The late twentieth century, so rife with anxieties that our ancient religions seemed unprepared to assuage, witnessed many mutant blossoms of spiritual practice. Unless fragrant with camera-friendly scandal, or grafted onto the mighty trunks of profit, most withered quickly on the branch, and likely now lay mulching in the compost heap of abandoned endeavors; the Blacklist Forest, the pining woulds.
It is the habit of history to dismiss such aborted belief systems as “cults.” While this pejorative term may have its uses, it does not invite close, potentially beneficial examination of the worldview it designates. In addition, even should one desire to learn more, often there is simply no way to fully assess a lost faith, for nascent religions tend to cloak themselves in secrecy in order to protect themselves from the hostilities of their incubative environment. Documents which may illuminate ideological origins and substance are either destroyed or, in most cases, were simply never created.
In the case of Whalism we have the rare exception. While the religion’s life was brief—lasting, if we take The Day in Question at its word, no more than twenty-four hours from conception to demise—we have in the following document an unusually full record, albeit spotty, of an otherwise forgotten faith. Although the text may beg more questions than it answers (itself suggesting authorial motives outside every realm of orthodoxy), it is our hope that this introduction to Whalism—which in its purest form seems to us almost prophetically congruent with key aspects of the “green revolution”—will prove of interest not only to scholars and followers, but to Landlubbers as well.
While we look forward to a water-soluble edition of this work in which all verbatim text from The Book of Whaleship will be highlighted in blue, here the document is printed exactly as found, without abridgment or edification. The permeating and stridently irrelevant Beatlemania of the narrator—who, as becomes clear as the story progresses, is also represented in the character of “Winston” (or vice-versa)—has been left intact.
Our deepest gratitude to Bette Shale, night librarian at the American Museum of Natural History, for turning the manuscript over to us.
Perhaps the most contemplated slab of pavement in New York City lies just off Central Park West at 72nd Street, on the northwest corner of which looms the majestic Dakota Hotel where John Lennon lived the last years of his life, and in front of which he was shot to death in a fanfare of affection more than two decades prior to the day in question. Yet the sidewalk onto which he fell, while subject to gobs of prurient scrutiny, receives not nearly as much attention as a certain slab across the street, sixty yards or so inside Central Park, which speaks silently to each visitor the single word IMAGINE, having been eponymously inlaid after the great Lennon song to form the sole-level centerpiece of Strawberry Fields, that section of the Park dedicated to the memory of the four-eyed Beatle. On the dawn of the day in question, as on every morning in recent memory, the sun rose upon a cluster of white lilies placed lovingly next to the word IMAGINE by an unknown mourner in the small hours.
It was Barnabus’s custom, during his short walk to work each morning, to duck into Strawberry Fields and stand before the word IMAGINE, and imagine. He considered this practice essential nourishment for his visionary directorship of the American Museum of Natural History, which stood just five blocks north on the west flank of Central Park.
It was also the habit of Dangerous Dave, infamous hair-raising consciousness-raiser of yesteryear, to stop at the word IMAGINE each evening on his way home from the store, and stand before the word and try to recall what it once meant to him. There rarely seemed to be enough time to do this fully, however, as he was expected home for dinner by six sharp.
“How many of you out there have ever seen a dolphin? In a zoo, or on television, or maybe some of you have been lucky enough to have seen a dolphin in its natural habitat. Sure are cute, aren’t they? Some of the Lord’s finest creatures, everybody knows this. “Well excuse me while I laugh. Or cry, I don’t know which. I tell you, friends, sometimes I long for a simpler world, just as we all do, sometimes I find myself wishing that all the bad would simply vanish. It’s a long local train from Eden to Heaven, and only human to want to see some pleasant scenery. We tend to favor information that agrees with us, makes us feel good. We tend to want to believe it.
“Ah, my friends, if only life were so straightforward. If only Satan were not as clever as God is good, if only he were just a little bit less of a psychologist and paraded around in a painted red tail carrying a pitchfork and didn’t have the genius and the thoughtlessness and the technology to disguise himself in the very whitest of sheep’s clothing; if only he was a bit more of a sportsman and would not stoop so low as to cloak his terrible countenance in the cheerful expressions of a charming ocean mammal. If only!
