Before I commenced my religious quest, I did a google search of Professor Ridd and to my surprise tracked down an archive at the Winnipeg headquarters of the United Church of Canada where Ridd had been a theologian and sure enough I found a list of his class notes and outlines. It was amazing luck that they were there. Sadly, during the time of Covid-19 as I write, the archive is closed, but when it reopens I intend to beg permission to see the materials. I would love to see his lecture notes on the various books I would like to read. I am convinced they would reveal insights into them. But I will have to wait for those notes and this quest cannot wait any longer.
I have decided to start the quest. I picked my first book, Moby Dick. I was sure it must be one of the books he taught. However, both of my friends who took the course with Professor Ridd said they did not recall that this is one of the books in the course. I doesn’t matter, I concluded. I read the book about 40 years after I graduated from Law School and could read books I wanted to read just for pleasure. I remembered the book as being magnificent. One of the best novels ever written, but, frankly, in 40 years I forgot a lot. After all, I am quite capable of forgetting what book I read last month! And I used to have a very good memory.
I also I remember a promise I made myself last year. I said, I would re-read an old classic every year. At least one classic every year. Maybe more. Last year as part of that project I read Albert Camus’ The Plague. Moby Dick could serve both purposes—it is a classic of English literature, and as I recall, contained a wealth of material for my religious quest. It was as they say a win/win situation.
I dived into Moby Dick. Then, to my further amazement, I learned that McNally Robinson Booksellers was opening up their Community Classroom series and guess what? Lara Rae was offering to discuss Moby Dick and the classes were offered online and at no cost, thanks to support from the Manitoba government cultural program this year. With so many cultural event centres close, the government wanted to encourage some venues to deliver online learning. It was a perfect storm of knowledge opening up.
It took me a long time to read the first book. Moby Dick is 500 pages long and I read it intensively. I read only a few pages every day. I made notes. I went back and forth through the text. I meandered through the text. It was great fun. It took me about a month of intense reading to complete the book. I would say it was my greatest reading experience of my life. I will tell you some of the things I learned as I commenced my quest.
I hope you will accompany me on this voyage of discovery. That is what Moby Dick was for me. A voyage of discovery.