Monday, May 30, 2005

An Explanation of the Cosmic Landscape

Dante, from the Cathedral in Florence. Posted by Hello

I am a conscientious objector to Moby Dick. After reading "Billy Budd" (about 120 pages) and almost dying of the most intense boredom I've ever experienced, I swore off Melville forever, and decided expressly to avoid his big fish tale (about 700 pages). When I was assigned to read Moby Dick in my American Humanities class in college, I didn't. The fact that I still did just fine in the class only reinforced my resolve.
Now Amilynne, in a bout of guilt over being an English major and not having read the beastly book, is about halfway through it. And she has decided that I cannot get out of Purgatory until I follow suit.
Time in Heaven, you see, is spent enjoying the Heavenly Lecture Series--fascinating symposia on the most interesting topics that help the heavenly make sense of being. And Amilynne and I both really, really, really want to go. Amilynne, though, by her own admission, will have to sneak in if she wants any part of it. And that won't be easy, because she would have to shake Johnny Cash, her personal guide through Hell. So if she can't get in, the plan is that I'll sneak in a tape recorder and slip the bootleg copies to her under the Pearly Gates. Amilynne and Johnny Cash can then spend the rest of their time cruising around the River Styx with David Bowie in his boat. Which makes me a little jealous.
Tonight, though, Amilynne threw me out of Heaven and consigned me to an eternity in Purgatory. She has decided that reading Moby Dick is my pennance for something or other, and although I adamently insist that this punishment does not fit my crimes, she says that the day will come when Virgil is begging me to read it so I'll be off his hands and can join Beatrice and Dante in Paradise. Here's the problem: how can I possibly read Moby Dick? I am a conscientious objector! Should I read it, I would be forsworn, guilty of lying, and could no longer enter Heaven anyway!
Amilynne figures that she is being merciful. Reading Moby Dick, she says, beats the alternative: a neverending dinner party with the Shelleys (Percy and Mary) and William "Billy" Blake in the newly-opened Cavern of Hell, just below where Satan sits encased in ice chewing on Judas et. al. It's no use, though--I just can't do it. I just can't read Moby Dick.
So I guess now Amilynne and I are both looking for someone who will slip us bootleg copies of the Heavenly Lecture Series that we can enjoy in our own eternal realms. Because if I have to sit at the top of Mount Purgatory with nothing but Melville for entertainment, I might as well just go down to Hell, stop in for appetizers, and then go find a cozy tree to climb into with the other suicides.

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