“Oh what is he saying. Dolphins are our buddies, why I remember that time at Sea World when they let us pet that dolphin, what an enjoyable day that was, what a friendly dolphin that was— Well my friends I am here to tell you that if you have petted the head of a dolphin you have petted the head of the King of Evil!
“But what about Flipper? Why he was practically a superhero! What about that motion picture ‘Day of the Dolphin’ and Dolphin Week on the Television Station, and this dolphin and that dolphin and all the wonderful and adorable dolphins all over the place; what about all those scientific research comparisons on how intelligent dolphins are, how loving and beautiful and cute they are? What is this man saying?
“Well I’ll tell you what I’m saying, oh yes I will. I am saying that we have been fooled, conned, tricked, and bamboozled! I’m saying we have had the wool pulled over our eyes—and the sheep was not a sheep but the devil in a cotton sweater! I’m saying if only. If only life were pure and simple, if only reality was what it seemed to be. If only a certain New York Times newspaper article had not been published recently—maybe some of you saw it and maybe you didn’t, but I myself am a devout reader of this worldly periodical and I do quote: ‘In one recent study, electronic nodes attached to dolphin brains during sexual intercourse revealed alpha-wave patterns consistent with those emitted by humans during Orgasm.’
“That’s right. The creature that many of us, scientists and laypeople alike, had considered a rare living example of unsullied intelligent innocence on this planet, this quote-unquote ‘wonderful’ animal takes physiological pleasure in the sexual union, and has been doing so for nobody knows how many millions of years, underwater, secretly. And not just any old pleasure! The New York Times is talking about orgasmical situations lasting upward of nine continuous hours.
“Nine. Hour. Orgasms. Now, I don’t know about you, but in the few hours I have to myself in between my duties to this congregation, one of my satisfactions is to sit in my study at home in my granddaddy’s old armchair and permit my mind to wander through the abundant pages of the Encyclopedia of Britannica, some of you have been to my home, maybe you’ve seen it, all twenty-four glorious volumes. And on the day of which I speak, I read in the Encyclopedia. I looked up ‘Dolphins’ and I looked up ‘Orgasms,’ yes I did, and I looked up ‘Human Being’ and ‘God,’ etceteras; and I discovered many things that day, many things about life here in this crucible of Creation, underneath the Vault of Heaven.
“Did you know—it was news to me, I assure you—did you know there is an ancient tribe of people in India that contains in its vocabulary one single word that means both ‘dolphin’ and ‘nympho-maniac’? The story going that a long time ago a woman participated in intimate relations with a dolphin and thus began a whole bunch of trouble—does this sound familiar to you? Does it recall to your mind a certain chapter in a certain little book, maybe I saw it in some hotel-room drawer somewhere? Who was it who hissed to Eve in the Garden, who was it that Genesis Chapter Three, Verse One, calls ‘more subtle than any beast of the field’—what can this mean, I’ll tell you what it means: Beast of the stream! Snake of the waters!
“So much for India. As for orgasms, let’s put them in perspective for a moment. On this planet are 193 species of primate; and out of all these monkeys, apes, gorillas, tree shrews and what-have-you, exactly no more than two undergo the quote-unquote orgasm. Homo sapiens? Yes, he is one of the orgasmics. And what is the other species of which I lament? I’ll tell you what it is, yes I will: the Bonopo Baboon. Sounds a little like ‘Bozo,’ doesn’t it. But there is nothing funny about the Bonopo Baboon. You would not want your children to watch his show. The Bonopo Baboon of Northern Zaire is an extremist orgasmic—and I’ll tell you something else about Mr. B. He is the one and only primate who spends fifty percent of his life in the ocean, yes he does. Half the livelong day you can find Mr. Bonopo loitering waist-deep in the dolphin-fouled waters just off the coast of the dark side of Africa. Trolling with his fingers for quote-unquote ‘fish.’
