Today when we observe the whale, we see an affable, albeit mysterious fellow. The sort of chap who is widely traveled and deeply learned, yet feels no need to share the full extent of his experiences. (Whales seldom have Twitter accounts, much less write their own tweets.) My point is that, should you encounter a whale, you will most likely be met with mild curiosity if you are deemed worthy of attention at all. This isn’t noteworthy unless you consider that there are few other species against which we have waged such a bloody and far reaching campaign (excluding our fellow humans, of course). Yet despite the previous hostilities, the whale’s primary concern remains, even around us, doing those things which whales do. Herein, I think, lies the cardinal virtue of the whale: despite the challenges he faces and despite his grandiose size and power, he remains faithful to his divinely appointed business as a whale. Sometimes, the issue we run up against is that, in the midst of our daily lives, we forget our divinely appointed business as humans. Therefore, perhaps we can learn a thing or two by considering the whale.
Now as I hold up the whale for our reflection, it is not my aim or intent to try and outdo King Solomon who held up the ant for us in a similar fashion. Rather, I wish only to follow his example (and that of our Lord Jesus Christ, for that matter) in pointing us to nature as a way to better direct our hearts and minds to God.
The first objection that may be raised against the whale’s example of living with and for God is that it is a brute beast who doesn’t possess the same level of intelligence or consciousness as we do. This is undeniable. However, what we can take away from this point is that while a whale is relieved of our level of intelligence, he is also relieved of much of the mental humbug that comes with that intelligence. That is, there is an undeniable simplicity of thought which guides his actions: the whale’s pattern of thought always begins with God’s blueprint. On the other hand, because we have the ability to engage in lofty thoughts, we are able to deviate from God’s blueprint for our minds. This habit of straying from the straight and narrow is what we often call our sinful nature. The cue that we can take from our cetacean planet-mates is to remember that our relationship with God has a, fundamentally, simple basis: to love God with all our heart, soul, and mind. This is what we aim to start from and allow to guide all of our thoughts and actions.
Another objection that may be raised is that the whale has the luxury of being able to focus on following God’s leading only because he is so large and is the master of his domain. To the first point, about his size, I don’t think we can ascribe his calmness and clarity of thought to his size. After all, in my reckoning, it is when we think of ourselves as big that we are most likely to be upset by trivial things. To the second point, about being master of his domain, I think we have more in common with the whale’s situation than we may realize. Recall, if you will, that the whale is a mammal who breathes through lungs living in a world of water. It is only when he ascends to the surface that he is able to fill his lungs with life-sustaining air. One might say that the whale is in the ocean but not of the ocean. Similarly, as Christians, we are in the world but not of the world. This is why, like the whale, we must periodically ascend to the surface of the worldly ocean, spouting our prayers and breathing in God.
The whale, like all of nature’s denizens, helps us learn how to better live with God. As more complicated members of creation, it is good for us to be reminded from time to time of the basics of life, that we should seek God first and foremost. The whale also demonstrates for us the necessity of sticking our heads out of the sometimes turbulent and cloudy waters of life in order to be filled and refreshed by God. So may we all endeavor to spout often and spout fully so that we may thrive in the sea that is life on earth, always looking above for our true fulfillment. Thus concludes this little meditation on the mighty whale.