The Final Harbor, The Repose of Mutual If
The mingled, mingling threads of life are woven by warp and woof: calms crossed by storms, a storm for every calm. There is no steady unretracing progress in this life; we do not advance through fixed gradations, and at the last one pause: — through infancy’s unconscious spell, boyhood’s thoughtless faith, adolescence’ doubt (the common doom), then scepticism, then disbelief, resting at last in manhood’s pondering repose of If. But once gone through, we trace the round again; and are infants, boys, and men, and Ifs eternally. Where lies the final harbor, whence we unmoor no more? in what rapt ether sails the world, of which the weariest will never weary? Where is the foundling’s father hidden? Our souls are like those orphans whose unwedded mothers die in bearing them: the secret of our paternity lies in their grave, and we must there to learn it.
– Herman Melville, Moby Dick, chapter CXIV
Dustin and I spoke tonight of progression. By the time two Horse Brass beers apiece had fogged our proverbial mirrors, we’d referred in repetition to the journeys traveled and the search for the great peace of the soul that we may perhaps find glimpses of, but will effectively face countless books and conversations with the same ifs until we too find it in the grave. I suppose it doesn’t prevent us from scratching around in the dirt on the way down that road, hoping it could be found there among the ruts.
I told my roommate Michal last night that among my theology is included the shrug. I didn’t use that actual term but its one that had escaped me when I needed it most. (shrugs are so passive, just when you need them most..) But really, the shrug. Why demand an answer who’s availability died that same moment humanity’s innocence became a question?
I have a willingness to leave questions unanswered. Yes, theological questions. Many of the same questions on which are spent books of writing and thought, the same questions that drive communities into separate churches, the same questions that build walls between friends, the same questions that drove men like Kierkegaard into social exile.
I have a gloomy mind at times, seeing first the negative aspects in progression. But among the reasons I am ok with a shrug answer is that I believe others are reacting just the same. Dustin is an ally in this. So is Michal. The social and technological progressions we have waltzed through have left us more room to consider the steps. More room to peacefully see each others’ shrugs and to notice the silly off-color dance it creates when the collective can be ok with itself in being a little off-color, because after all, the dusty ruts are no place to find answered ifs. But they are the place to find the best we have to work with: the repose of mutual if.