Nonno Panda and the Dolphin
Nonno Panda and…
One day, wandering along life’s path, I got lost in a dark wood, unable to find the right way…
I heard the noise of waves breaking on the shore. It’s always been a soothing sound for me so I felt naturally drawn towards it. As I came out of the bushes, I saw a beautiful white sand beach, fading into a pale blue water. The colour got more intense, the further I looked toward the horizon. The gentle breeze and the combination of the sun and sea induced me to sit down and admire the beauty of nature.
What a shame about that log spoiling my view, I thought, noticing what it initially appeared to be; but if so, why was it moving? I asked myself. My curiosity got the better of me and, unable to work out what it really was (I had to admit, my eye-sight was going! ), I moved closer. I realised that the log was actually a beautiful dolphin.
“Good Nature!” I hoped it was not one of those stranded dolphins because it had lost its way in the ocean. So I hurried towards him. I could soon see the mammal was still alive. I immediately splashed some water on him. His skin was getting dry. He opened his eyes and said mournfully, “Why do you want to prolong my agony? You know I’ve no chance of surviving once I am stranded on the shore.”
“Please don’t say that,” I begged him. “I can get help to turn you around, and then you’ll be able to get back into the water. I wonder if there are any men sunbathing around here who could help me.” I looked around.
Yes! I was willing to do that – to ask a human for help. Saving a fellow animal was far more important than my animal pride. So I gave him a good wash and went to look for any of those curious creatures that love sunbathing.
Strangely enough, nobody was around. A place like this would have been the perfect hideaway for humans. Maybe it was still undiscovered. My wondering was interrupted by the Dolphin who feebly begged me not to fetch a human, because, and I quote: “That’s exactly why I’m here”
I did not fully understand what was going on, but I must say it did not surprise me. I happen to think human beings are the cause of most of the trouble on Earth these days. But I would not leave that Dolphin to die, no matter what. So I went back and kept hydrating him, splashing water on his skin.
He was adamant. He wanted to die.
“Why would you want that?” I asked.
“Because Ive been betrayed by the humans,” replied the Dolphin, shedding a tear.
“My dear, dear friend we’ve all been in one way or another betrayed by humans. But there’s no need to take it so personally.” The large mammal was not thinking straight. Maybe the dehydration was causing his brain to malfunction, so I carried on keeping him moist as best I could.
“Let me die, I told you!” shouted the Dolphin.
“Not a chance, my dear,” I replied. I carried on splashing water over him. He was definitely not thinking right. It did not make any sense to have those feelings, not for any reason – let alone for a human.
“You don’t get it! I want to die,” he said again. But I did not want to listen to any of those silly thoughts, so the sooner I could get him fully hydrated, the sooner he could get back to his normal self.
“I came to shore to die in peace! Why did you have to come here and bother me?” At this point he started sobbing. I had heard stories about dolphins – that when they feel they are close to the end they come to shore to die, but I thought they normally did that in a group. And honestly I believe dolphins who get beached do so more because the leader of the group becomes disorientated and drives the group to the wrong place. Or maybe in reality they have something like measles or Nature knows what kind of strange infection they pick up in the ocean. Considering all that pollution and over-exposure to magnetic fields generated by satellites, you can easily get your radar confused – even if you have the most advanced sonar system ever created by Nature.
Still, Nature cannot keep up with the speed of destruction the humans cause these days, even if it was only a short-term problem. Here is my theory: the two move at very different speeds. The lifespan of humankind is too short compared with the evolution of the natural world. So even if it seems that the humans are winning the battle of destruction, in reality they will never be able to win the war. Since the beginning of time, Nature has been able to regenerate in different forms. The presence of the humans is totally irrelevant in the grand scheme of evolution. Such things have happened before.
Anyway, to cut a long story short, I was exhausted with trying to keep the Dolphin moist. So I had to stop being so philosophical about it. I decided to respect his decision.
“Why do you want to end your life?” I asked. If I had to assist him with this form of suicide, even though it was against all my principles, I wanted at least to know the reason behind his drastic decision.
