February 5, 2024

Introducing My Stellar Son Dave - the Apple of His Old Man’s Glaucomic Eye


My son, David, was, in the end, a welcome, if unexpected, addition to my family. After my wife Susan and I got married in March of 1969, we took off on a cross-country honeymoon on our way to California where I was to spend my sabbatical leave in Berkeley. Each of us had a daughter by a previous marriage, and when our kids met, they decided they would like to be sisters. So, Susan and I, with some measure of misgivings and ambivalence, which turned out to be well-warranted, decided to oblige them by marrying. The girls would join us later. This was our honeymoon and we were determined to have a ball on the way out to California.

Susan assured me that, as she had been on the pill forever, there was no chance of her getting pregnant any time soon.

Famous last words, as they say.

Dave was the product of her miscalculation, but it was one of her best since that boy turned out to be a joy and a father’s pride – but then, I am proud of all my kids.


As a boy, Dave was a charmer – so very sweet and loving. Cool, too. This photograph shows him in his youthful exuberance. He was always breaking his big glasses during those years. After one such mishap, he greeted his optician by saying, “Long time, no see.” A born wit. 
  
Indeed, at least with regard to his sense of humor, he has taken after his old man. For example, when I was in high school, I was voted “class wit.” Dave, not to be undone, was voted “class clown.” But even when he was young, he was funny and possessed an antic and zany wit. When asked what he wanted to be when he grew up, he said, “a head of lettuce.” Another time, when he was about three years old, we were having dinner at a local restaurant when Dave had to go to the bathroom on his own. But when he came out, he shouted so all the restaurant patrons could hear, “Mommy, I shit in the toilet!” Yes, Dave was really an exuberant and funny kid.

And he has only got better with age. Perhaps his greatest coup as a wit occurred when we had travelled to Hawaii for a vacation when Dave was a teen-ager. Originally, I had planned to go with my then wife, Barbara, and my daughter, Kathryn, but by the time it came for us to travel, my wife and I had split up. I still had her ticket, however, so I invited Dave to go in her stead.

Now, in those days, travel by air was not the fraught and security-ridden affair it is now. It was much more casual. For example, I once used a ticket that a friend of mine named Ronna Kabatznick had given me. Although I did not enjoy being addressed as Mr. Kabatznick, I was grateful to get a free ride on that flight. Anyway, when we flew to Hawaii, Dave used my soon-to-be ex-wife’s ticket.  

All went well until our return home on New Year’s Eve. When Dave handed the stewardess (as they were called in those days) his ticket, she said, “What a minute. This says Barbara.” Without missing a beat, Dave corrected her. “No,” he said, that’s BarBARrah. That did the trick. Dave is not only a card but a crafty kid, quick to quip on his feet.

But I hasten to add, there is a depth to Dave that you wouldn’t infer from these jocular anecdotes I’ve used to introduce him to you, and you will learn about that soon enough.

These days, Dave works at a posh private school in Eastern Connecticut. For a time he was its chief librarian, but in recent years, he’s become an English teacher (another way we are similar, both being teachers) as well as coaching its cross-country running team. And although not a part of his school duties, he’s become quite a hit as an actor in the town’s amateur theatrical productions. In any case, at this school the staff is sometimes invited to give what is called a “chapel talk,” where the students and faculty gather to hear the speaker. Dave, still relatively new to the school at the time, used the occasion to introduce himself to his audience. So, without further ado, I am now going to paste in that talk and use it to introduce Dave to you in a way that will show you that he is more than a wit, but a very wise fellow with depth of soul. Take it away, Dave….  

Good morning.  

Many of you know – or have seen - my son Max. He’s the blond, curly headed, nearly 5-year-old, whirling dervish that you might see as a blur around the dining hall. Max is now in kindergarten. He starts his school day sitting on a rug for “circle time,” when his teacher reads his class a story. Every night at bedtime, we read him stories. Max loves stories. We humans - we love stories. From the dawn of language, humans have shared stories. Before the written word, stories were told orally, and passed down from generation to generation, altered and elaborated on. Stories - be they told, read, or watched - take us places, teach us, scare us, humor us, and humble us.  

And when stories are shared with friends or with the whole community, we all have the potential to gain a new perspective on life - to see things in a new way, and hopefully to appreciate something or someone in a way that wasn’t possible before. Before I begin my story, I thought I’d share a few random things about me - perhaps just to give you all a chance to know me a bit differently - and to put this story into a context.

(1) I was born just 30 minutes from here during a December snowstorm in 1969.

(2) I was voted class clown by my high school senior class peers.

(3) My father is one the world’s leading authorities on life after death or near-death experiences.

(4) My sister - technically my half-sister - is half black, my mother having broken what were some serious taboos back in the early 1960s.

(5) I can speak pretty decent German.  

