Dani Novak

Professor Emeritus, Mathematics
School: School of Humanities and Sciences

Title

Returning to Spirit

A story about a lawyer who reconnected to his Center through communication with a mother whale

That night I dreamed of an American friend who teaches with me at Hobart. We were walking by a lake and he was dancing, slowly, hilariously, singing out of key a Bach sarabande we both loved. I woke up laughing and wondered why I had dreamed of him. Then I remembered a story he had told me the spring before, one gloomy Sunday toward the end of term. "When I was a young man I worked in New York for a while. I wanted the high life; I wanted to succeed. But I realized the city was mad and I was becoming mad in it. I fled to the place I imagined would be the most different from everything I had known-Hawaii. "Imagine me, a depressive, overeducated atheistic Jew in Hawaii! It was wonderful; I lived with a native family unlike any people I had ever known or even believed could exist. They were half-naked most of the time, naturally spiritual, as I imagine the natives of India were in your childhood. I loved them and they loved me. "After I had been with them a few months, the head of the family told me he would like to introduce me to the family whale. He said there was a whale the family revered that would come when called to play with anyone in the clan, at a secret place on the island. " 'It is very simple. You wait in the water. The whale senses your presence, appears, and comes toward you.' " They called the whale the Mother of the family. "I thought the man was nuts and that the time had come to leave the genial madhouse in Hawii before this brain I had trained so assiduously for years finallv dissolved. "But I loved the man and did not want to hurt him, so I agreed to go to the secret place. The next afternoon the whole family accompanied us to a group of rocks in a bay. Everyone was drunk and joking; I felt happy just to be with them and felt that even if I was being fooled, I did not mind. I liked these people; they could have their fun with a white man if they wanted-it was all right by me. Then I remembered that I can't swim. I told the man. " 'Don't worry,' " he said. " 'Just cling to the rock I'll show you. The whale will do the rest.' "We arrived at the rocks; I stripped and lowered my pale, and by now trembling, body into the water. His family started singing behind me. "Then, the most astonishing single thing of my life hap- pened, the thing I would have disbelieved if anyone else had told me it was possible. About five hundred yards away the biggest black whale I have ever seen calmly arose from the waters. Its glistening ebony back lay in the sun. That single moment overturned everything I had ever thought of as reality. I was terrified. I could not swim and I was immersed, clinging to this tiny rock. But then I felt it, I felt the whale feeling my terror and sending toward me these great warm, healing waves of energy, pure energy. How can I explain this? What words are there? I knew, with certainty, that the whale had felt my terror, knew I could not swim, and was sending me through the sunlit water, wave after wave of what I can only call love, a silent, strong, immense, impersonal love. I had only to receive this energy and everything would be all right. "The whale started to move. It was some time before I understood what she was doing. She was moving horizontally, very slowly and calmly, coming a few feet closer each time, so I wouldn't be swamped and drowned. "She came to within two feet of me. I was so overwhelmed I had no idea what to do next. The head of the family came onto the rock behind me and started stroking the back of my head. "'Go on,'" he said, chuckling, "'touch the Mother. Touch her. Don't you want to touch your Mother?' " I put my hand out and touched her. "The whale rolled over onto her belly and let me run my hand along it, as if I were her own child, nuzzling against her. Then, calmly, she withdrew. I felt as she moved so silently away that she was only moving away in time, in 'biography.' In the dimension where we had at last met, and which she had opened to me, there was no time, no parting, no coming and going. There we would always be together."