“Because I’ve been made redundant by the humans,” he said, closing his eyes. He shed another tear.
I could really feel his pain. So after taking a rest – because, you know, I am also not a spring chicken anymore – I got my paws wet again and stroked his head slowly, assisting him with his passing.
When he opened his eyes, he explained to me that he was part of a group of eighty dolphins trained by the humans to track mines at the bottom of the ocean. He had travelled in style around the world where, after any conflicts the humans created (for reasons known only to them) they were employed to help them clear up the mess. With their biological sonar, dolphins can locate unexploded ordnance in deep water, even when it is covered with algae and debris. That is what the Dolphin was good at. But due to the economic recession, the programme was being cut. To save money, the dolphins were replaced with robots – torpedo-shaped vehicles about three-and-a-half metres long, equipped with equally powerful sonar, and apparently also able to identify the mines with the same precision and speed as the aquatic animals.
“They trained me for seven years, made me feel I was something special. That I was the only one that could save lives. And now I get replaced by a machine? I can’t bear it!” he said, closing his eyes again.
“ That’s all?” I cried, when he had finished. “You don’t have to take it so personally, my dear. That’s the way things are these days. They do it to their own lot, too, you know,” I added, in an attempt to cheer him up.
“How can a machine do the same job I do, no matter how sophisticated the technology those humans have invented? Anything can go wrong down there! You need to have a functioning brain to make instant decisions. No computer can do that,” he said.
“Do you want to know what hurt the most?” he continued, getting more aggravated as he told his story.
“What?” I asked, as I kept wetting him down.
“The fact I’ve betrayed my own kind. I never thought that one day I would end up being made redundant. I gave my life to that project and now I’ve been discharged as if I am a piece of shitty equipment only fit for scrap,” he said, sobbing now.
I finally understood the problem. Once again we were facing an identity crisis. I kept telling all my friends not to get too attached to humans, because then they lose track of what they really are.
In some way, the humans manage to make animals think they are just like humans – and that’s not right. They are not. So when they are no longer needed, that co-dependency on humans becomes an addiction, and they lose their animal ability to see things for what they truly are.
“But what happened to your colleagues?” I asked, wondering if there were going to be more of them to coming ashore.
“Some of them decided, out of desperation, to get retrained and ended up in an amusement park, where they perform in front of an audience. But I’m not an exhibitionist. I’m a fighter, not an actor. So there’s nothing left for me but to end my existence with dignity,” he said.
“So you decided to be a coward instead.” It was my last chance to shake him out of this ridiculous, depressing mood he was in.
“A coward? Me? Nobody can call me a coward!” he said.
“I just did,” I replied.
“Do you think that taking your own life is a sign of cowardice?” he asked.
“I think that giving up on life when there are lots of possibilities out there is cowardly,” I said. I knew if I didn’t turn things around quickly, he would soon be beyond help.
“How do you know what possibilities there are for me out there? Hehehehehehe . . . .” He burst into a sort of hysterical laugh that only dolphins can do.
“I don’t know. But I’m sure that if, instead of thinking you’re not worthy because you lost a position in the fake life of a human, you use this moment to your advantage, maybe. . . .”
Time was running out. I could see that his breathing was getting slower.
“What do you want me to do? Go out to sea, attach the next mine to the robot and blow it up so the humans think the robot’s not working?” he said, with the little breath he had left.
“That’s one possibility,” I said.
“That’s sabotage!” he replied heatedly. “A soldier would never do that, and that’s what I am!”
“Ok, fine!! Then be the soon-forgotten hero, unable to adapt to the changed circumstances of his life, who decided to take his own life. But it’s hard to be sympathetic to that. I think you’re giving up because you’ve run out of ideas. You’re such a lazy coward that when it’s difficult to think of alternatives, you prefer to behave like a drama queen. And I can’t believe I’ve fallen for that. I’m here with my back aching because I’ve been pushing water hard with my legs to keep your skin moist. And I’m sure I will end up tomorrow with a painful slipped disc or an inflamed sciatic nerve, thanks to an idiot who can’t get his head round being rejected by the humans. You’re an animal! Use your survival instinct, for Nature’s sake! Unless, of course, with all that training you’ve had, the humans have brainwashed you and turned you into one of their insignificant pets.”