(6) In addition to Connecticut, I’ve lived in Key West, Boston, Cape Cod, Portland, Maine, London, Amsterdam, Toronto, Zurich, New York City, and Long Beach, California.

(7) I’ve hiked over 200 miles of the Appalachian Trail.

(8) I’ve traveled to, among many other places, Malta and Madrid, Poland and India, Kazakhstan and Uzbekistan.

(9) I’ve been a dishwasher, a bus driver, a flower delivery person, a parking lot attendant, a deputized official of the town of Wellfleet, a waiter, a tour guide, an English teacher, a graduate student, a consultant, a marketing director, a systems analyst, and only just recently a boarding school librarian.

(10) I grew nearly 5 inches during the summer between my junior and senior year of high school.

(11) I’ve run a marathon - in a nor’easter storm.

(12) One summer while working in a lumber yard, I was the unfortunate victim of a forklift accident and broke this arm in half.

(13) I was one half of a tandem team that amazed crowds as I could throw grapes well over 150 feet so accurately my friend could catch them in his mouth.  

(14) For several years, I often wore a large afro wig to big events - parades, road races, and even my own wedding reception.

(15) And here’s something else most of you don’t know:  I moved to Pomfret about three years ago shortly after the most trying circumstance of what had been an otherwise carefree and adventurous life.

As some most certainly know, life is a weird and wondrous thing. After spending the first 17 years of my life in rural northeastern Connecticut, I was quite determined to leave and didn’t think it likely I’d ever return to live. But life rarely goes according to plan. Some 17 years after leaving Connecticut I ended up marrying Linda - a woman who, while raised in Texas, had ancestral Pomfret roots. In fact, going back several generations, Linda’s third great aunt’s husband, Charles Grosvenor, sold the very land upon which this chapel was built to one William Peck, Pomfret School’s founder and first headmaster. Charles Grosvenor's wife was Elizabeth Mathewson who - now pay close attention here - was the sister of Edward, who was the father of Henry, the father of Jane, who was the mother of Polly: Linda’s mother. 

My in-laws live just down the road from here on what Pomfret old timers still know as the Mathewson Farm. Many of the Mathewsons are buried in a family plot in a nearby cemetery few of you have probably ever noticed, though all of you have surely driven past. The Pomfret Street Cemetery is just a hundred yards down the hill from the Vanilla Bean on the road leading to Putnam; it’s nearly across the street from the Xtra Mart. There’s a small white sign near the road away from which leads a rarely traveled grass covered path. It passes through the heavy, but never locked iron gates to the small and infrequently visited graveyard. On sunnier autumn mornings, the often-overgrown grass is wet with dew; light trickles through the canopy of leaves and illuminates the mostly ancient stones. Many engravings are hard to read: weather worn, beaten by years of sun, snow, wind and rain. The Mathewson plot is toward the southeast corner, where a prominent, and no doubt expensive marker notes the location of the family. There you’d find, among many Mathewsons, Darius, George, Amaryllis, Hannah, Helen, Henry, Edward, and Elinor. Linda’s beloved grandmother, Jane Mathewson Bush, who went by the term of endearment ‘Newie’ has one of the newest headstones. She died just over 20 years ago in 1992. 

But Newie’s grave is not the most recent one in the Pomfret Street Cemetery. Buried next to Newie, underneath a marker installed just a few years ago is another Mathewson descendant: our son, Leonardo Mathewson Ring. 
 
Leo only has but one date on his stone - for he was dead the day he was born, July 20th, 2009 - one month shy of his due date.

Before this event, I often delineated my life into chapters: my youth, college, Boston, Europe, and so forth. Now I divide my life into two parts. Before Leo and After. Leo’s absence - and his presence - continues to guide my life. But for you to truly understand - and I hope benefit from this story - you ought to hear about the wondrous circumstances of his birth.

Linda and I got married when we were each 34 years old - just over eight years ago. We were older than some newlyweds, but certainly not old. We looked forward to having a family, something we’d talked about while we were dating and engaged. However, after a year of not having any success, we grew concerned. We sought medical help. We were examined inside and out, poked, prodded and pricked; our genes scanned for abnormalities and our personal histories scoured for clues. Our medical histories were laid bare before us and our medical inquisitors; no stone - or kidney - was left unturned. After months of examinations, the result of all the testing was that they couldn’t find anything wrong with us. Nothing. As far as the doctors were concerned there was no known medical reason for our not getting pregnant. It’s what maddeningly known as “unexplained infertility” and about as unsatisfying an answer as one could get.

Not to be deterred, we made the next logical step and sought fertility assistance. This is when we learned, intimately, about abbreviations like IUI, IVF, and ICSI. Linda had to get numerous hormone injections. Instead of romantic candle-lit dinners for us, our Saturday nights involved carefully filled syringes, alcohol swabs, and Band-Aids. Our efforts to have a baby, something that by all rights ought to be very private, became the common and public knowledge of our families, our friends - even our remote acquaintances. We went through two years of treatments only to have exactly zero success. It was tiring, at times embarrassing. There were nights, after yet another failed attempt that Linda and I sat together on our couch, but very alone with our own disappointments and unanswerable questions. 

