Watched the movie Moby Dick again last night. I’m kind of fascinated by the story. Ahab is obsessed with this magnificent whale, and wants nothing so badly as to catch it for no other reason than because it is so magnificent. What he doesn’t realize is that the very act of catching it will destroy what makes it magnificent. Ahab wants it because he admires it.
My song She Looked Like Marilyn Monroe is written on this same theme, wanting to “catch” something that only exists in its natural state, but that can’t be caught because the catching of it destroys the very thing that is desirable. Marilyn Monroe is just like the great white whale. She only existed in the context for which she was made. She wasn’t a real woman. Catching her would reveal that the real woman playing the character was just like everyone else. Changing the context destroys the thing. The great whale is not great and magnificent lying on the deck of a ship. Marilyn Monroe is not the same always perfectly sexy, desirable and glamorous woman if you see her day in and day out, doing ordinary things like an ordinary person.
Norma Jean may have been a wonderful woman and may have made a loving and devoted wife, but that would be Norma Jean, not Marilyn Monroe. Marilyn Monroe exists only in the plane of existence which she was created to inhabit.
In most of our lives, there is something that we see only through the lens that excludes reality. The movie star we fantasize about and love as long we don’t have to think about what they are like when they’re hanging around the house bored or cranky and haven’t showered yet and are upset that you didn’t take out the trash like you said you would. The job or career that we lust after because it is meaningful and creative but we would find to still have clueless supervisors and parts that were incredibly boring and we would still have to put in 8 or more hours a day even if we didn’t want to if were really in it.
Watching a Moby Dick or a Marilyn Monroe may be fun, entertaining, inspiring – it takes us to a place different than our usual world. Chasing a Moby Dick or a Marilyn Monroe may be fun. While we are chasing, the fantasy of the thing is still alive and well. Catching the Moby Dick or Marilyn Monroe will destroy the thing.
And if we let an obsession with the thing, whatever it is, overcome us, we can lose everything. Ahab probably had a good life waiting for him on the dock. Many men who lusted after and chased Marilyn Monroe had good women who loved them. But real life doesn’t stand still. It is constantly moving forward, and if we spend all our time chasing the great white whale that will never satisfy us, we will be left behind by the real things in our world and find only disappointment when we reach the thing we are chasing.
In my song, the storyteller is smart enough to leave while she still looks like Marilyn Monroe.
My song of course has many more meanings than that, depending on who is listening. That’s what’s great to me about songs. They can mean – really mean – whatever you think they mean. For some people Marilyn Monroe is a love song, for some it’s a love lost song, for others it is something else entirely. For me, it’s the joy of the chase and the beauty of being smart enough to know when to stop and let the thing be what it is without destroying it. And then returning to the real things, which are the greatest things of all.