The New Bedford Whaling Museum's Moby-Dick Marathon is an annual non-stop reading of Herman Melville's literary masterpiece. The multi-day program of entertaining activities and events is presented every January. Admission to the Marathon is free.

Monday, January 24, 2011

Focusing the Mind at 4:00 am

Speaking of the Graveyard Shift, I am presently in the midst of an all-nighter at my office, as happens a few times a year.  My windows, on the 15th floor of a high-rise, look out over a stretch of interstate highway and a swath of urban housing.  Only the occasional pair of headlights glides along the highway.  The only other lights I see at this time of night are scattered street lights, with a few traffic lights and store signs for color.

Someone in some book I read a number of years ago (maybe it was this one) remarked upon the surreal feeling of being in an office building at 2:00 in the morning.  The tomb-like silence, the stillness outside, and the gloom in the hallways make you feel as if you're the only person on Earth. 

This sense of aloneness may be what makes the Graveyard Shift at the Moby-Dick marathon unusually appealing (for me, at least).  On the one hand, the threat of abandonment in the vast dark, like Pip floating in the sea, left behind by the whale boats -- "The sea had jeeringly kept his finite body up, but drowned the infinite of his soul."  (Ch. XCIII, "The Castaway.")  On the other hand, the closed-in campfire circle of devoted readers, listeners, and organizers.  Centrifugal and centripetal forces, they hold you in place by pulling in opposite directions, as you sit on the edge between light and dark, waking and sleep.

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