Tuesday, May 19, 2015

On Whiteness

I'm currently working on an adventure story tentatively titled "Salt and Sorcery." I'm liking it very much, but the amount of liking I have for a particular story seems to have little to do with its publishability, so who knows if it will ever see the light of day. It's title is merely descriptive, because it's about (1) salt, and (2) sorcery, both interesting subjects in their own right.

Now, salt, as everyone knows, is white, so I here leave the reader with the tail-end of Melville's meditation on the terror of whiteness in Moby-Dick, Chapter 42, "The Whiteness of the Whale," which inspires my story (and also my character Zilla, who comes into my writing from time to time):
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?
The Sea of Ice, Caspar David Friederich

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