Interview With a Whale

As part of our ongoing series of conversations with animals on policy and population control issues, we recently sat down with Whale, a humpback whale currently based off the coast of Alaska.

Us: Hi, Whale.

Whale: Long time no talk, huh? It’s been…twenty years?

Us: I know! I’m sorry. I grew up.

Whale: It’s okay. This is what happens. Being a whale, particularly being, you know, more of a metaphor for childish wonder and exploration, I’m used to it. 30 Rock! That movie with Jeff Daniels. It’s like being the Velveteen Rabbit, or something. What brought you back?

Us: The baby had a stomach bug, so I found a bunch of David Attenborough wildlife documentaries on Netflix Instant, and we loaded them up, and I held her on my lap to watch them, and she went nuts for you. She kept bouncing and pointing and saying “cha cha cha cha,” and then she wriggled off me to peek behind the television to see if she could touch you.

Whale: Oh, that’s so nice. That’s really nice to hear. I don’t know what it is, exactly; we’re not soft or furry, and, honestly, I have a lot of gross-looking growths over my whole body.

Us: It just made me think about you, because when I was little, my parents had these huge coffee table books with Jacques Cousteau pictures, and everything, and my dad would go to the library and photocopy more pictures for me, and I was perfectly content to just be present with them, and now I get bored so easily. If you had told me, at seven, that my life would not involve being on boats defending whales from the encroachments of commerce, I would have thought you were crazy. Why is Hayden Panettiere living my seven year old life, and I’m saying she looks “too orange” on Twitter?

Whale: I think you transitioned into sharks, too, to be fair?

Us: But wasn’t that a classic, hipster-y move, to be super into sharks? Maybe sharks are just cooler and more cinematic and have a whole week named after them. And then, after the whale episode, I was watching one about polar bears, and this polar bear was digging through the snow to get to this seal hiding in a little cave, and the seal escaped just in time, and I was all “YEAH LITTLE SEAL!” but then David Attenborough said that the polar bear had lost half of her weight over the winter, and if she did not successfully hunt soon, she’d have no milk for her two little cubs. It’s the real world, you know? They don’t have lentils. It’s the cute little seal or the cute little cubs.

Whale: Everything is the worst. We’re all faced throughout our lives with agonizing decisions, moral choices. Some are on a grand scale, most of these choices are on lesser points. But we define ourselves by the choices we have made. We are, in fact, the sum total of our choices. Events unfold so unpredictably, so unfairly, Human happiness does not seem to be included in the design of creation. It is only we, with our capacity to love that give meaning to the indifferent universe. And yet, most human beings seem to have the ability to keep trying and even try to find joy from simple things, like their family, their work, and from the hope that future generations might understand more.

Us: Why are you so wise, Whale?

Whale: I’m very old, and people tell me their problems a lot and project things onto me. But, mostly, the first part was from Liz Lemon, and the second part was a quotation from a fake philosopher in a Woody Allen movie.

Us: Could I possibly…

Whale: No, you cannot ride on my back. Maybe you should just try to Be Here Now, or, you know, some other sort-of useful piece of advice about living deliberately.

Us: Okay.