Eventually we sought the second opinion of a fertility specialist at Massachusetts General Hospital. He reviewed our now extensive and bulging medical file and also concluded that there was no reason why we weren’t getting pregnant. He said that given that fact, and our history of treatments, there was no reason for us to keep on trying. My chest tightened. Air vanished from the room. We were left with little reasonable hope that we’d ever have our biological baby. Then the doctor paused and looked at us and said that he had a question. He said, “What does being a parent mean to you?” This was the first time anyone - a friend, a doctor, a fertility specialist - anyone had asked us that. He said that if being a parent means getting pregnant, then I am not sure what we can do for you. But if being a parent means being a father or a mother, then there are many ways that can happen. And that was the first day that Linda and I seriously considered adopting.

In April of 2007 – just shy of our three-month wedding anniversary, we decided to proceed with adoption. I could - and perhaps should one day - give a seminar on the adoption process. It’s a daunting thing to undertake. There are scores of choices to be made and unlike people who conceive a baby, Linda and I had to fill out dozens of forms, get police and FBI background checks, letters of recommendation, provide years of back tax records; we had to demonstrate that our water was potable and that our cats didn’t have rabies. I’m pretty sure that the parents of those of you who are not adopted had no such hurdles to clear. For them it’s possible it might have been a simple as a lobster dinner and a chocolate dessert.

Many of you know the result of our efforts: Max! Linda and I were at the hospital in Newton, Massachusetts when Max was born in November of 2007. We spent three wonderful, stressful, and awkward days with Max’s birth mother and her parents in the hospital. On the fourth day, when we arrived to the hospital, the birth family was gone and shortly thereafter, we walked out of the hospital with our baby. I drove and Linda sat in the back seat with Max. I looked in the rearview mirror and saw tears streaming down her cheeks. After more than three years of trying to grow our family, after medical exams, treatments, hope and wishes dashed time after time after time, after adoption counseling and filling out more forms than a hopeful CIA agent, we were, at last, parents.  

And you know what? When you come home with a 5 lb., 11 oz. infant, and he’s counting on you to take care of him, it didn’t really seem to matter by which way he came to us. Max was our son and we his parents. 

The months passed and our lives, in respect to being parents, was no different than that of other new parents. We were so busy that we - or at least I - only gave fleeting thoughts to where our next child would come from. We still held out hope that we’d have a biological child of our own, but knew that the chances were slim. The prospect of another adoption was a bit too expensive and onerous for us to undertake. So we just let the days and weeks and months pass. We enjoyed Max’s every developmental change, took literally thousands of pictures, and went about our lives.

One month after Max’s 1st birthday, in December of 2008, while we were visiting relatives in Texas for the holidays, Linda went out in the evening to catch up with some old high school friends. I stayed home with Max. I was asleep when near midnight Linda came home. I heard her come quietly into our room. I sensed her leaning down toward me. She whispered in my sleepy ear, “I’m pregnant.” It felt like a dream, but it wasn’t. Unbeknownst to me she’d purchased a home pregnancy test that evening. It was positive. When, a few days later, we returned to Massachusetts, the doctors confirmed it.  She was pregnant - and without any fertility treatments. We were beyond the moon. And for the next seven months, we stayed that way.  

Now keep in mind, this is late 2008, early 2009 - the same period of time that the global economic meltdown began. Jobs were being shed by the tens of thousands every month, homes were losing value at rates not seen since the Great Depression. And we were caught in the very middle of it! My job went away, but our mortgage didn’t. My job prospects at the time were slim and as stressful as that might sound - or as you might imagine, all of it was counterbalanced by the fact that Linda and I were going to have a baby; Max was going to be a big brother. 

Ever since Max was born, Linda and I had been drifting away from wanting to live in or near the city. We were tired of traffic, noise, commutes, and concrete. We craved space - both literal and metaphysical. So with a baby on the way, my job gone and our condominium’s value sinking by the week, we took it as a cosmic sign to make a leap of faith. We planned our escape from Salem and decided to move to Pomfret. Pomfret - the ancestral home of Linda’s family; Pomfret a town just a short drive away from my childhood hometown - where I thought I’d only return for high school reunions! It would be here, in this bucolic and idyllic haven, close to our families - and our roots, that we’d raise our family: Max and his little brother or sister.

We made plans. I got re-certified to teach high school English in Connecticut. We found a house to rent, started to look for the second car we’d need in the country. In between making plans, we went to birthing classes and packed boxes. We didn’t know exactly what I’d do for work, but felt confident that everything would pan out. After all, Linda and I had made several leaps of faith in our lives. We’d taken several chances in order to lead a fulfilling life, and each time, it had worked out.

