I don’t know if it’s because my students brought up the film, “Finding Nemo” last week, or because my leather pants from my high school days are still too snug, but for some reason, I’ve been thinking about whales. Whales have been around longer than human beings, in fact, it is estimated that they have been in existence for more than 50 million years—which is astounding. Think of the global changes, upheavals and revolutions they have lived through! They are in a real sense a living link to a past we can never hope to share. Our Native American sisters and brothers have a firm belief that the Great Spirit speaks to humans through the language of our animal sisters and brothers; perhaps whales have something to say to us now in these times of violence and upheaval and revolution. Maybe they have a pearl of wisdom for you and me.
If you’ve ever watched Dory do her imitation of whale speech or seen a National Geographic special on whales, you already know what their speech sounds like. It’s through their giant vibrations that they impart knowledge to each other. Their sound carries across such great distances and it is thought that different species can understand the peculiar tones and sounds that are different from ones they learned as young ones. Every individual whale sings a unique song, and, curiously, they never repeat the same pattern when they sing their song. Since whales must be conscious at all times in order to breathe, they cannot afford to fall into an unconscious state for very long. As a result, they are never fully asleep: their brains have constant access to everything they know, have been taught or have learned. They spend their lives floating in a serene homeostasis, completely secure in the ocean environment that they trust will support and sustain them.
So here’s what the whales are teaching me this week: I have a unique song to offer the world, just as they do. My song is meant to be sung honestly and openly by me only to be heard and understood by the others God has sent into my life. No one can sing my song except me, and my song is my heart’s prayer for the healing of all who hear its music. Like whales, I can choose to access information about my past and my present as I, too, allow myself to float in a meditative state. In that sense, whales teach me to look at where I came from and where I am headed. Knowing that my past helps shape my future (but without determining it…don’t forget Sunday’s sermon!), I can remember to make positive choices regarding my life, my surroundings and my world. Like whales, I can remember to stay awake and actively engaged in God’s universe that is always and everywhere supporting and sustaining me. And when I express my deepest truth and share my unique gifts, I add my bit of wisdom and love to the cumulative sustaining wisdom of all that is.
Jesus advises us in many varied ways to “stay awake”, not to the point where we are sleepless and stressed, but to the point where our trust in God allows us to float even in the midst of the most turbulent seas and roughest headwinds.
“… for anything that becomes visible is light. Therefore it says,“Awake, O sleeper,
and arise from the dead, and Christ will shine on you.”—Ephesians 5:14
“ But stay awake at all times, praying that you may have strength to escape all these things that are going to take place, and to stand before the Son of Man.”—Luke 21: 36
“Now concerning the times and the seasons… you have no need to have anything written to you. For you yourselves are fully aware that the day of the Lord will come like a thief in the night. While people are saying, ‘There is peace and security,’ then sudden destruction will come upon them as labor pains come upon a pregnant woman, and they will not escape. But you are not in darkness, brothers and sisters, for that day to surprise you like a thief. For you are all children of light, children of the day.”
—1 Thessalonians 5:1-6