Why do we find dolphins so alluring? For some it is their playfulness, the joy that comes from being in their presence, their intelligence, the love we sense, they way they’ve been known to protect humans or alert them to danger, or their general lack of aggression.
Why do we admire these qualities? They are what we humans aspire to; characteristics we might ascribe to a saint, or enlightened person—someone who is at peace with themselves, not attached to material things, caring for others, and wise.
So what is that allows dolphins to manifest these qualities whereas we humans struggle to achieve just a few of them?
I’d suggest the principle reason is that they don’t have hands. They do have the bones of a vestigial hand, but they are safely wrapped up in the blubber of their fins. Not having hands, they haven’t become tool-users, nor developed technologies with which to manipulate their world. They live more in harmony with their environment.
This may explain the difference in lifestyle, but not, in itself, why they display these qualities that we so admire.
That comes from the way that tool-use and technology affects our thinking. Having hands has seduced us into the belief that if we are not happy then we need to do something—get something, change something, avoid something. As a result our attention is mostly focused on the past and future rather than our present experience. Moreover, most of this thinking creates a sense of discontent, which is the very opposite to what we are seeking.
Beneath all our wanting and doing is the hope that we will in some way feel better for it, feel more content rather than discontent. This is the sad joke about human beings. We can be so busy worrying about whether or not we will be content in the future, we never give ourselves the opportunity to be at peace in the present moment.
Most of this thinking is about ensuring our safety and survival—psychological and social as much as physical. This fuels self-centered thinking; we become more concerned with caring for ourselves than caring for others.
Life becomes serious, playfulness fades, and our innate creative intelligence is mostly channeled into getting what we think we want.
Dolphins, and most other creatures for that matter, aren’t burdened with the all that comes from having hands and using tools. Not creating unnecessary discontent, and artificial needs and desires, their natural playfulness and ease is not veiled distractions, nor is that innate capacity for love and empathy.
The way of the dolphin is not to fall from grace in the first place.
The way for us humans to return to grace is to pause the thinking mind, and step back to notice those qualities of the unperturbed mind that had become veiled by the side effects of having hands.