The date is now July 17, 2009. The baby is one month away from its due date. I’d found a used Honda up in Lowell and after getting a ride up there from my sister, was driving it back down Rt. 3 toward Salem. It was mid-morning, the sky was bright, blue - and though warm, I don’t remember it being humid. I was listening to the radio, and feeling how the car felt on the highway. It was a Friday and Linda would be off for the weekend. My sister and her family were visiting from Texas, renting a house in Marblehead. We would all spend the weekend together enjoying each other’s company. Everything was going according to plan. It was all going according to plan....

My cell phone rang. Linda was calling. I answered.

She said, “You need to come to the hospital.” 

“Something’s wrong,” she said weakly. “They can’t find the heartbeat.”

“I’m on my way,” I said.

But my brain struggled to figure out how to cut across the North Shore of Boston to Beverly Hospital. I had to both navigate the complex web of roadways and at the same time grapple with what was happening, what to do. My mind raced with every possibility and though I wanted to believe there was some other potential outcome, I couldn’t help but consider the worst. Quickly - and really without much warning, I began to seethe. There, in my new/used Honda I threw what could only be described as a tantrum. I slammed the steering wheel with my fists; I punched the roof of my car, and yelled as loud as I could. I was angry, hurt, bewildered, and scared. Life had just punched me in the gut and kicked in me harder in the teeth. And even as my rage poured forth from my core, I was also keenly aware that I needed to purge the anger out of me - for Linda. I simply could not be in a state of anger when I went in the room. I had to be calm. 
 
And I was.
 
I walked into the room to find Linda in a hospital bed being attended to by nurses and a doctor. Indeed, they couldn’t find the heartbeat and soon we found out it was because there was no heartbeat. The baby had died in utero. It would take three days before we could deliver Leo. Three very, very, odd days. Odder still: going to a funeral home to arrange for the cremation of your newly stillborn infant son. And here’s the kicker - the doctors couldn’t tell us why Leo died. There was no known medical reason. It just happened. I know what you’re thinking. This is a real downer, Mr. Ring. I hope it has a happy ending. It does, sort of; but at the time, that wasn’t a given.

Six weeks after Leo was born, Linda and I moved to Pomfret as planned, just with one less child than we’d planned on moving with. We spent several weeks and months in a daze, with only Max able to pull us out of our wanton sadness. 

But here’s the thing - the thing I want you to remember. Somehow, coming from the soaring high of thinking we were going to have a baby to the crushing low of his being born still, I gained something. It’s called Perspective.

Through this trauma and in the personal search for meaning that followed, I had to make some kind of sense of the senseless, find comfort in the pain. And here’s what I’ve come up with: Though Leo hasn’t aged a day since he was born, I’ve grown. I have gained so much from the experience. To me, Leo is wholly present in his obvious absence. If Max’s presence is like an electric current, constantly giving off energy, Leo was like a bolt of lightning that flashed brilliantly, struck me, changed me, and then lingered only in essence - a scent in the air, an aura of light, morning mist, the babble of a brook, a latent image just beyond my peripheral vision. His corporeal being might be gone, but his influence continues to guide me.

You know, it might sound odd in light of what I’ve revealed so far, but I am grateful for what happened. I am grateful that Linda and I initially had trouble conceiving, for it brought Max into our lives and I can’t imagine our life without him. And I am grateful that Linda did eventually become pregnant - that it happened - spontaneously. That we got the joy of watching her belly grow, that we got to experience the excitement and anticipation of an impending birth, even though it didn’t end as we’d hoped. And I am grateful that Linda and I have each other, that we have gone through these great tests of character and marriage. We are richer for it and our relationship is stronger as a result. 
 
And here’s another direct consequence. It took a couple of years to be able to breathe deeply enough to be able to consider having another child, but in our hearts, Linda and I knew that Max wasn’t going to be an only child. We again relied upon the generosity of our family, and humbled ourselves to the stacks of forms, fingerprints, and background checks that is the adoption process and signed ourselves up again. But this time it wasn’t a matter of months, as we’d been lucky enough with Max. It was nearly a year and a half. You might just imagine our elation and our relief when we got a call last May telling us that we’d been chosen to be the parents of a healthy, baby, girl.

Ruby Jane Ring is four months old and had events not transpired as they did, exactly as they did, she wouldn’t be with us. And that’s another scenario I can’t fathom.

So what’s the point, Mr. Ring? I am glad you’re doing okay now, but what’s this got to do with me? My life? Well, one day, if it hasn’t already happened, life is going to punch you in the gut and then kick you in the teeth. Sadly, the question isn’t if, it’s when, how hard, and how often. But the more important question is how will you respond?  

Listen, I didn’t make lemonade out of lemons, it’s not that trite. Challenges, no matter how humbling, traumatic, or seemingly unfair, are opportunities for growth. It’s like muscles that have to be torn to grow stronger, or lungs that have to burn with effort before you can breathe easier. Life’s hurdles, they beg you to jump - jump right in, if you will.

