I like whales

I like whales, particularly those of the dolphin family. I’m fascinated by them – absolutely sucked in and intrigued any time I am exposed to a documentary on one. The two times I got to personally interact with them (swimming with dolphins in Key Largo and an orca whale watch tour in the San Juan Islands of Washington) were magical, even spiritual. As someone who loves the Word, I have thought a lot about what it is that draws me to these animals. Is it some type of unspiritual mysticism? Am I being sucked into an unbiblical elevation of animals to a level God doesn’t give them? I’ve wrestled with these things. I don’t have any believing friends who share with me my fascination with whales and my concern over the conservation of their habitat.

So what is it about whales? I experience something similar with my dogs. And some people see the same in horses. They mesmerize us because, though they don’t say words, they communicate. And sometimes they communicate with shocking clarity. It might be the clarity of a two year old, but coming from a mute member of an animal family, it’s still shocking and profound.

It’s interesting that in the Garden of Eden, no one seems shocked when a snake talks to Eve. Later on when the donkey talks to Balaam, he’s shocked. But in perfection, the lack of shock implies that this was normal. Perhaps animals talked in perfection. Certainly they were different in the Garden. They were at peace. It wasn’t eat or be eaten, kill or be killed. In perfection, Adam perhaps laid with lions. Maybe Eve swam with orcas. And sometimes, when I see a documentary like this, I’m reminded that some animals still bear resemblances of what God created them to be in perfection. There’s Luna, the lonely orca whale who insisted that people and dogs be his friends. Then there’s Tillicum who kills his trainer at SeaWorld. Maybe animals reflect the interplay between God’s perfect creation and all that was ruined by the fall just as we do, albeit with much less spiritual significance according to Scripture.

So when Luna the whale stares at me through the lens of the camera, or when the dolphin in Key Largo comes back to get me after I slip off his fin as he pulls me through the water, I think of what interactions between humans and animals were like in perfection. And what they may be again when God’s kingdom to come is fully realized. God didn’t create animals for their functionality alone. There was something “good” about their creation long before the first animal was killed for food and clothing after the fall. As I write this, my 12 year old arthritic chow mix dog limps past me and settles by us on the floor. It’s not exactly the lion with the lamb. Just a chow with a 3 year old. But it makes me think.

8 Responses to I like whales

  1. Jonathan Ziman May 3, 2010 at 8:57 pm #

    Thanks for posting this. Have you seen “The Cove”? It's about dolphins, and sparked some similar discussions for my wife and I at home – is it wrong to think of dolphins in a different category than, say, cows and chickens? What is the Biblical reason for objecting to people killing dolphins and whales for meat? What is the Biblical reason for objecting to people keeping them imprisoned in dolphin shows? I know it “feels” wrong, but we can't base everything on feelings.

  2. Wendy May 3, 2010 at 9:27 pm #

    I haven't seen The Cove. I know I can't handle watching it, so I've avoided it. I can't see any Biblical reason for the difference. At least not in the sense of a clear verse on certain animals having more dignity than others. Did they kill spiders in the garden? 🙂

    Perhaps as the gospel takes root in our heart and we are conformed to His image, a by product is a growing awareness of the good thing He created in animals well before they became useful to us by killing them.

  3. judesmom May 4, 2010 at 2:02 am #

    I held a baby gray whale's face in my hands while working on an eco-tourist cruise ship years ago. I have to say, it was incredible. 20 feet of whale nestled up beside the little boat I was in definitely inspired awe in the Creator, even though at that time in my life, I did not yet know who my Creator was. Her eye seemed human (not trying to sound weird here) and she looked right back at me with, it seemed, as much wonder as I. Then there was the flip of a blue whale's tail right before it submerged back into the water, silently swimming with sea lions, and sunrise after sunrise when the dolphins played at the bow of our ship. Magical, surreal, what have you…God's creation is glorious.

  4. Anonymous May 4, 2010 at 6:36 am #

    BTW it was Tillicum that killed his trainer. It was the third time he was frustrated enough/stressed enough to lash out. I struggle daily with my animal advocacy beliefs in a strict Christian environ where 'they' believe animals were put here for 'our' use.

  5. Wendy May 4, 2010 at 3:59 pm #

    Thanks. I got it corrected. Tillamook is a our local ice cream brand(and I think a native American tribal name around here). Tillicum is the whale.

  6. Wendy May 4, 2010 at 11:41 pm #

    I'm contemplating the fact that I received the most unsubscribe notices ever after this post. Coincidence?

  7. Macsie May 7, 2010 at 3:47 am #

    I don't find your reaction to these fascinating creatures unusual. I too am mesmerized by them and could not tear myself away from interacting with the dolphins at SeaWorld, much to the rest of my family's irritation. There is a majesty there, a quiet intelligence, a reciprocal curiosity from beast to man that leaves any thinking human in awe.

    Interestingly, the only other creature on earth that leaves me as breathless is the horse. Again, there is such a sense of the Creator's master craftsmanship in this animal – its power, majestic form, sleek-y noble head, and it has so much personality. Even Jesus chooses this masterpiece to make his grand re-entry in Revelation.

    I think our hearts and senses are simply delighting in the Creator's ability to put forth such masterful handiwork! Every time I encounter one of these specific creatures, I immediately say “oh Lord, look what you have done!”

  8. Anonymous October 17, 2011 at 11:04 pm #

    I really liked this post. That “spiritual, magical” connection you mentioned is how I feel whenever I'm at a beach, or in the ocean and around its life, or watching endless hours of ocean documentaries on NatGeo. and I always wondered if it's unnatural to see so connected and drawn to these particular places. But it really is where I see God's wonder the most vividly.