"For a long time I have held my peace, I have kept myself still and restrained myself; now I will cry out like a woman in labor, I will gasp and pant" (Is 42:14)

Day 4: The Difference Between Thinking And Feeling

What whales and dolphins could teach us humans about the difference between thinking and feeling

aurel Braitman, the bestselling author of Animal Madness, presents in the talkshow by Radiolab Series entitled The World's Smartest Animal that sperm whales may not only be the smartest but that they are also the most social of all. Sperm whales do not regard themselves individually but always as a group like many marine biologists have observed. Hence, they are called social animals and might probably even have stronger social and emotional bonds than humans do. There is something about them that we humans could learn from; top in the list is empathy. They are the most empathetic of all creatures—an ability to understand and share the feelings of another.

Laurel cites occurrences when large groups of sperm whales sometimes ended up stranded and die together on seashores even though only one or two of them seemed to be sick. To explain this she points to Dr Harry J Jerison, a neuropsychologist in the mid-1980s who proposed that animal communications that are emotionally charged, e.g., grief or joy, might be experienced by whales and dolphins as more than just mere passing of information. These sonars or signals carry codes that actually convey shared feelings. Dr Jerison thought that this might give rise to something called the “communal or collective self” as opposed to “individualistic self.” As a collective body, they do not say "I," but "We." There is no, “I am sick,” but they interpret anything like it always as “We are sick.” And they develop from birth to adulthood thinking not in terms of “I” but “We.” No wonder they have a very high “EQ” (Emotional Quotient). Occassionally we hear of reports about dolphins and whales that had come to the aid of swimmers who were drowning but were saved by these animals. They too fend off killer sharks away from human targets.

They do not just look after their own kind. Braitman presents an interesting case of sperm whales that adopted a dolphin with a spinal deformity. They welcomed the poor dolphin into their pod as long as it lived. She explains that what seems to humans as an extreme empathy might just be to them a normal way of proceeding, or their normal ordinary way of being. Some call it sixth sense, she said, which is a kind of direct collective feeling as opposed to thinking about how others might be feeling. Humans are often more prone to the thinking-only part and we choose to forget or suppress the empathy part. "lf we can overcome individualism," Pope Francis says in Laudato Si', "we will truly be able to develop a different lifestyle and bring about significant changes in society" (LS 208). One big difference between humans and whales is that a whale or dolphin does not have to experience a pandemic to realize that he or she belongs to all the others collectively. 8thWorker.us


  1. I was so captivated😍😍😍 This is a beautiful way to concretize inclusiveness to children and adults Fr JM πŸ‘πŸ‘πŸ‘πŸ‘πŸ‘πŸ‘πŸ‘πŸ‘πŸ‘πŸ‘

    1. Thanks so much for your appreciation! You remind me of CS Lewis in the Chronicles of Narnia. To be an "adult" or "grown-up" is equated to wrong thinking for Lewis! He writes "it is the stupidest grown-ups who are the most grown-up." That is why I must always be like the children especially in their child-like attitude of being rich in imagination. GBU!


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