I haven’t been at Pomfret long - but I’ve been present in enough chapel talks to know we all face tests and I know about the strength of the individuals who comprise this community and of this community as a whole.

Let me be clear. I’ve not gotten past what’s happened. It’s fixed inside of me. Often when I’m in this chapel, listening to senior talks, Mr. Fisher or other chapel speakers, there’s better than a 50% chance I’ll tear up. And sometimes, it’s not just for the obvious reasons. When I watch student dancers embracing the moment. When I see a student sing a solo, or play an instrument. When I spot an instant where one of you students has a moment of real growth, I find myself welling up with … unguarded emotion, I guess? Is it joy, sadness, pride, melancholy, hope, love? It’s all of that. It’s a celebration of life - your rich and promising lives. But there’s some grief, too.

Grief for Leo who won’t one day give his own Senior Chapel talk.

And that’s kind of what life is like - at least to me right now. It’s a mixture of tremendous gifts - Linda, Max, Leo, Ruby, and each of you, this community that gives so freely, so easily. And it’s also periods of great iniquity. Life is unfair. You won’t always get what you deserve.  

So here’s your challenge, my challenge - our challenge:

Be grateful for every moment. Try not to regret the past. Or worry about the future. Do not forget that you are lucky, no matter how unlucky you may occasionally - or even persistently feel.

And while life will assuredly not go according to plan, be open - be very, very open to where it takes you. It’s a weird and wondrous thing.

***********************

Dave got a standing ovation after giving that talk, which was delivered more than  ten years ago, not long after Dave began working at the Pomfret School. Many in the audience were moved to tears; so was I when I re-read it. Dave is in his early 50s now, and here’s what my boy looks like today:


And here is a photo of Dave, Linda, Max and Ruby Jane, as they look today.


I think you can now see why I am so proud of my son, and I hope you have enjoyed getting to know him and his wife as well as their three children.

February 3, 2024

What We Are Now Learning About What Really Happens At Death, But Not Just More About NDEs


I just watched a fascinating video that I found on PMH Atwater’s latest newsletter.  Once I saw it, I knew I would want to share it with you because it makes a perfect follow-up to my long blog on NDEs.

It runs about 45 minutes and is narrated by Dr. Sam Parnia who is one of the most prominent physicians to study what happens when we die.  He is of course thoroughly familiar with NDEs, but the first part of his video deals with what we are now learning about what actually tales place at and immediately after death, and how brain functioning can sometimes be restored after we die biologically.  The first part of the video also features a slew of other doctors who are giving us a new view of death, which is absolutely mind-blogging.  This video is really about the new frontier in after-death studies.

The second half of the video then does seguĂ© into a number of accounts of NDEs that pretty much follow the pattern I described in my last blog.  But when you hear the voices of these NDErs, they are so much more impactful than just reading about NDEs.  In this segment, my good friend and longtime colleague, Dr. Bruce Greyson, is also featured as one of the principal narrative voices.

Overall, this video is sure to give you lots to think about, so if you can make the time to watch it, I guarantee you will not be disappointed.  On the contrary, you will be stimulated to learn what these eminent physicians (and other scholars) have discovered about mortality.  It’s not what you think!

Rethinking Death: Exploring What Happens When We Die
By Parnia Lab at NYU Langone Health

January 25, 2024

What You Can Expect to Experience When You Die: Revelations from Some Extraordinary NDErs


“And death, which alike levels all, alike impresses all with a last revelation, 
which only an author from the dead could adequately tell.” 

[Author’s Advisory: This blog is very long, but to get the most out of it, I strongly suggest that you try to read it at one sitting when you will not be interrupted.]

Actually, it’s misleading to suggest that anyone can tell you what you will experience when you die. Despite the title of this blog, I would never be so presumptuous. But what I can tell you is what some remarkable NDErs have to say about what they experienced once they passed through the portals into the house of death. As you read their accounts, I think you will agree that their revelations are so astonishingly mind-blowing as to leave you speechless with wonder. Be prepared vicariously to enter into a world that is utterly beyond anything you have known on earth. If you can absorb this, I can virtually guarantee it will stun you to learn what may await you – if you are as lucky as some of the people whose experiences you will be reading about shortly.

In writing this narrative of what you can expect when you die, I will be drawing on the testimonies of a number of NDErs, most of whom I know personally, but my chief source will be a German woman named Anke Evertz, the author of a remarkable book entitled Nine Days of Eternity. You will learn a great deal about her story as we proceed. Also, there will be many quotes in this blog from these NDErs, some of them long extracts, for who is more qualified than they to play the role of Melville’s “authors from the dead?”

Now, with this preamble dispatched, let’s begin this long journey into the afterlife.

