Yesterday I heard the song of the humpback whale. It really was musical! In the sense that we human beings understand. It had a particular rhythm and harmony, and there was definitely some conveying of feelings in those series and phrases in whale voice.
Listening to the sounds made by these awesome creatures drew me deep underwater, surrounded by miles and miles of ocean. A primeval dawn, a raw interconnectedness. The beginning of evolution when a flaming earth forces all life undersea. A time rich in potential, when everything is newborn or unborn.
The whales sing to each other, conveying who knows what? Scientists as usual try and reduce everything to survival needs. Oh, it is a mating song, they say. Then, when faced with female whales’ indifference to it, it is identified as some sort of exchange of information between male whales.
Why, I ask. Why cannot it be a way of creating, enabling, inducing, sharing beauty? Why do human beings think beauty and art and intelligence are their sole preserves, and that every other creature, whether it is whales singing or dolphins playing or birds lining their nests with flowers, must do so out of some compulsion to survive, win in the rat race as it were? It is indeed the tyranny of humanity, the apex of anthropomorphism.
In all of this, when humanity’s progress has all but destroyed the earth and its delicate life-networks, I throw in my lot with the whales. Something tells me they’ll be singing into the oceanic dusk long after all of us have vanished in a mushroom cloud. Or a heat haze. Something or the other. We are good at that. Creative, even. Hey, give me the whales’ creativity any day.