Some folks may surmise that I am getting ready to offer up an exaggerated whale of a tale, but I seriously wish to recite a tale about the tail of a whale.
Climbing to the top of a Pacific coast bluff on a late Friday afternoon, undeterred by winds picking up, I focused my sights on an ocean view that expanded in all directions. Whales have been visiting my hometown of late which is unusual because it is outside their normal migration, but there must be lots of anchovies in the water attracting these beautiful humpbacked creatures and they have been coming out to play and delighting young and old alike. A week prior, I watched surfers just sitting on their boards, oblivious to waves; instead choosing to become spectators to the scene of nature playing out in front of their eyes– whales very close to the shore, spouting, and breaching and sticking their mouths out of the water called spy hopping (it looks like they are scooping up food), My sister and I stood on a hill together and excitedly took in the scene. She was whooping and hollering and said, “it’s better than Hawaii” and she has been to Hawaii a dozen times to view whales in spring so that was saying a lot.
So I found myself exactly one week later carving out a little quiet time for a hike to the top of a bluff that has a spectacular view of the Pacific ocean, and I scanned the horizon for signs of spouts. Out of the corner of my eye, I saw a big splash and I turned my head towards it. What was that? Did I miss a whale jumping out of the water, so I set my gaze and waited. Soon a tail popped out of the water and smashed down and created quite a wake of froth. The whale slipped underneath the water and the surface of the ocean became smooth and calm again. Yet again, I witnessed the whale’s tail come up, twirl, twist and turn and smash the water. SMACK! It looked like it was having fun. I got to witness this a few times and there were only three people at the most on this bluff and I felt like I had the place basically to myself. I began clapping for the whale, “You go whale”! I whooped and hollered like my sister, standing alone on the bluff oblivious to anyone watching who might think “is that woman okay”? I thought about how awe-filled I felt at that moment: living in a high tech world where AI, latest tech devices, robots and driverless cars are repeatedly pushed and promoted. I felt privileged because I got to be a witness to this miraculous display of nature *live*, not through virtual reality, not on a TV or movie screen, but right before my naked eye. I felt exhilaration and shouted to the whale, “Right on, whale, you kick that tail; hold nothing back; may you have a glorious life and may you live long and prosper” and I clapped my hands again as if I were watching the greatest show on earth.
It’s moments like this where I feel so lucky to be alive. I stood on the bluff with no possessions with me other than my car key. The freedom that the whale displayed was beyond compare and I celebrated the purity of his being; the same purity of being and freedom that I seek every day to find within myself.
With great reluctance, I left the aquatic scene of whale power to get to a 12 Step meeting, but first I found myself face-to-face with an acquaintance who had the demeanor and fatigue of one who had not slept for a week. It turns out that she was in a deep depression over some worldly event that happened earlier in the week, 3,000 miles away. She said she had been incapacitated and couldn’t do the simplest of tasks. I expressed to her that there will always be drama and chaos in the world, and explained that I manage to find sanity by not watching TV or reading newspapers. I told her, “I detach”. My acquaintance declared, “I cannot detach!” She said it with firmness and finality, so I figured it wasn’t the right time or place for me to delve into this any further and I parted ways offering a smile and wave as the acquaintance joined other friends. As I walked away, I could hear them agitatedly talking about the high drama that had unfolded on the front pages of newspapers and streamed no doubt on TV, 24 hours/day. Due to my resolution to avoid saturation from mass media, I had not learned about the event until 48 hours or so after it happened.
And so I had a brief moment of self-doubt. Was I callous person because I had chosen to detach from worldly drama? Should I, too, be wringing my hands, and falling into my bed for a week in the grips of depression, not able to cope with even the most mundane of tasks? Am I an uncaring person?
Here is my take on things: I cannot change the world all by myself. Can I care and be empathetic? Yes, of course I can and I want to be that kind of person. I also try to stay connected with what my Higher Power wants for me. If for some reason I am meant to be somewhere and do something that will offer consolation or change, then by all means let me be there! Until then, I make it in a conscious choice to not expose myself to the constant stream of mayhem, drama, destruction, death, dismemberment that is on full display in our world of non-stop media offerings.
I strive to find peace within and to align myself with the joy and freedom that the whale displayed in the ocean that afternoon. He knew of no death and destruction happening 3,000 miles away; he was going to express his essence, flopping around, smashing his tail, happy and free. He wasn’t going to let what might be happening to another whale 500 miles north of him, or 1000 miles south of him, deflect him from celebrating his existence. Well, he made me happy that day and gave me joy. He gave me something to celebrate, to clap for, and to be in awe of.
I can’t change the world or others; I may not be able to stop death and destruction on the other side of the planet or even on this side of the planet I live on. Instead, what I choose to do is to practice little kindnesses and aim to find peace within and share that with others, if they want it. A sage once wrote that “two billion hours of selfless work by healthy grown-ups of the earth can wake up mankind with a jerk, to a New Order to give birth”. He didn’t say “two billion hours of demonstrations and violence”. He said selfless work, i.e. SERVICE. (quote page 66, “The Way to Self-Knowledge” by Pandit Gopi Krishna).
I am but an insignificant grain of sand compared to the magnificence of our solar system and the cosmos at large, but I sincerely ask and humbly seek to become a better, gentler, kinder, more patient human being; I am trying to be the peace that I wish to see in the world. Where can I be of service? It is not in my nature to give up and close myself up into a tight ball of shriveled defeat. That is not serving myself, the God of my understanding, nor is it serving my family and those I love. I have compassion towards those who suffer and towards those who can’t detach and instead fold themselves up into a ball. My prayer is that I be patient and offer some consoling words to ease their suffering. I realize that blurting out to my acquaintance that “there will always be chaos and drama, and I detach” may have indeed sounded a bit callous. Perhaps I could have simply said, “I am so sorry you are feeling down” and left it at that. Live and learn.
In closing, I return in my memory to the bluff where I watched the magnificent mammal strut his stuff and I am reminded just how beautiful and miraculous life can be. I continue to swim and shake my tail [oops, that’s doesn’t sound so good, but you get my meaning 🙂 ] , so swooningly grateful to be immersed in this crazy life and crazy world.
Sent with love,