One of the first things that many people report when they suffer an event that brings about a near-death crisis is a very definite sense that they have left their physical body. Not only that, but they often report that they can see it from an outside perspective. This is what happened to Anke, as she relates in her book:
A feeling of detachment came over me and from that pivotal moment on, there were two of me, and I felt barely any connection to my physical body.

Suddenly, as if I’d been catapulted out of my body, I was able to see myself from the outside. One second, I was in my body and the next I’d become detached from it, although I was still fully conscious and alert … I was experiencing it all from a spot some six feet away from my body.
This experience soon led to a feeling of tremendous exhilaration, freedom and the thrill of being fully alive:
I felt no connection to my body whatsoever; it didn’t even feel like it belonged to me. It was as if my body itself was home to all the pain, sadness and heaviness of the past few years of my life, whereas I finally felt free of it all, unburdened at last. I couldn’t remember ever feeling so free and light. I was like a bird that’s’ spent its life in a tiny cage and has suddenly been set free … but all the time, l was feeling more alive than ever in my limitless, bodiless state.
Here, we have to pause to reflect on the meaning of Anke’s initial experience of being in a bodiless state. This aspect of NDEs often does not receive the consideration it deserves because of the emphasis that is usually given to what comes afterward.

But here’s the first thing you need to take in. You are not just your body. You exist in a dual form. There is your physical body, but you learn in an NDE that there is more to you than that. You also are a soul, or, if you prefer, a spirit, and indeed that is what you really are.

This is the first lesson you learn in an NDE.

And here things get complicated because of language, which will force us to take a brief detour from the journey that Anke has just embarked on.

Many people who have NDEs make a point of saying that words can never capture their experience. That it is, in essence, ineffable, something that eludes our ordinary language. Here we have to remember that our ordinary language is body-based. While in your body, you are limited in time and space and feel yourself to be separate from the world outside yourself. But when you are out of your body, you see that this is an illusion. When you are out of your body, you are boundless; you no longer live in time, but in eternity, which is not everlasting time, but timelessness itself. In your body-based consciousness, you can only speculate about the afterlife. When you are out of your body, you just know.

Not everyone who enters into death is aware of leaving their body in the way that Anke did. Some simply find that they have left time and entered eternity, as happened to one of my good friends named Joe Geraci who told me this:
It was a total immersion in light, brightness, warmth, peace, security. I did not have an out-of-body experience. I did not see my body or anyone about me. I just immediately went into this beautiful, bright light. It’s difficult to describe; as a matter of fact, it’s impossible to describe. Verbally, it cannot be expressed. It's something that becomes you and you become it. I could say, “I was the peace, I was love.” I was the brightness, it was part of me … You just know. You’re all-knowing – and everything is a part of you … It’s just so beautiful.

It was eternity. It’s like I was always there and I will always be there, and that my existence on earth was just a brief instant.
There is a lot to unpack here. To begin with, can you imagine what it must feel like to see your entire life as if it were just a brief flicker in time? But this is what Joe realized when he was able to view his life from the perspective of eternity. Joe also makes it clear that there was no way that mere words could ever convey his experience. When you exist in eternity, you are unbound from space and time and your body, but our ordinary language is constrained by and structured in a spatial and temporal framework. Only when you leave ordinary language at the door can you begin to appreciate the nature of eternity, your true home. Finally, though this is only implied by Joe’s account, you still retain your sense of personal identity, but what you are is so much more than the limited local self you call your ego.

Now we come to the most important thing I have to tell you about the afterlife. This will require a little background first.

Not to brag, but my book, Life at Death, which I published in 1980, is now regarded as the first major scientific investigation of NDEs. It followed directly from Raymond Moody’s groundbreaking book, Life After Life, which gave us the term, “the near-death experience.” In my book, I found quite a few instances, as had Moody, when a respondent indicated that he or she had been aware of a “Presence” or sometimes just “a voice.” But whatever it was, it was something that was able to communicate telepathically to the individual.  

At the time, I failed to appreciate just how important this Presence (as I shall call it from now on) was or just what it was. But I can tell you now that it holds the key to the mystery of the NDE. And in what follows, I will attempt to unlock the door to the afterlife. For this purpose, I will first draw on the experience of Anke and afterward on that of another NDEr I know very well.

Here, then, to begin with, is a long extract from Anke as she tries to describe her encounter with the Presence once she becomes aware of it:
‘Everything is OK, Anke.’ A soft, melodious voice carried through the room.

Startled, I turned in the direction that I thought the voice was coming from and saw a radiant figure smiling invitingly at me. It was as high as the ceiling and the light it emanated was so indescribably bright that I could barely make out a body. I stood spellbound beside the bed [clearly out of her body] for what felt like an eternity staring at the figure.

I’d never seen anything so beautiful. This figure made of soft celestial light had the power to change everything it touched…

The figure, the presence, was more than just light, and more than a spectrum of colors … I sensed that the figure was emanating a somewhat masculine energy. I immediately felt safe and protected because it felt as if he knew me.

