The Harpooner

Image Source: Daniil Kuzelev

There is a scene in Herman Melville's famous Moby Dick where the whaling crew are pursuing the great white whale, Moby Dick, in the midst of a terrifying storm.

The deck men are running around manically performing tasks, sweat mixing with sea water. Captain Ahab is screaming orders, swearing and adding to the confusion. The helmsman is battling the rough winds in order to keep the ship going true. 

You can imagine the chaos.

But in the midst of this chaos, there is one person on board who does nothing. No shouting. No labour. No panic. This person is the harpooner.

In the middle or raging seas and terrifying winds, the harpooner remains calm amid the crashing and the cursing. He is quiet and poised, waiting.

Then the author leaves us with this sentence: "To ensure the greatest efficiency in the dart, the harpooners of this world must start to their feet out of idleness, and not out of toil."


How often do we live our lives in a constant state of busyness, stress and even panic? 

When problems arise, our natural response is to do more, quickly. We rush in to save the day, before even stopping to take a breath and think about what we are doing.

When Tiger Woods was at the top of his game and pretty much unbeatable, people spoke about his Tiger Vision. Before addressing the ball, Tiger would be in such a zone of pure focus that no matter what anyone tried to do to throw him off (and believe me they tried), he was still able to perform the task at hand.

We are told that Tiger spent hours upon hours practising and perfecting that quiet place that he would go to in high-pressure situations.

How much better would we be able to deal with highly stressful situations in our lives if we learnt to relax and take a step back every now and again? 

If we could learn to step out of a situation and not be distracted by the chaos, our dart (or golf ball) will be more likely to fly true.

It reminds me of a story told in the gospel of Mark where Jesus is sleeping in a ship cabin in the middle of a horrific storm. So terrible in fact that the disciples decide that it would be best to wake him and ask for help. Jesus rebukes the storm and questions the faith of his friends, all the while remaining calm; focused; poised.

"Do not be anxious about anything, but in everything by prayer and supplication with thanksgiving let your requests be made known to God. And the peace of God, which surpasses all understanding, will guard your hearts and your minds in Christ Jesus."
- Phillippians 4:6-7


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