never mind how long precisely – I decided to read Moby Dick.

I’m still going.

Moby Dick is itself my White Whale. Several times I have taken up the chase and left off after this Leviathan of a book has escaped my grasp. But not this time.  I have the madness of Ahab on me and I’ll pursue that thing to the grave if need be. It’s not that Moby Dick is a bad book, just that when life gets busy it’s not the first way you choose to unwind after a big day. Leaping astride its preposterous bulk is just the beginning. Still, I have discovered the secret: you can read it for a while and then leave it aside for days, weeks, yea verily even a couple of months and return to it and find you haven’t forgotten anything that’s happened.

Because nothing has.

Ah Ryan, you say, why continue? Why struggle, push, strive, beat and drag yourself on? Why not just curl up on your poo brown lounge with Twilight instead? Or wouldn’t it be better (as suggested by a good friend) to just get the audio book and have done in a mere 26 hours whilst stuck in peak hour? That’d make more sense, right?

No, no, NO! A pox on your shiny pop vampires and new fandangled technomological shortcuts!

For this book is pure delight. A delight I can’t quite put my finger on. The language itself is encrusted with barnacles and sea salt, chilled with the north Atlantic air, but then it’s more than that. Then there’s my till just now unsettling identification with Ishmael, whose itching discontent and simple joy at immersing himself into the world is one with my own. But go on. The book is a journey, a  voyage, is itself an epic. The Pequod’s ponderous pursuit of the white whale across the oceans can’t be rushed. It has to be savoured. Sat with. There’s a depth and breadth to this book’s vision that entices and yet eludes me, like the whale itself eludes Ahab. It appears simple but isn’t. Quickly jet across this ocean to your destination and you’ll miss the richness of the world beneath the surface. And no, kind hearted spoiler, I don’t want to be told.

In its slowness, in its breadth, in its misleading simplicity and its slow pursuit of an elusive object always somewhere out of reach there’s something of life here and I’m loving it. And so today on this 161st anniversary of Melville’s classic I will pick up the Leviathan again and drink it in.

With patience, with determination and maybe just a hint of obsession. That’s how you catch a whale.


life, oh life, ooh liiiifffe oh life, doo doo doodoo

There comes a point where you start to let go.

I mean, when you’re younger you’re gonna change the world. You’re gonna figure this thing called Life out, you think you have figured it out, it fits this neat little schema. You know where you’re headed, you’re gonna take hold of life by the reigns and ride it round. Like Zorro.

But then you don’t.

You wake up one day and you’re 29 and not one of your plans have happened like you thought, and yet here you are and it’s all ok.

You wake up and you’re 29 and realise the nagging little feeling behind you’re heart you couldn’t name actually has a name. It’s the feeling of the days of your life slipping away like, well, like sands through the hourglass. But you’re not in some cheesy melodrama. You’re alive. And every throbbing pulsing thrilling tedious sunny gloomy moment is a little miracle.

Eventually you start to realise that the nagging little feeling behind your heart need not terrify or depress you. Yes, if you need to ride around on life, figure out life, achieve something phenomenal in life, make something of life, then it might. But not if you realise you don’t need to do any of those things with life. You need to live life.

When you were younger you looked forward to that point when your life would really begin. When you graduated. When you left uni and were working. When you got married. Then you suddenly realise that your life began a long time ago and you’re smack bang in the middle of it. Live it.

If death is the end, then what you get or achieve or become in this life becomes everything, since it would literally be everything. If death were the end.

Life isn’t about what you get or achieve. It’s about who you know. It’s about who you love. And at the heart of it all is the One who knows you completely and would be known, who loves you completely and would be loved. The One from whom all true love gets its name and to whom all true love should be offered as worship. It’s not about me. it’s about Him.

‘…if anyone loves God, he is known by Him.’ 1 Corinthians 8.3

sunshine and languages

Today was GORGEOUS. Spent the arvo in the park with friends, lying in the sun, eating, throwing a frisbee, talking about not much.

Ah, the simple pleasures.

But apart from that, I want to learn French. And no, not because it will make me irresistible to women everywhere. Which it will. Everywhere. I reckon learning a language will be fun, will stretch my horizons, broaden my cultural depths and appreciation of the world etc etc. and French as languages go is just really cool and irresistible.

So I dunno. Anyone got advice on the best way to learn a language if you’re already tied up full time and can’t sign up to a course? And don’t live in France, which clearly would be the best way? Hmm?

A la prochaine!