Saturday, August 8, 2009


An excerpt from Dave Eggers, Zeitoun:

"He had been on a tanker once, maybe twenty years earlier, navigating through the Philippines. It was late, after midnight, and Zeitoun was keeping the captain company on the bridge.

To stay awake and alert, the captain, a Greek man of middle age, liked to take up provocative subjects. He knew that Zeitoun was a Muslim and a thoughtful man, so he sparked a debate about the existence of God. The captain began by expressing his utter conviction that there was no God, no deity in the sky watching over the human world.

Zeitoun had been on the bridge with the captain for an hour at that point, watching him pilot the ship through the many islands, avoiding high shelves and sandbars, other ships and countless unseen dangers. The Philippines, with over seven thousand islands but only five hundred lighthouses, was known for its frequency of maritime accidents.

"What would happen," Zeitoun asked the captain, "if you and I went below the deck, and just went to our bedrooms and went to sleep?"

The captain gave him a quizzical look and answered that the ship would most certainly hit something-would run aground or into a reef. In any event, disaster.

"So without a captain, the ship cannot navigate."
"Yes," the captain said, "Whats's your point?"

Zeitoun smiled. "Look above you, at the stars and the moon. How do the stars keep their place in the sky, how does the moon rotate around the earth, the earth around the sun? Who's navigating?"

The captain smiled at Zeitoun. He'd been led into a trap.
"Without someone guiding us," Zeitoun finished, "wouldn't the stars and moon fall to earth, wouldn't the oceans overrun the land? Any vessel, any carrier of humans, needs a captain, yes?"
The captain was taken with the beauty of the metaphor, and let his silence imply surrender."

No comments: