Thursday, September 18, 2014

Thar she blows

After seeing the following submission to the collage, I was struck by the overt whiteness overseeing the NY cavern.

The image of the reflected projection filled me with a sense of dread, but I couldn't exactly put my finger on why. It wasn't as simple as the chiseled, defined features creeping up on unsuspecting and desensitized passers-by, or the fact that we are all fed ongoing aesthetic, commercial messaging ...

Pure? Sublime? The contrast of the pale appearance against the activity of the street and the sea of blue took me back to the idea of the search for another great white. Someone far more eloquent than I could articulate the alarm ... from Herman Melville's classic novel Moby Dick (1851), excerpts from Chapter 42:

… how can I hope to explain myself here; and yet, in some dim, random way, explain myself I must, else all these chapters might be naught. Though in many natural objects, whiteness refiningly enhances beauty, as if imparting some special virtue of its own …
This elusive quality it is, which causes the thought of whiteness, when divorced from more kindly associations, and coupled with any object terrible in itself, to heighten that terror to the furthest bounds ... But how had the mystic thing been caught? Whisper it not, and I will tell;
"... whiteness, no man can deny that in its profoundest idealized significance it calls up a peculiar apparition to the soul"
… and there is a higher horror in this whiteness of her woe. Old as Pizarro, this whiteness keeps her ruins for ever new; admits not the cheerful greenness of complete decay; spreads over her broken ramparts the rigid pallor of an apoplexy that fixes its own distortions.
I know that, to the common apprehension, this phenomenon of whiteness is not confessed to be the prime agent in exaggerating the terror of objects otherwise terrible; nor to the unimaginative mind is there aught of terror in those appearances whose awfulness to another mind almost solely consists in this one phenomenon, especially when exhibited under any form at all approaching to muteness or universality. 
… But not yet have we solved the incantation of this whiteness, and learned why it appeals with such power to the soul; and more strange and far more portentous - why, as we have seen, it is at once the most meaning symbol of spiritual things, nay, the very veil of the Christian's Deity; and yet should be as it is, the intensifying agent in things the most appalling to mankind.
Is it that by its indefiniteness it shadows forth the heartless voids and immensities of the universe, and thus stabs us from behind with the thought of annihilation, when beholding the white depths of the milky way?
... and like wilful travelers in Lapland or New York, who refuse to wear colored and coloring glasses upon their eyes, so the wretched infidel gazes himself blind at the monumental white shroud that wraps all the prospect around him. And of all these things kate was the symbol.
Wonder ye then at the fiery hunt? Observe. Slow Down. Shoot. Submit.

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