Cowardice

“The ribs and terrors in the whale,   Arched over me a dismal gloom,

While all God’s sun-lit waves rolled by,   And lift me deepening down to doom.

“I saw the opening maw of hell,   With endless pains and sorrows there;

Which none but they that feel can tell—   Oh, I was plunging to despair.

“In black distress, I called my God,   When I could scarce believe him mine,

He bowed his ear to my complaints—   No more the whale did me confine.

“With speed he flew to my relief,   As on a radiant dolphin borne;

Awful, yet bright, as lightning shone   The face of my Deliverer God.

“My song for ever shall record   That terrible, that joyful hour;

I give the glory to my God,   His all the mercy and the power.”

 

—The Sermon

Chapter 9: The Sermon, is the interpretation of the story of Jonah by one Father Mapple, long the shepherd of this particular community of whaling men. No doubt this archetypical theme and variations upon it have been delivered throughout his long career. Much can be said about the religious simplicity of the dialectic between faith and courage, and its relationship to the everyday experience of a whaling man at sea. In facing the leviathan of the deep, a sailor is truly facing himself, since in such heightened situations, the truth of one’s inner being cannot help but be exposed.

The Whale is simply that Lee Shore, upon which we dash our hopes, fears, and Sisyphean efforts. The redundancy of activating a sailor to counter the effect of activating a sailor gave us, laughingly, inadvertently, the perfect portrait of terror, terror that can be overcome by no man. By its nature, Cowardice cannot be negated, since it is a radically private experience, rather than the action of some external force.

It afflicts one sailor only, and is not too bad of an effect. However, the introduction of the archetypical coward Jonah both graphically and mechanically, is meant to hint to the players a new lens through which to view the occurrences of a given game. Who is stricken in some unknown way? Whose actions ring the truest?

As players begin to judge game actions in terms of courage and fear, rather than in terms of logic and strategy, the poetics of a given situation can be used to influence a player’s decision, perhaps to your own advantage, depending of course, on the multifarious factors at play in such situations. Courage and fear are simply concepts resting throughout the practical, tangible world, so play your cards or play your heart according to the tide, the weather, and the wind.

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