“Does anyone out there remember ‘Evolution’? Because it seems as if certain things are hot again in certain circles, only this time they’re saying man may not have evolved from apes at all, no siree: if only! They are saying that the Missing Link, you remember the credibility gap of Evolution, well rumor now has it that the Missing Link in the quote-unquote ‘development’ of man is not an ape at all, but what they call an Old World Monkey—or to be technical, a three-foot-tall orgasm-ridden Bozo-faced homunculus with a red as-the-devil behind that fornicates on a daily basis screeching and howling in a face-to-face position throughout the very seas in which quote-unquote ‘dolphins’ around the world are having sexual relations, beak-to-beak, twenty-five times a day, every day on the calendar, choosing partners of both sexes and having orgasms like they were eating potato chips, while meanwhile you and I—though our clothes are dry—each and every one of us is in fact more than 72 percent water!
“That afternoon I read no further. I sat in my study in my granddaddy’s chair, the steaming ruins of certainty there upon my lap, pages still warm from the urgency of their communication, warm as the fresh tablets in Moses’ hands when he held them aloft on Sinai. And I removed my prescription spectacles and rested them upon my desk; and offered up a small prayer of forgiveness for my inability to continue that day upon the path of knowledge, so heavy was my learnèd sorrow. And I thought back to the days when the things I was sure of, I could be sure of. The Prince of Darkness is alive and well, those of you who have been wondering, he is alive and thriving in the saltwater seas of this earth! ‘Endangered’ species? Dangerous species! Preserved and protected by the very professionals claiming an oversexed blowhole baboon is your and my great-grandfather. From the Magazine of Newsweek: ‘The Dolphins are fierce and unstoppable…an offensive that knows no bounds…this is the season of the Dolphins.’
“I hear you thinking: Well what about me, Reverend? What can I do in the fight against dolphins and baboons and the devil with a blue labcoat on? I asked myself this very question as the darkness of an otherwise lovely evening fell: What can I do? “Well I’ll tell you what you can do, yes I will. You can stop visiting the aquariums and zoos and Ocean Towns of this world where dolphins are displayed or ‘perform,’ quote-unquote; you can withdraw your support from dolphin-protection societies and other related cults and civilizations for ‘wildlife’ or ‘environmental’ protection; you can stop admiring celebrity dolphins on your video-cassette machines, stop beholding reruns of Lassie-dolphin superheroes on your television set, stop entertaining the quote-unquote ‘teachings’ of dolphin documentary specials upon the Nature and Discovery Stations, stop reading books with dolphins on their covers, stop telling stories to your children in which dolphins are hailed as shining models of thought and behavior!
“This is an oceanfront war we must fight now. Measures must be taken, however difficult. Show your children how to drink less water, how to resist the secretion of saltwater in times of joy and sadness. We must cease to believe in appearances! We must nip our trust in the bud! For trust is Satan’s favorite shellgame. If you believe in something, I say unto you: Doubt. It isn’t easy, but whoever told you faith was a month of Sundays? But you can do it. If you can Believe, you can Doubt.”
As the Anti-Dolphinist stood on the dais in the waning hours of the day in question, leaning forward over the pages with which he had only occasionally needed to consult, his body yet tense with the fire of inspiration, eyes endeavoring to personally meet each and every congregant’s gaze with their own, there were those in the pews who found themselves feeling just a trifle uncomfortable as they labored to avert their eyes from the thrust of their leader’s penetrating stare; for something in the concluding moments of his speech—which until then had been so closely reasoned and compelled by moral logic—there was something at the end there which struck them as being perhaps just a bit off the rails. For it seemed to these loyal listeners that their leader had spoken as though asking one and all to entertain the possibility of doubting whatsoever they believed, without regard for what this might precisely be, which, if so, was to the slightest degree confusing, a sudden reversal of emphasis. Oh! It was always somewhat challenging, intellectually as well as for the striving soul, when their cherished leader would flaunt the subtle points of his learning, and display the polished tools of reason. But this challenge they could accept as the price of rich returns. So there was not too much trouble this evening in the hearts of those followers who thought that perhaps they might take their leader aside after the service, and question him as to precisely what he had meant.
Alas, they would never have the chance. For at that moment a harpoon flew and pierced the heart of their leader, who fell to the floor dead.
Was it Dangerous Dave who wielded the weapon that felled the blaspheming preacher, then, moments later, stumbling in a tight orbit around his own knees, dully mumbled, over and over, “To speak against dolphins is to speak against the Whale”? And, if so, why do most Whalers continue to insist he wasn’t even there?