06 January 2008

Chasing Fin-Backs

When I was in high school, my English teacher gave us an assignment to write a personal essay based on a quote we would select from Moby Dick. I chose "Many are the Fin-Backs, and many are the Dericks, my friend." It's been a long time since I read the book-- and I wasn't really a fan the first time around-- but if I recall correctly, the Fin-Back is the uncapturable whale because of its great speed. Derick is the captain of the Jungfrau, a ship encountered at sea, and, having mistaken the Fin-Back for a Sperm Whale, he lowers his boats and goes in "valiant chase of this unnearable brute."
What is the point of this, you may ask? Well, the passage is fairly ambiguous in terms of whether Derick is a positive or negative character (although most critics interpret Derick as a fool), but I wrote my essay about the nobility of following your dreams, no matter how unreachable all logic tells you they may be. Now, being a bit more jaded and a lot better-read, I tend to agree with the critics about Derick and that the term "valiant chase" is meant sarcastically...but I can't help but wonder about the concept of dreaming the impossible dream. Is it foolish, noble, or...is it the only option for happiness?
I'm not really the type of person who has ever had a dream. Yeah, I'm a Pisces, we live in our own little dream-world, but as far as actual life dreams, I've always sided more on the side of logic. I used to want to be a Broadway performer. After looking at musical theatre programs at colleges, I decided that I was nowhere near good enough and that I didn't have the strength to deal with being a waitress and having no life stability as I climbed toward my goal. I never really developed any other impossible dreams. Sure, sometimes I say I wish I were a fairy, and I always seem to be questing after lost causes ("when they're really lost")...but that is nowhere near chasing the ungettable get.
When I was at Disney World with my family, I saw all of these little adorable girls dressed up as their favorite princesses.

To them, by putting on the dress they became princesses for a day! Whenever they saw Belle or Ariel or Mickey Mouse, they thought that they were seeing the real thing, and they believed that dreams can come true "when you wish upon a star." To them, magic is very real and enchantment is within their reach. When exactly do we stop believing that? Or furthermore, when exactly do we start telling children that they need to stop reaching for the stars and start living on solid ground? When does chasing Fin-Backs stop being noble and start being foolish?
I guess there is no real conclusion to be made here. But despite how jaded and earthly I may be, I still sometimes feel my toes stretching up off the ground. Despite everything, I still believe in so much and have so much hope, even though I tell myself to be logical and not get my hopes up. If I have to say I got a little foolish, so be it-- at least I wasn't afraid. Guess I'm just another one of the Dericks, my friend...

“‘We’re going through the black air with our arms wide,’ she cried, ‘and our feet straight out behind us like a dolphin’s tail, and we’re going to think we’ll never hit the silver down till suddenly it’ll be all warm round us and full of little kissing, caressing waves.” ~F. Scott Fitzgerald, “The Offshore Pirate”

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