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Three Dolphins Sentenced to Death in Captivity

The call of the dolphin.

I step out into the night. Moira's deck is cold under my bare feet: blue-white ice in the cold moonlight. I fire up the diesel and stand up to listen as the sush-sush-sush tells me the water pump is working.

I look up at the stars and my inner voice says, "We are a harmonic of awareness, the interaction of Sun, Earth, and Mind. We are change in a direction. A sculpture of thought in chaos.

We are a bridge of knowing between becoming and not being.

Between order and chaos. Between light and dark.

We are all things in an instant of joining where evil and good, order and disorder, light and dark are one - held apart by the surprise of life.

There can be no death, only change, in the oneness of the Universe. There are no dimensions, only levels of learning. There is no time, only awareness of the interval of constant change in a direction that goes on changing."

Today I talked at two schools. Telling the children about dolphins. When the first assembly began at 8:30 this morning Miss Gibbons read from the Genesis Scriptures: the bit about the land and the sea and man's ascent on the planet. And the scripture made perfect biological sense to me if I substituted "the Sun" for "God" and "Mind" for "Man" and "The language of Man" for words meaning "Humans".

I sat there watching Miss Gibbons speak and saw an ape programmed by a larger mind of language in the process of programming - using language - the minds of all those children. Telling them, via the Scriptures, they will, through language, rule over the beasts of the Earth and the Sea. They are the images of God upon the Earth. They are Sun, Earth, and the ever learning Mind.

"Help the dolphins," I told all the little images of God in their school uniforms.

It is not enough to know a truth, it must be etched in your heart, directing your every thought. So I stitched it into their hearts with stories of dolphins.

How many ways can we feel our "selves?" We who are also the Earth and Sun and Holy Spirit of Awareness. We who are the Thread of Awareness the Moirae gather from Chaos and weave into the golden web of starbeams tangled with our own understanding?

I gaze at the stars in the cold air and ask myself, "Do you know, can you feel what I am saying? Can you feel the texture of the thread of your own life? Beauty lies in the warp and woof - the design speaking words to the awareness spinning within the thread Moira clothos weaves from the cosmos. The tenuous thread of awareness Moira lachesis measures and Moira atropos severs.

"We are the focal point of sunbeams as sunlight flows through the lens of mind."

"Who are you talking to out there?" Freddy asks from Moira's depths.

Sydney. A great city.

Heart Ache

Lindsay mumbles something incomprehensible into the sound of the Cessna's engine. But the meaning is clear enough as he banks the little red sea plane to show me the small blue dot in the middle of the rolling green cow pastures west of Sydney.

The plane begins circling. I notice with grim pleasure the dusty parking lot is empty. There are no people wandering around the African Lion Safari today, and it's Saturday.

We circle lower with each turn until I see the graceful shapes of the three dolphins in the tiny blue swimming pool. It has been months since I've been here and the sight of them trapped in the tiny blue hole amid the rolling green fields makes my heart ache. I feel myself flushing with shame.

"I'm sorry, my friends," I whisper to the three dolphins in the pool. "I'm sorry, so sorry. I tried but it looks like you're going to stay in there.....until you die." The dolphins float like logs, not moving, perhaps dreaming of Sea. As the plane circles them, something closes hard on my heart and tears fill my eyes and run down my cheeks. I brush them away and glance at Lindsay. Sure enough, he's looking at me, seeing me stupidly crying over the dolphins.

Lindsay is really a nice guy. He understands. I look back down at the dolphins and just let it wash out of me. Lindsay breaks out of the circling pattern and heads back towards the coastline and the Sea.

At least Bulley is suffering, too. Closed all week long and now, on his big day, Saturday, there is nobody there. The place is empty. I guess my lectures at the schools really worked. The children are putting the screws to Bulley. Poetic justice. Maybe, just possibly, in the future, when the children grow up and take over Sydney, maybe they will remember. They will teach their children, "It's not nice to put dolphins into little cement pools."

The Seaplane vectors in on Quaker's Hat Bay. Sydney sprawls out below me: a giant intertidal creature encrusting the shores of Port Jackson, slowly growing out and up into the sky. To me, this is not a metaphor. Sydney is a living being, a megabeast, with humanity its spirit and Man's language its soul. It grew on the edges of this bay, emerging from Australian elements mixed with sea, air, sun and mind. It is still shifting, growing, changing - physically, mentally, spiritually.

I tried to change the behavior of this megabeast. I certainly got its attention. But the behavioral control systems are so interlocked, so buffered, so complex, the megabeast does not change direction easily. Social morals, the heart of the dolphin problem, are the body language of society. They are unconscious, all pervasive, and the best protected of all the control systems. Who knows, maybe the megabeast actually has changed directions. Maybe I did succeed. Maybe it just takes time for the Megabeast to respond. Certainly, Sydney is not out there at the Lion Park this Saturday, feeding Bulley's perversion with money.

