Tuesday, June 21, 2005

Herman Melville on doubt

As I posted what seems like an eternity ago, I am making my way (albeit very slowly) through Moby-Dick. The whole book is great, but the following passage seemed to jump out at me:

"...rainbows do not visit the clear air; they only irradiate vapor. And so, through all the thick mists of the dim doubts in my mind, divine intuitions now and then shoot, enkindling my fog with a heavenly ray. And for this I thank God; for all have doubts; many deny; but doubts or denials, few along with them, have intuitions. Doubts of all things earthly, and intuitions of some things heavenly; this combination makes neither believer nor infidel, but makes a man who regards them both with equal eye." --Moby-Dick, Chapter 88.

I think I forget sometimes that doubt is a natural, even positive, emotion. If we never inquire we'll never find out.

4 comments:

HP said...

That's really the great thing about Moby Dick. You sit there reading a lot of minutiae regarding whaling and then, suddenly, Melville makes some profound statement (almost in spite of himself). It's a bit like the shafts of light in the fog.

lchan said...

I wrote a post about doubt a few months back. Although my take is you need to know when it's time to believe, I also included this quote on doubt that I really like:

"..doubt itself is a passionate exercise. I think it's perceived in this culture as something weak or denatured, and that's a huge mistake. Conviction is what you do to be comfortable, to write The End on thinking. Doubt keeps you in the present, it keeps you conscious and reacting to and acting on what is going on now. It's work and people like to avoid work."
-John Patrick Shanley

NFlanders said...

Thanks, Laura. Your previous post about doubt really expressed some of the things I am struggling with.

lchan said...

I still struggle with it sometimes.

We are active again at church, and when I can let myself just be and basically believe, it feels good. Sometimes and with some things I just can't, and most of the time I'm okay with that. Being at peace with the church isn't as important to me as being at peace with God. (There didn't use to be a difference between the two, but now there definitely is.)