Dolphin and Whale Magazine :  January issue 2011
 
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Editorial and Opinion


The Global Crisis and the Myth of the Whale
That humanity may threaten its own survival and the viability of the biosphere is reason enough to question the influence of civilization on sanity. It is imperative that we examine ourselves. With so much science, specialized knowledge and information how could we have ended up at this point? What is wrong with us and what can we do about it? Exactly what are we missing?

The Greek story of Narcissus makes the point. Narcissus was hunting with his young friends when he left them and went to a pond where he saw his face reflected. He fell in love with himself, but his fate soon followed in the form of suicide. This is an ancient story about the cost of turning one’s back on nature, which is exactly what we, as a civilization, have done. Just like Narcissus, we suffer from undaunted pride, and it is destroying us and our world.

Is it possible that the very thing we believe will solve the global crisis is actually the problem? Men and women all around the world are hard at work coming up with myriad ways to alleviate human suffering and environmental degradation. They trust the human ego and intellect to save the day. But is it not the ego-intellect that created the crisis and spawned domestication, civilization, warfare, materialism, unsustainable economy, greed, massive starvation, environmental degradation, disharmony and ultimately the meaningless of life? The answer sadly, is yes. If the fear that fuels defensive ego-consciousness is ultimately responsible for our suffering and that of the planet, can more of the same serve us well?



The Myth of the Whale

Interest in the intelligence of whales is a pervasive, contemporary  myth. Humans are saying to other humans, “They are intelligent beings, and if you see them as intelligent you can discover your own ignorance and improve upon it.”

According to our most immense scientific theory about life, natural selection, humans and all organisms serve their ultimate interests, survival and reproduction, only by acting selfishly towards these ends. If this theory is true then why do so many humans invest so much in communicating to others their beliefs that whales are intelligent beings and thus should be saved? What’s in it for the whale lovers? What’s in loving whales for the non-believers? “So what if whales are intelligent, their intelligence doesn’t solve my problems!”

The possibility of whale intelligence serving human interests – solving human problems – is sufficiently promising to warrant cessation of whaling and much investment in research. At the deepest level, however, whale lovers are making adaptive projection about humanity’s need for intelligence – knowing what is appropriate to do. To the whale lover, the fact that whaling is still an issue rather than history speaks to the vastness of human ignorance. To recognize the mere possibility of whale intelligence as comparable or superior to our own is to admit our ignorance. In this radical sense the concern for the whale is a measure of civilized humanity discovering its serous limitations. The whale myth is testimony of the need for open-mindedness and humility.

The whale people are telling the rest of us that with an open mind, free of the phylogenetic and culturally conditioned clutter of the past, it is possible to see that whales are intelligent, but, moreover, intelligent in ways humans are lacking but in need of. Essentially, the whale myth is the new adaptive perception which heralds awareness of the need for cooperation both among humans and between humans and the biotic community.
 

Contemporary humanity stands at a threshold of recovering the ancient wisdom of life as interdependence which translates into holism or love of oneness. Loving the whole really means awareness of my selfish need for a viable and promising world. Selfishness is being extended to encompass the whole of life. Defensive ego-consciousness is the obstacle to the enlightened self and greater cooperation. The compromise amounts to self recognizing itself in need of expansion – unveiling – for itself. As we discover that self is the problem we begin to reorder perception in light of self-awareness. We become no less selfish, but more enlightened, which is to say that awareness of self in the world expands self-interest in that world.

For centuries we have suffered from Cartesian philosophy: “I think therefore I am.” Which is a philosophy of egoism: I can only be certain that I exist. Descartes was half-right: my ego or consciousness is the least deniable fact in the universe. But if we examine our thoughts what we do observe? That living is problematical at the core, meaning that my life consists of my relationship to my circumstances. In other words, my life does not consist merely of myself, but of my interdependent relationship with the world. Therefore I am morally compelled to take care of my world as much as myself. (See review of AVATAR in this issue for a discussion of how to manifest interdependence as a living philosophy.)

The whale myth is far more than just another fad or fantasy of aging hippies. It is seething through our entire culture. By many paths, subtle or overt, vulgar or sophisticated, the myth of the whale is proving itself as a viable path toward expanded human awareness. A new age of adaptive values will strive for the authentic stewardship of an immensely viable world, a world for humans, a world of humans for whales “and all that dwells therein.” Now is the time to end whaling and resolve to understand ourselves, the whales and the world we need. It is in our hands to create a new age or die with the old. This is the meaning of the whale.

The cetacean nations have much to teach civilized humanity. Plagued as we are by fear – defensive ego-consciousness - the dolphins and whales exemplify what we are missing: connection with one another, the earth, the creatures and the divine. They exemplify the rewards and psychological security of authentic society. They remind us to be present here and now. They take time to enjoy life and play. They bond with their children and their children bond with their societies and with nature. They are surprisingly peaceful and their lifestyle is sustainable. They are the only non-domesticated lifeforms that go out of their way to befriend and communicate with us, even save our lives with no apparent benefit to them. They dare to be altruistic in their relationship to us, and in so doing they break the selfish rules science made for animals and humans to live by.

Though they are not perfect, we see in them the choice we are free to make between living from fear and ego or from love and intelligence. They are our teachers, and like all good teachers they inspire enthusiasm in us. To inspire enthusiasm means “to set on fire the God within.”

The Dolphin and Whale Society is committed to inspiring enthusiasm for the cetaceans so we may work together with them to serve life.

Randall L. Eaton, Ph.D., Director
 
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