How Whales Can Help Us Be Better People

The ocean may be vast, but we’re all in it together.

Posted in , Aug 26, 2021

Breaching whale

One day last summer, my 9-year-old son Ben and I were riding the waves at a popular ocean beach on outer Cape Cod. As we laughed and splashed with our boogie board, I suddenly noticed an astonishing sight—a pod of whales was spouting and breaching well within view of where we stood.

In between rides in the waist-deep surf, we gasped and pointed with utter awe and delight.

“Ben, can you believe it?” I cried, “We’re swimming with the whales!”

“Mom,” Ben said in reply, “We’re always swimming with the whales. This is their habitat, not ours!”

Ben’s words took my breath away, more than the dramatic waves and the stunning sight of the whales combined. 

He was absolutely right, of course. Humpback, fin and minke whales feed and frolic each year in the waters off Cape Cod. This is their home—one that, thanks to the Cape Cod National Seashore and organizations like the Center for Coastal Studies, we are privileged to visit and learn from, love and protect.

Each time we set foot into a natural space, it’s meaningful and valuable to recall that we are visiting something that is beautiful and enjoyable to us, but is not exclusively for us.

We each have a part to play in sharing space. When we acknowledge our coexistence, as Ben did, we set ourselves up for success in how we interact with each other. This is as true in the vastness of the ocean as it is in our home communities where we live, work, play and serve. 

The lesson I took from that sun-drenched day a year ago, mid-pandemic and pre-vaccine, was that in the vast sea of life, we’re all in it together. When the waves crash, we ride them. And when the whales breach, we stand at a safe distance, letting the awe of their enormity wash over us. Because as Ben pointed out, we’re always in communion and community with other creatures—human and otherwise. 

How we connect with, notice and support each other in this vast wilderness of life—that’s up to us.

Tags: Nature
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