SPINDLE CELLS, DEEP THINKERS AND THE WONDER OF REAL NATURE DOCUMENTARIES

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Oh what a joy to hear Stephen Fry narrating a program on Dolphins and Whales last night called DEEP THINKERS. I adore dolphins but didn’t know their brains are larger than humans, only topped by Whales, and that they share Spindle Cells, which may be the key to developing a higher aspect of consciousness – self awareness – and so adaptive cognitive thought. Perhaps shared primarily by humans, Cetaceans, primates and elephants, although I believe the weave of Super Nature to be far more mysterious, in the emergence of consciousness itself. But first to the joy and play of those delightful creatures, so magical and mysterious because they seem, unlike man, so at one with the element they inhabit. Perhaps in life we should all just be studying a capacity for freedom and deep play, as happened when the scientists placed a bubble ring machine at the sea bottom and then watched the dolphins first investigate then begin to sport with it, diving gloriously through the expanding rings, or trying to eat them. The idea seemed so cleverly in tune too with the next sequences of what Humpback Whales do so naturally themselves, apart from all that echo locating (um, do whales echo locate too?) or underwater song – bubble netting vast catches of herring, as they breach like hungry Titans. There are very few who are not somehow spiritually moved or even repositioned by encountering those creatures in the wild, hence the animal’s celebrated healing powers, just as so many have said that looking into a whale’s eye brings a connection. Then to the placing of a mirror in an aquarium and seeing dolphin fascination as they came to explore, try to look behind the thing and realizes that they were seeing themselves. For more than a moment you could be forgiven for thinking a dolphin had just smiled and winked at you.

It brought back so many memories of wildlife travel writing for UK National newspapers, years ago, and getting to do some really astonishing trips too. Like searching for Bottlenose dolphins in the Cotto Golphito in Costa Rica, when I was stupid enough to take off my shirt on the little dingy hugging a slimy sea and got secondary burns, within a couple of hours. Or touching the primeval thrill of spotting a hammerhead shark, half way up a mast on a beautiful Ketch sailing in the Azores, or feeling my heart cope with the sudden fear and desire to hyper ventilate, as I came up just ten feet above to six foot reef sharks navigating a gully diving in Lombok. Breathe, and be at one! Weirdest was a nigh time drift dive in the red sea, when a US marine very literally had to take me in hand, I got so spaced out by how the night shift came online on the reef: Crustacea with burning eyes, waving fluorescent anemone, ghoulish faces poking from the living coral and prawns that seemed to be wearing cloths ‘like the falring skirts of Spanish dancers’. Such wonders, that so make me so want to support the likes of Kelly, a young ecologist who has written here so well on her work with Coyotes in California. That trip to the Azores though, where once the seas had turned blood red with the spear whaling of remarkably brave if misguided whalers, before those mighty bodies were melted down in giant vats, was a kind of spiritual Cetacean fest. Like seeing pilot whales, with their shiny black alien heads nosing up to us out of the wild spume, or something like sixty Sperm whales breach, thundering into the skies and turning the sea into a riot of sunlit splashback. The best moment though was in a dingy at the side of that ketch when a mother Sperm whale, guarding her calf, suddenly dived and only half a boat away the fluke of her gigantic black tail rose before me, a kind of sub-equatic miracle, like a living tree dripping with new rain, before she slipped back into the deep.

The film though was such a glorious antidote to the awful and damaging documentaries that are often pumped out there, especially in the US, I’m afraid, exploiting the melodramatic or sensationalist, like the ‘killer this or that‘, essentially to encourage that most tragic human capacity, irrational fear, for all the awareness we do need in and of the wild. It is one of the things we have always done best, thanks to the likes of Sir David Attenborough. With Sol’s bird photos though being so wonderfully posted on the Facebook page “Stories in The Post – the Dragon tries again”, or Socrates, Kelly’s chum, the marvelous dogs, cats and horses (and of course Kate’s mice, to cheer on a musical CHEESE!) that I’ve seen among the Kickstarter street team and now Charlie posting about the attack on Romanian forests, such a preserve of bears and wolves in Europe, perhaps we can all connect our Spindle Cells, to affect each other and the world in some small way! Please do come and join the Facebook party too then and help breath life into a more mythical creature too, a little Fire cutting Dragon called…!

DCD

Dragon in The Post is now being blogged in part on Wattpad, at David Clement-Davies’s page there and on Facebook. It is in preparation for another Kickstarter campaign and attempt to create a crowd funded publishing model. The photo is a public domain Wikepedia image of a pod of Dolphins in the Red sea.

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