‘All your questions will be answered …’ As the figure came closer still, I could feel myself being drawn into his luminous energy field.
 
I had the extraordinary sense that I was no longer bound by structure of material density. It was like an inner liberation, and I felt a happiness that I’d never experienced in my life. I felt completely safe embedded in this energy field, in this unlimited space bound by a great unconditional love … I felt freer and lighter and more alive than ever before. 

I could not only see this light but also feel it and experience it in all my senses. It felt limitless, as if it was coming from nowhere and everywhere at the same time. The light brought out in me overwhelming yet glorious feelings and sensations.
It's the light of a living, universal consciousness that pervades everything in existence. It makes you feel a complete, pure and unconditional love – none of the emotions we experience as human beings come close to it.

Other people are aware of speeding at a tremendous rate toward the golden light in which the Presence is to be found. This is the kind of experience that happened to a good friend of mine, who became one of the best known NDErs in the early days of my research. I would like to say that it was I who discovered Tom Sawyer (yes, that was his actual name – another story for another day), but it was really the other way around. Tom had discovered me by reading my first NDE book, Life at Death. After that, he made contact with me and came to visit me at “The Near-Death Hotel” in Connecticut. That visit changed both of our lives, and we remained good friends until Tom died several years ago.  

Here is what Tom told me about his experience of dying as he sped toward the light:
Then all this time, the speed is increasing … Gradually, you realize … you're going [at] least the speed of light. It might possibly be the speed of light or possibly even faster than the speed of light.

You do realize that you're going just so fast and you're covering vast, vast distances in just hundredths of a second …

And then gradually you realize that way, way off in the distance -- again, unmeasurable distance -- it appears that it might be the end of the tunnel. And all you can see is a white light … And again, remember that you are traveling at extreme speed. [But] this whole process only takes … [say] one minute and again emphasizing that you might have traveled to infinity, just an unlimited number of miles.

You then realize that you are coming to the end of this tunnel and that this light is not just a brilliance from whatever is at the end of the tunnel - it's an extremely brilliant light. It's pure white. It's just so brilliant. . .

And then, before you is this – excuse me [he pauses here] - is this most magnificent, just gorgeous, beautiful, bright, white or blue-white light [another pause]. It is so bright, it is brighter than a light that would immediately blind you, but this absolutely does not hurt your eyes at all … It is so bright, so brilliant, and so beautiful, but it doesn't hurt your eyes. And the next series of events take place - oh, within a millisecond, they take place -- more or less all at once, but of course in describing them I'll have to take them one at a time.

The next sensation is this wonderful, wonderful feeling of this light … It's almost like a person. It is not a person, but it is a being of some kind. It is a mass of energy. It doesn't have a character like you would describe another person, but it has a character in that it is more than just a thing. It is something to communicate to and acknowledge. And also in size, it just covers the entire vista before you. And it totally engulfs whatever the horizon might be….

Then the light immediately communicates to you … This communication is what you might call telepathic. It's absolutely instant, absolutely clear. It wouldn't even matter if a different language was being spoken … whatever you thought and attempted to speak, it would be instant and absolutely clear. There would never be a doubtful statement made.

The first thing you're told is, "Relax, everything is beautiful, everything is OK."
...You're immediately put at absolute ease. It's the most comfortable feeling that you could ever imagine. You have a feeling of absolute, pure love. It's the warmest feeling. [But] make sure you don't confuse it with warm in temperature, because there's no temperature involved. Whatever your senses would feel absolute perfect - if it's temperature, it's a perfect temperature. If it's either an exciting emotion or a placid emotion, it's just perfect and you feel this and you sense this. And it's so absolutely vivid and clear.
Then the thing is, the light communicates to you and for the first time in your life … is a feeling of true, pure love. It can't be compared to the love of your wife, the love of your children, or some people consider a very intense sexual experience as love and they consider [it] possibly the most beautiful moment in their life - and it couldn't even begin to compare. All of these wonderful, wonderful feelings combined could not possibly compare to the feeling, the true love. If you can imagine what pure love would be, this would be the feeling that you'd get from this brilliant white light.

************************

What is this Presence? Raymond Moody called it “a being of light,” and I think that’s still a pretty good generic description of this Presence. But Tom is clear, and so is Anke, that it is not a person, and has never been one. Indeed, the Presence tells Anke: “I’m much more than you think. I’m not a person or an individual entity. I’m part of you … I’m connected to everything that makes you what you are.” What it appears to be is your True Self, which is how Anke sometimes refers to it, though most of the time she just calls it her “nameless teacher.”

What is most stunning to learn about this Presence whatever it be, is that it seems to be omniscient about you. It knows your innermost thoughts, it knows your history, not only from your present life, but has knowledge of the innumerable lives you have already lived. In the deepest and most undeniable sense, the Presence is who you really are.