“Don’t you dare call me a pet! I always kept my freedom!” remonstrated the Dolphin.
“Oh really?” I was starting to get somewhere.
“I was never kept a cage or in an aquarium!” he raged.
“So you were free to roam the seas and whenever they needed you they whistled. And wherever in the world you were . . . Flipper came home . . . to work on a special project.” I felt bad for insulting him like that, but I needed to do it to touch his pride, if there was any chance of keeping him alive.
“Well, it wasn’t exactly like that, but I was never put in a cage.” he said.
“They didn’t need to. You put yourself into one because it was safe to put up all those bars in your mind. Once those certainties were removed, you got into an even bigger cage: the trap of thinking you couldn’t exist without the false certainties the humans gave you. Despite all your hero talk, you got scared facing your own freedom. Just like any pet that’s kept in captivity for so long and becomes so accustomed to the comfort of the pellet food he’s provided with that he dies of starvation when he’s released into an open field full of organic food, because he can’t recognise it.” I didn’t even know where all that came from. It just came out of my mouth. But I was worried. The rate of his breathing was getting slower.
“Don’t worry,” I continued to jab at him. “You’ll die soon just like one of those pets. So when the humans find you here, they’ll think you lost your sonar and got stranded.”
“There is nothing wrong with my sonar!” He perked up a bit, but fell back gasping.
“Cool. That’s what they’ll discover when they investigate the level of pollution in your body. They’ll turn you into a suitable statistic, proving they were right not to use you anymore for their special project, because you were ill and would soon have expired anyway.”
“I’ve always fought against pollution! That’s what I was trained for,” he gasped.
“No, my dear friend. You were trained to collect mines the humans laid for their own purposes. They used you, as they couldn’t reach the seabed themselves and didn’t want to risk a human life. They trained you, an animal, because you can die as a hero and have a monument dedicated to all animals that collectively have supported the humans in their wars. Now, instead of using the skills you’ve gained to get to the seabed and dig out all the shit men have been dumping there for years, and to confront them with the material evidence of their hypocrisy, you just give up, like a “ real hero”! Mmmm, OK! I think I’d better go now. Can’t bear the idea of seeing fellow animals die, even if it’s just a pet. Call me a softie, maybe. . . .” I turned as if to go.
“I’m not a pet,” said the Dolphin again, not opening his eyes. I felt we were close to the end, but still I had to keep trying, even if it meant being so brutal.
“OK, you’re a hero, a pet hero. Whatever.! I respect your choice. Goodbye.” I moved away. A few seconds later I could just barely hear the Dolphin calling me back.
“Hey, Panda. . . .”
“Stop calling me pet! I got it.”
“What did you get, pet,” I said, turning around.
“Come back here and help me?” he asked.
“To do what, pet?” I asked in turn.
“To get back into the water,” he said.
“What for, pet?”
“To get away from you. What else?” he said, smiling weakly.
Honestly, I could not face the idea of attempting to move that cetacean across the beach, but I went anyway. Lucky for me, the tide started to rise so it was easier for me to slide him back into the water.
“Thank you, Panda, for rescuing me,” he said. He had already begun to regain his strength.
“Go, Dolphin, and find your new way out there,” I said, slapping him on his back.
With the flap of a fin, he shot away towards deeper water. But as I turned to get out of the water I felt something. The Dolphin had turned quickly back and with his tail had produced a wave that nearly drowned me. When he saw me dripping wet he stood up and moving backwards with his tail lashing the water, he said:
“That’s for calling me pet!” And he laughed as dolphins do and disappeared again into the depths.
“I know you’re not,” I said to myself, shaking the water out of my fur. And I continued on my way…