A whale is a cetacean, a sea mammal. It has a much larger brain than a human’s, in fact, the sperm whale champions in the realm of brain, its intelligence shown through the epic battle between Ishmael Ahab and Moby Dick, between Man and Whale. For a long time, scientists argued that it’s not the size, but the spindle neurons involved in social conduct, emotions, judgment, and theory of mind, the special intelligence that mark humans as God’s chosen species, conqueror of the earth. Despite countless stories, eyewitnesses, field notes, videos, and studies, they firmly believed, until 2019, that only humans own such intelligence, therefore, are capable of higher intelligence, cognition, or emotions for pain, joy, love and gratitude, for self-awareness and community.
How much do whales, porpoises, and dolphins have to give to prove their emotional intelligence? How many humans do they have to lift from a stormy sea, how many kisses for their human rescuers? How much more love and forgiveness must they give to counter greed and violence in this world?
It’s all bundled together, around the spindle, an axis that spins and weaves all the energy and matter and spirits together, and they are called spindle neurons, padded with fat, the oil that protects and moves the neurons smoothly, sending love and gratitude, the special kind of intelligence, through our brain, body, the world.
Because love can’t be born on its own, cannot exist or grow without the spindle of communities, it can’t move without the protection of gratitude. Self can’t exist without the other, individual can’t live without the communities, forgiveness can’t happen without gratitude, and life can’t go on without the ocean of love. The whale knows how to grieve, play, love, learn, and teach.
The divers cry as the freed whale circles around and around, saying goodbye and thank you, one by one, her body bleeding from the nylon lines, her heart flowing with gratitude.
I cry as I listen to the story, my tears joining the ocean of gratitude, my spindle neurons strengthened by cetacean love.
They knew they were taking risks in the worst pandemic of virus and race. The lines were long, the threat of violence and virus was pulsingly visible.
But they went anyway, to exercise their special kind of intelligence, because they knew who they were, knew who had sacrificed their lives so that they could stand in long lines to vote, and they must honor it with gratitude, as an individual, as a community.
Cetaceans came from the ocean, then moved to the land, then moved back to the ocean, each transition transformed them, each transformation was traumatic, but they embraced it and triumphed, and became the flowers of the sea, with their special kind of intelligence.
I know we can transform and triumph through this pandemic, together, as a community, a country, with our special intelligence for love and gratitude for the self, the community, and life on earth.