A whale's purpose

The other day at work (the New Brunswick Museum), I'd just taken a group through the whale gallery when a woman came up to me and asked, "What's a whale's purpose?"

I had to take a second to think about it. I had not planned on being all philosophical with visitors in the Hall of the Great Whales on that day--or on any day, really--and I think the woman took my pause to be a request for clarification because she rushed on: "I mean, what do whales do for us? Or, I guess, what eats them?"

As if the only reason for one's existence is not to just be, but to be consumed.

Suddenly I was no longer standing beneath the jaw bones of a Northern Right Whale, but staring into the maw of my own depression.

I think I stuttered through an answer about ecosystems and balance and many whales not having natural predators besides humans who devastated most whale populations for whale oil. But the whole time I was thinking about how often I feel overwhelmed about how awful the world is and how I'm just one person and will never be able to do enough to fix it no matter how much I try. And I get so consumed and paralysed by such thoughts that I forget to just be. Because being is sometimes all you can do and sometimes that is enough.

My therapist always tells me how everything inward must happen outward and everything outward must happen inward. I'm never all that sure what she means by it, but last week I think it had something to do with whales.