Monday, April 9, 2012

Philosophical rambling in the Antarctic...

During my recent Antarctic trip I kept a journal which I've gradually been transcribing. Yesterday I came across a passage that I wrote after a rather fine encounter we had with a Fin whale, we managed to sneak up right alongside him which is unusual with these shy giants. Not sure what I'd been drinking that day but it seemed to have put me in a rather whimsical mood. Philosophy?....perhaps, could be complete bollocks though.

The whale is ambivalent to us, sometimes curious but really we are just another thing in the ocean to him. Considering the exploitation of them that we’ve indulged in in the past, and to some extent still do so, why is this the case? We can only surmise that the whale has no means to communicate memories or information as we understand it, the threat we pose is simply unknown to the individual cetacean, he has no measure of the danger that our steel vessel could represent to him. Can he be aware that we personally in our boat are no threat? I doubt it.

We are unique in our ability to communicate, through our creations, information, stories, history and knowledge. This is our talent, whether through spoken or written language or through art and pictorial records. This is not exclusive to artists and authors, we all use these mechanisms all the time, This communication is what has allowed us to gain a measure of control over our environment and to allow our species to flourish and spread....yet we are not powerful, our environment is artificial, a construct of our collective genius, individually, stripped of the apparatus of our technology, we are at best almost helpless. We can personally hold only a tiny portion of the knowledge and skill that gives our species this power, a portion that alone is almost meaningless. The belief in our control is a subconscious fiction that we have to conceal from ourselves the truth that our lives have no purpose greater than that of any other animal, no matter how humble.

We are paradoxical creatures, we have this belief in our control, this collective blindness because of our vision and awareness rather than in spite of it. We are aware that we will die, we cannot avoid this fate in spite of all our power so we want there to be meaning to our existence that will subvert this ‘dead’ end. Again communication is the key, through our ideas, art, writing we can gain a degree of immortality as we see it. The whale is not concerned with such constructs, with the future, the past, with existential conceit, he merely lives his life. He is, perhaps, wiser than we are.

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