The eyes that appear to be staring intently at nothing in particular, the quiet strength found in the bending but not breaking tremor of their voice, these are the marked traits of the Humpback Whale. From the outside, these reserved individuals are hard to distinguish from their Panda siblings—they’re even hard to distinguish sometimes from their distant cousin, the Hunter Butterfly. But upon speaking with a Humpback Whale, especially on a topic that matters to them, you’ll find that the illusion quickly dissipates, and that timid, distant space cadet you initially thought was a dwarf star has now exploded into a full-on supernova.
The Old Soul
I need to have something besides a husband and children to devote myself to! I don’t want to have lived in vain like most people. I want to be useful or bring enjoyment to all people, even those I’ve never met.
– Anne Frank
It always seems like Humpback Whales know more than we do and infinitely more than they let on. Perhaps it’s because they’re not tethered to society as so many of us are. Like their Baboon siblings, Whales prefer to work outside the social system, commonly as writers, poets, artists, spiritual healers, and small business owners. However, whereas the Baboon needs constant human interaction—some would say attention—to function, Whales are quite content to spend their time in deep introspection, with their books and insights to keep them company. It is this robust inner life that frequently gives the impression that a Humpback Whale, when interacting with the rest of society, is a philosopher amongst a confederacy of dunces.
The Humpback Whale’s natural inclination to look past surface appearances and expectations usually leads them to being the first person to recognize a moral dilemma plaguing society. For Whales, a corrupt status quo is something that needs to be purged, though not always through revolution—as a Baboon might recommend—but through self-reflection. For a Humpback Whale, there is no great calamity occurring outside of ourselves that cannot be fixed by looking inside of ourselves. In times of war, they sue for peace. During a period engulfed in materialism, they preach emotional well-being. When school and education become merely a truck stop on the highway to gainful employment, Humpback Whales encourage students to take the road less traveled.
As for me, I lost everything: my wife, my book, my job, everything that I thought was important. But I finally knew where I wanted to go.
– Grady Tripp, Wonder Boys
The most disconnected of all the Shamans, a Humpback Whale lives a fantasy-filled childhood that usually extends to their life as an adult. Though daydreaming is vital to their emotional health, the practical manifestation of imagining alligators dancing with hippos while on a conference call with the boss, or envisioning, from their number crunching cubicle, a swashbuckling exit out the window and an escape to a life less ordinary, never goes well.
It’s imperative for Humpback Whales to find professions or hobbies that give them an opportunity to utilize their powerful imaginations. Otherwise, they might find themselves meandering aimlessly through life like an emotional vagabond, devoid of purpose and forever journeying to parts unknown, both in the physical and spiritual world. This could be inevitable, however, because despite their best efforts to ground themselves, there will always be a little chaos in the life of a Humpback Whale. With their eccentricity, spontaneity, and openness to new experiences, accidental adventures are bound to happen.
The degree of civilization in a society can be judged by entering its prisons.
– Fyodor Dostoyevsky
The easiest way to distinguish a Humpback Whale from the Giant Panda, the other reserved Shaman, is their noticeable disregard for societal norms such as the education system, typical nuclear family values, and conventional standards of fashion and beauty. Most Humpback Whales also frown on “commercialized” entertainment, as they feel its only purpose is to prop up and justify the artificial values they so despise. This puts them squarely at odds with society in general, and unlike Giant Pandas, Whales will not compromise their values to better integrate themselves within the social structure. This can force them to the outskirts of society, persecuted and alone. Or worse yet, the Humpback Whale will succumb to the social pressure and begin doubting their convictions, while simultaneously kicking themselves for not being authentic enough.
For this reason, it’s not uncommon for Humpback Whales to take part in hobbies that help guide them through their spiritual confusion, like yoga—though they wouldn’t be caught dead in Lululemon—or meditation; that these activities have found their way into the mainstream says a lot about how the Humpback Whale’s authenticity is commonly appropriated into “cool” culture. Communing with nature is another sanctuary for them. There’s a definite realness to hiking through a dense forest of pines or relishing the way a cool stream of water feels on the feet, and nature, in all its unpretentiousness, seems to give the Humpback Whale not only a sense of peace, but something far better: a renewed confidence in their own authenticity.
I do not fear the soldiers, for my road is made open to me… It was for this that I was born!
– Joan of Arc
One of the more intriguing facts about Humpback Whales is that they’re the archetype for the mythological hero. They are who Joseph Campbell was writing about in The Hero with a Thousand Faces—though there are plenty more than a thousand Humpback Whales walking amongst us. From fictional stories to non-fictional accounts, to fictional accounts of non-fictional stories, human history and pop culture are filled with soulful, self-sacrificing Humpback Whales like King Arthur, Frodo Baggins, Harry Potter, Luke Skywalker, and Joan of Arc.
A Humpback Whale might appear to be an odd choice for a hero. On average, they’re not physically imposing, nor are they quick on their feet—literally or figuratively. What they do have is a humble heart, an open mind, and a self-assuredness that whatever is happening to them is happening for a reason. It is that faith that not only gives them the confidence to take on the most demanding of challenges, but also the strength to see them through.