Modern Australians would have a hard time understanding a living city, but the Aborigines would understand it, Burnam Burnam would understand. It has been a long time since he's been around and I'd like to say goodby to him, too, before we leave. I'll give Jane Powers a call. She might know where he is.

Lindsay brings the float plane down into Middle Harbor and skims it over the surface towards the Water Wings base. Freddy runs down the stairs to catch the lines as we taxi up to the wharf. And behind her, on the steps, standing and watching us with his big white beard and his round tummy is none other than Burnam Burnam.

Burnam is something of a Guru figure for Australian new age people. He's got jet black skin and snowy white hair and a full white Santa beard flecked with black. His English is perfect with a slight London accent. He lives in a VW van and travels here and there as it strikes his fancy: appearing and vanishing again like a quenkin. Add all this to a wry sense of humor and a knack for looking mysterious and not saying much, and his popularity is easy to understand. He claims it's all nonsense, a coincidence of his looks and the times. But I, too, felt something special about Burnam the first time we met. Something magical akin to Bosikuru or the Holy Mama or Kitchner Wheatley in the Solomons.

Burnam's tribe is from a bay to the south of Sydney and their ancestral land includes the present day National Parks and Sydney itself.

I climb out onto the float as Burnam walks up. "Burnam, I was just thinking about you," we shake hands. "How about coming out to Moira for some late breakfast or early lunch?" He gets most of his meals from friends.

"Delighted, yes, good to see you again, Richard." He flashes a big grin, his massive jaw and slightly enlarged canines giving the smile sinister undertones. "Frederique tells me you are almost ready to depart."

"Yup. On our way again. Over the Horizon and out into the blue Pacific." we follow Freddy towards the dinghy.

As we get aboard, he asks, "When do you plan to go?"

"Oh, next month. We still have to slip Moira and paint the bottom and fix a host of little things."

"And how were the dolphins? I assume, since you didn't spirit them out with the seaplane, you had some difficulty landing in the dolphinarium." Burnam smiles.

"The dolphins are still there but there are no people at the Lion Park today. That's something at least."

"Depressing." He climbs the new ladder onto Moira's deck.

"Yeah, very." We sit in embarrassed silence for a few moments while Freddy makes domestic noises in the galley.

I think about him and what Sydney did to his tribe and is still doing to him. He parks his van wherever he likes, gathering parking tickets by the bushel. In Australia, if you don't pay your parking tickets, they put you in jail. But every time they try it with Burnam Burnam he puts on a real show in court (after inviting the press). He gets onto the witness stand and uses it as a soap box to pontificate about the rights of people whose land has been stolen from them. "This land is my land. I can park on it wherever I desire." After the first two or three times he lectured the courts and the press had their comical field day with the system, the City Powers decided to leave him alone.

Once, Park Rangers arrested him for crashing the gate at the National Park, driving straight through the toll booth at top speed. They chased him through the park roads for half an hour until they forced him to stop in one of the big parking lots, filled with spectators. He climbed on top of his van and lectured them all on the right of all people to free movement upon the land. The Parks and Wildlife Services wisely dropped charges against him before it went to court.

"I suspect you have lost sight of your original goal," reflects Burnam in his oratorical bass voice.


"You seem overly depressed at the fate of the dolphins. Perhaps it is mostly what you view as your own defeat bothering you."

"Ummmm. I suppose you're right. We put a hell of a lot of effort into the project. Spent too much time on it. Nine months. Yeah, I guess it did become an ego trip....us or them. I suppose that's why we failed."

"But have you failed? Or have you lost sight of your original goal? What did you actually come here to Sydney to do? I seem to recall, when we first met, you did not even know about the dolphins out there."

His words startle me. My first response is that I also failed to get the book published but this, too, was not the basic reason for our voyage to Sydney. The book and the dolphins were both involved in a larger, over-all project. The tenuous search for the Moirae. The grand experiment to locate and define patterns of awareness guiding both evolution and individual fates.

"Ahhh, Frederique, that looks absolutely delicious!" booms Burnam as Freddy sits a big plate of pancakes in front of him.

As we eat, Burnam's challenge opens out in my mind into a web of delightful complexity. I've never really talked with him about any of this. How could he have known? I never mentioned the I Ching to him. Yet, he's right, the whole episode has been an incredible series of correct statements and excellent advice by the Oracle.

It predicted I would start a war and alienate my friends and wind up alone: even telling me exactly how I would do it. It predicted I would fail in my goal to have the book published, saying I would drain away the energy of the book by misapplying my time. The Oracle was depressingly consistent about my messing everything up.

