Whenever I find myself growing grim about the mouth; whenever it is a damp, drizzly November in my soul; whenever I find myself involuntarily pausing before coffin warehouses, and bringing up the rear of every funeral I meet; and especially when my hyppos [hypochondria] get such an upper hand of me, that it requires a strong moral principle to prevent me stepping into the street, and methodically knocking people’s hats off – then, I account it high time to get to sea as soon as I can.
This is my substitute for pistol and ball. With philosophical flourish Cato throws himself upon his sword; I quietly take to the ship. There is nothing surprising in this. If they but knew it, almost all men in their degree, some time or other, cherish very nearly the same feelings towards the ocean with me.
Herman Melville: Moby Dick
The ocean is singularly greater than all of us.
We can challenge it, we can cross it, we can ride its waves and plunge into its depths, we can even poison it and pollute it, but it is greater than us.
We are drawn to it, to stand in its surf and stare out into the unknown, to listen to its waves, and we know its enormity so fully and inherently that we turn to it as a metaphor for anything with a depth that we feel is greater to fathom.