always chase your whale

I’ve been struggling, lately, with deciding upon a career path that will satisfy all my passions and goals.  A book was suggested to me, The Renaissance Soul, that I’ll pick up this week.  It seems plenty of liberal arts students, in particular, have difficulty transitioning from an environment which encourages you to actively pursue each and every passion, into the working world which, it often seems, asks you to choose just one and stick with it.  The Renaissance Soul is supposed to be about learning how to incorporate each of your passions into a meaningful career- I’ll let you all know what I think of it later this week.

What I really wanted to talk about today is the necessity of pursuing your “whale.”  For those of you who have chosen not to painstakingly dissect the tome that is Moby-Dick, a short explanation by way of Ishmael:

“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? Or is it, that as in essence whiteness is not so much a color as the visible absence of color; and at the same time the concrete of all colors; is it for these reasons that there is such a dumb blankness, full of meaning, in a wide landscape of snows- a colorless, all-color of atheism from which we shrink? And when we consider that other theory of the natural philosophers, that all other earthly hues — every stately or lovely emblazoning — the sweet tinges of sunset skies and woods; yea, and the gilded velvets of butterflies, and the butterfly cheeks of young girls; all these are but subtile deceits, not actually inherent in substances, but only laid on from without; so that all deified Nature absolutely paints like the harlot, whose allurements cover nothing but the charnel-house within; and when we proceed further, and consider that the mystical cosmetic which produces every one of her hues, the great principle of light, for ever remains white or colorless in itself, and if operating without medium upon matter, would touch all objects, even tulips and roses, with its own blank tinge — pondering all this, the palsied universe lies before us a leper; and like wilful travellers in Lapland, 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 the Albino whale was the symbol. Wonder ye then at the fiery hunt?”

Got it? There’s nothing more important in life than pursuing the thing that makes you tick, the passion that eats away at your soul.  It doesn’t have to be white, and it certainly doesn’t have to be a whale, but it does take a good amount of self-reflection to determine what exactly is your “moby dick.” As Ahab and Ishmael take to the sea, so too must you take some time apart from the bustle of everyday life to think seriously about what it is that will make you happy, career wise.

What kind of people do you want to be around?  How much responsibility would you like?  Where do you want to live and how would you like to live? The list goes on, but perhaps the most important question is: what interest must your work involve? It’s not easy to identify your whale, but it’s certainly worth the trouble.  One final bit of advice- once you’ve spotted your whale, don’t let it out of your sight.


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