It’s interesting what we make of the living creatures that inhabit the planet with us, the finches, alligator lizards, the daddy longlegs, pandas, whales, each other. As I sit in my condo on San Juan Island on a rainy day, here in the great American Northwest, I find myself looking at jumping Orcas on a colored whale watching tour brochure.

What? This is what it has come to for us and the whale, chasing them around in motor boats?

Consider the great Megaptera — the hump backed whales of the oceans with their forty ton bodies and fifteen foot wing-fins, those lumpy, bumpy, barnacled behemoths who swim through the sea filtering their food and who occasionally hurtle themselves from the waters in great, beautiful bulking arcs.

They are great ones; they are the mighty ones among us.

But instead of honoring the whale’s place, we have instead spotted, hunted, chased, killed, captured, specced and displayed them so that we can gawk over them, put them in marine parks, post them on Facebook and brag back home. Yesterday at the Whale Museum I saw a harpoon tip. It had the distinct look look of the history of cruelty to me.

Even today, we think of whales as being among a kind of ecotouristic cast of natural entertainers — something like Yosemite park deer, Yellowstone buffalo or San Diego zoo elephants. To us the whales are a vacation business, a natural road show, at best a science project. To many of us they have become merely logo, post card, poster or cute emoji on our phones.

But the whales are much more than that. Whales are not nature’s burlesque show for vacationers, the world’s lab experiment for scientists. The Megaptera are our mysticetes — the great ones who live by filtering the small ones. They are the gentle kings of the sea, wave-masters of wide waters, a society, fellow creature, communicants, like us — just different. They breathe air through lungs, are warm-blooded, give birth to young who drink milk, they have hair, they communicate with each other.

Consider the Odontoceti, the gorgeous black and white whales with shiny skin. They are best known to us for their infamous teeth and for stories of their killing prowess. We think of what we have seen of them on YouTube videos, killing their trainers, hunting down Tiger sharks or dragging flopping sea lions off the beach.

But perhaps here too we mistake them. Whales don’t have egos, hatreds or evil intentions. They never kill themselves, or wage massive wars — none of the animals do — like we do. They mainly seek food and shelter and companionship.

I want a different relationship with the creatures than perhaps I’ve had. I want to better preserve their dignity, to not harass them, to enjoy them, to nurture them. Yes, there is a food chain; and yes, there is sometimes the need for protection from each other, but yes there is yet the potential for more respect.

The other day one of the therapists in my office asked me to remove a daddy longlegs from the corner. A widespread myth holds that daddy longlegs, also known as granddaddy longlegs or harvestmen, are the most venomous spiders in the world. It has been rumored that we are only safe from their bite because their fangs are too small and weak to break through our skin. Both these things have been proven to be false.

As for the grandaddy we found in our office, I carefully caught it in a paper cup and released it unharmed into our flower garden. For just a moment, I was the great bulking, powerful creature being gentle with the small, fragile vulnerable creature. I liked myself like that, on common ground with the spider, not caught in fear and myth, inhabiting the same planet, crossing paths, both hoping for safety, in contact for a moment, not harming each other, then going our separate ways.

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