I am listening to the audiobook of Moby Dick. It’s madness, of course. In Melville’s day there was a different term for madness, monomania. You can look it up. We would call it obsession. Obsession is interesting to writers. We like to think about characters who have a single focus, unwavering as a star, that pours pain into their livers, into their jaws, into their souls. What is drug addiction but obsession? What is revenge but a dark and deadly obsession that rises from righteous fury? In our distracted and distracting world our obsessions seem weakened, except on talk radio. Monomania is alive and well on talk radio.
I know I shouldn’t listen to it. What good does it do me to listen to these folks RAVE? They do R-A-V-E! Today I was listening to one of them, a pathetic fellow who has the idea he is talking sense. He is so cracked that he might be funny, if his howls weren’t loaded with pure poison. He said perfectly horrible things about everyone who disagrees with him. Why? My cynical side says he does this only to improve his ratings, to get other people so revved up and angry that they will continue to listen to him. I also got the idea he might be doing it to drive people like me, who have been raised on good manners and loving thoughts, to feel just a sliver of the pain he feels all the time and every day, like Ahab getting the crew to swear vengeance against the white whale because the whale cost him his leg, as if the whale did something with malice. The whale was just trying to live. Ahab stopped seeing that. He ascribed to the whale not only the loss of his leg, but the suffering and disappointment of his soul.
After considering Melville’s ideas about Ahab’s monomania, I have yet another theory about talk radio, even better that the other two. The rage fills the maniac with POWER. The rage intoxicates. When Jesus says, “Come, let us reason together” is the answer, “Sure. Let’s reason.” Nope. Rage comes howling back. Rage pulls his beard from his face. Rage beats him, humiliates him, nails him to a cross. The maniac then foolishly thinks he has won. Poor maniac. He’s drunk poison.