From the Editors: The following passage comes from Dennis Patrick Slattery’s Our Daily Breach: Exploring Your Personal Myth Through Herman Melville’s Moby-Dick (Fisher King Press 2015), reprinted here with permission. Available directly from the publisher or from Amazon, the book guides readers through a year of reflections and meditations on this great American classic, prompted by passages from the novel. A great gift for your wordy loved ones.
January 22. Chapter 10: A Bosom Friend
As I sat there in that now lonely room; the fire burning low, in that mild stage when, after its first intensity has warmed the air, it then only glows to be looked at; the evening shades and phantoms gathering round the casements, and peering in upon us silent, solitary twain; the storm booming without in solemn swells; I began to be sensible of strange feelings. I felt a melting in me. No more my splintered heart and maddened hand were turned against the wolfish world. This soothing savage had redeemed it . …
And then we sat exchanging puffs from that wild pipe of his, and keeping it regularly passing between us (55-56).
In a rare moment of solitude and serenity Ishmael experiences a “see change” within his splintered heart. As the sheer presence alone of Queequeg, the soft glow of the coals, the shadowed world’s presence against the light of the fire and the vast silence all conspire to transform the soul of one man whose heart had grown, through constant discord, cankerous and brittle against the world. Living antithetically to the world’s patterns, Ishmael now melts down and through his spite, isolation, and seething resentments into the softer glow of human friendship coaxed by Queequeg’s affection.
At times only the love of another given freely is sufficient to change the course and the construction of our lives. Unconditional acceptance by another can restore and redeem us; it is enough to melt amassed acerbities that deflect us bitterly from life toward impulses of spiritual or physical suicide. Nothing less than a miracle is it for a calcified self and splintered heart to heal in the presence of unconditional love. Not correction but compassion is far more potent.
Describe a situation when your accepting another unconditionally or being accepted in the same manner, changed both of you.