Could Dolphins Do Better?


On a summer morning at the Jersey Shore, swimming out beyond the breakers into golden sunbeams, I sensed a dark shape sweeping under me in the gray-green depths.

Feeling panicked, I stopped swimming and tread water. Then a face rose out of the ocean a few yards ahead, gazing back at me with a tender smile of joyful bemusement, beatitude, and friendly respect.

In that face, I behold the countenance of an alternate evolutionary line, a spiritual intelligence perhaps more worthy of inheriting the earth than I. And in that brief gaze, the graceful glance of a dolphin, I met my own lost innocence. I recognized what homo sapiens abandoned long ago: humility.

Why do humans assume the earth was created for us, and only our patronage can sustain her? Let us consider, before we perish, whether the earth might sustain herself without us. I do not ask whether we will destroy the earth, but whether we will destroy ourselves. For this planet is cleverer than all of us. She can flick humanity like a fly from her pelt with a well-aimed shiver.

Try this thought-experiment as an exercise in humility: visualize the earth without humanity. Would not life easily continue without us? Not just biologically but spiritually? If you don’t think so, spend a single precious moment gazing into the eyes of a dolphin.

See a civilization of swimmers, a civilization without cities, roads or synthetic chemicals, without tools, wires or engines to grind up the world into money. See a new species whose bodies play naked in the sea, letting the continents revel in wildness, where the random hand of chaos tosses every stone and blossom in place with an aesthetic more sublime than any architecture reason could design.

The citizens of this new earth are wise yet innocent: they communicate through no technology but the radiant intuition of the heart’s magnetic field. Their ocean-born playfulness is a sacramental sign of delight in a greater sea: pure love. For love, not thought, is the true medium of evolution, and the final habitat of organic life.

The empathy of these citizens embraces not only their own but fellow species, not only on earth but among the stars, inviting inter-galactic dolphin-wise swimmers to rest here awhile, as guests on earth in the sacred journey.

The wound of cities and the gash of mines heal over with carpets of green jungle gushing flowers. Owls, badgers, dung beetles and angelic dragonflies reclaim the clear-cuts. Delicate whiskered noses emerge from dens of luscious inviolable loam, once pressed into the transient stuff of sky scrapers. Cut diamonds and polished emeralds sink back into the roughage and mud where they belong. Petroleum, intelligent with microbes, un-refines its molecules into immaculate sludge, then tar, then coal, earth’s marrow, never to be pillaged again.

The sacred sky sifts patiently through the smog we’ve left behind, weeping our toxins back to dust, dissolving our haze in violent storms of satori. Pure space awakens, needing no brain for consciousness. Vast blue compassion embraces the planet, welcoming the stars….

This is only a thought-experiment. There is still time for us to heal the earth, and swim gently through each others hearts.


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