It predicted all this right from the start, in North Queensland, and maintained its posture throughout the whole affair. Again and again the I Ching gave me what turned out to be exactly the right advice. But circumstances, and my own nature, forced me to blunder ahead, acting against the Oracle's sage advice. I did what I felt I had to do, I tried to avoid the predicted complications, but my own behavioral controls held me firmly to the predicted path.

Burnam glances at me and smiles through his beard as he scoffs down the pancakes. He gives a little shake of his head, typical of the way some Australians indicate pleasure, "Good, huh?" To an American, the same head-shake means, "Well, what do you know about that?"

"You're right, Burnam. In a perverse sort of way, the failure to get the dolphins freed was a successful demonstration of how an ancient Chinese Oracle, the I Ching, influences the behavior of individual apes. More than that, it showed how tough it is for an individual to break free of the bonds of personal behavior control systems. I knew I was getting myself in trouble. The Oracle warned me. I realized I would fail, but even with my destiny laid out for me, I just could not help myself."

Burnam shrugs, wipes his mouth with his napkin, says, "The most common result of oracular predictions."

"It also showed me how tough it is to change the behavioral control systems of a Society. And this, too, was one of the very first predictions of the I Ching. In fact, it was the very reason I bought the book in the first place.

"The Oracle said I would fail because my ideas were counter to existing themes. I thought I could beat the system. I Ching said I couldn't. I Ching was right."

Burnam Burnam wolfs down the remaining pancakes with a very self satisfied smile on his face. He pauses to comment, "Exactly. The most common reaction to oracular predictions."

Every so often it seems there is someone, like Burnam, who turns up to present me with a little revelation. This is very characteristic of the Moirae. Someone to keep me on the path, to say, "Hey, wake up stupid. Pay attention." I was so immersed in the dolphin struggle and getting Moira ready to go to sea I lost sight of the real issues.

And the real issue, still unresolved but more exposed, is the Moirae. The forces directing evolution - the learning process of individuals, societies, species and ecosystems.

"Delicious, absolutely marvelous Frederique," Burnam pats his ample belly.

"Would you like some more?" Freddy smiles, she likes Burnam.

"No, thank you. Well, perhaps some more coffee?" He gets up from the dinette and moves around the cabin for a moment, peering at my books. It reminds me of my own behavior. I always look to see what someone reads when I visit their home. When Freddy serves up a fresh pot of coffee, Burnam sits down on the settee and slowly sips his coffee.

"Moira," says Burnam suddenly, looking thoughtfully up at the overhead. The one word hits me like a bombshell and I feel myself pale as his spoken word comes exactly at the same time I happened to be thinking of Moirae. How the hell does he always know what I am thinking? "Moira. How did you come to call your vessel by that name?"

"I have a stock answer for that, Burnam, but its only a partial answer. The Moirae are, in Greek Mythology, the three sisters of fate. Moira clotho weaves the thread of life, Moira lachesis measures how long your life will be, Moira atropos cuts it off. Everyone, even the gods are subject to the three sisters of fate. As an evolutionary biologist, I am, in a way, studying the process of long term fate or destiny. To an animal doing the evolving, the various environmental pressures causing it to change along certain pathways would appear to be fate or destiny. They are a great, impenetrable mystery. But only because the pressures act upon populations of beings over long periods of time and lie beyond the horizons of perception of the evolving animals."

"As I thought," Burnam surprises me again, "You have named your vessel after your search."

"Jesus, Burnam, you constantly amaze me."

"And you sought the Three Sisters of Fate here in Sydney only to find three very real dolphins trapped in a swimming pool. Hmmm. You know, Richard, My tribe used to believe the dolphins had certain mystical qualities. We thought the ones you call killer whales were the king dolphins. They used to come into a bay near our village. Some of our elders claimed they could communicate with the king dolphins and get them to help the people fish. Legend has it, the king dolphins told one of our sorcerers about the arrival of the white man and the downfall of our way of life even before Captain Cook arrived."

"Killer whales are dolphins," I respond lamely, still vibrating over Burnam's conjuration of the Moirae.

"I remember when I was a small tyke there were three female killer whales we called the three sisters. They used to herd fish into the Bay until it was filled right up. We would run into the water and spear fish and net them while the three sisters circled in deeper water driving them towards us. Whalers shot the three sisters for sport."

We sit for a moment, each in reflection. Captain Freddy, putting dishes into the sink, murmurs, "Stupid assholes."

"If you should see a killer whale as you leave these shores, please give her my regards, won't you?" Burnam smiles his giant teeth at me.

"We have not seen a killer whale on the entire voyage," I muse, "But if one comes to see us off, I'll certainly mention your name."