Not only that, but as it conveys to Anke, it has always been with her.

But just here, we must pause again to clarify a confusion about language. Words like “always” and “never” are adverbs that relate to a temporal dimension of our embodied life. However, the Presence doesn’t live in time, but in eternity. So when he says he has always been with her, he is forced to use a linguistic expression out of convenience that is not accurate. 

Her nameless teacher has “always” been there throughout all of her lives. Some sample quotes:
“I’m always there.”

This light had always been by my side.

Just when I felt I’d identified a beginning and end of my current life, my teacher unveiled further glimpses of the countless other lives that I’d already lived, repeating with a smile, ‘I’m always there.’

In every one of my incredibly different lives, my teacher’s unmistakable golden light had been by my side. 
This is true for you, too. Each of us has a Presence, a being of light, that has “always” been with us throughout the eternity of our being. We are never alone and never without the Presence’s benevolent guidance. However, it can usually only manifest to us in conditions of bodily extremity, such as when we undergo a near-death crisis.

What follows are some of the teachings that Anke’s Presence conveys to her so that she can better understand the nature of reality from the standpoint of her life as an eternal being:
As soon as you think a thought, everything that it entails is thought into existence simultaneously. When a question arises, so do all its possible answers.

Time as we know it in the material world is completely absent – everything is happening right now and therefore all at once. We labor under the illusion that a past and future exist … The soul isn’t subject to space and time. 

Our soul stores all our experiences from previous lives, and it knows our higher purpose and path, our current life plan and its challenges – and the solution to those challenges – that come with it. 

I felt his infinite wisdom, his endless compassion, and all that I imagine goodness to be. But the most wonderful thing was the incredible love he had for me. I’d never felt so loved, and in such an unconditional, appreciative, and personal way.  

[He] began to teach me using the universal language of telepathy … He knew what I was thinking before I thought it, and the answers I received from him were often so extensive, complete and multilayered that understanding them pushed me to the edge of comprehension. 

The first thing he showed me was a review of my life to date. I was shown that even insignificant events had been a piece in a bigger picture and found that I could identify a deeper meaning behind incidents I’d long forgotten about.
Anke sees everything all at once [no time] as if projected on a large screen and experiences what she felt and thought during these scenes. There ensues a long discussion of her life review, and it’s clear that one has a life plan and a purpose, just as all of us do.

She is shown “scenes from the countless past lives that she [and her mother] had spent together. Sometimes her mother in this life is her brother in a past life, etc. Ditto for her father. She sees how they have all been connected … Indeed, all of the people in her life now were a part of this tapestry. “From this perspective, all these individuals were like the cast in the film of my life, in which I played a leading role.” 

Every situation we encounter in our lives … is in accordance with a higher purpose … Everything that happens is part of a perfectly formulated plan.

************************

Tom Sawyer’s narrative tells us a very similar story:
The second most magnificent experience … is you realize that you are suddenly in communications with absolute, total knowledge. It's hard to describe … You can think of a question … and immediately know the answer to it. As simple as that. And it can be any question whatsoever. It can be on any subject. It can be on a subject that you don't know anything about, that you are not in the proper position even to understand and the light will give you the instantaneous correct answer and make you understand it. . .

Needless to say, I had many questions answered, many pieces of information given to me, some of which is very personal, some of which is religiously orientated … one of the religious-orientated questions was in regards to an afterlife and this was definitely answered through the experience itself … There's absolutely no question in my mind that the light is the answer. Upon entering that light … the atmosphere, the energy, it's total pure energy, it's total knowledge, it's total love, pure love everything about it is definitely the afterlife, if you will.
Tom concludes this account with a statement clearly implied by what he had already described; it is a recurrent motif in many NDE narratives:
As a result of that [experience], I have very little apprehension about dying my natural death … because if death is anything, anything at all like what I experienced, it's gotta be the most wonderful thing to look forward to, absolutely the most wonderful thing.
************************

We come, finally, to the last of the revelations that Anke’s Presence is prepared to disclose to her. And when you learn what it is, you may be bowled over and stupefied or simply incredulous or possibly dismayed. But like a character in a Hermann Hesse novel, you are about to learn the secrets of this cosmic magician, who has been conducting this tour of the afterlife for Anke. But what Anke now experiences is how the Presence can change his form at will, and how the realities in the afterlife are created. And most astonishing of all, that she can do it, too. She again becomes aware of the Presence’s golden-yellow energy field, and then, for the first time, he shows himself as a human body:
Never had I gazed into such loving eyes; they made me feel as if they knew me inside out. Whole worlds were reflected in them – they were like a gateway to the universe and far beyond.

Then, with a slight movement of his fingers, the Presence transforms himself into a little boy, then with a snap of his fingers, we were in a beautiful garden. Then, he snapped his fingers, and a beguiling beautiful woman appeared … although the word “beautiful” barely begins to describe her. She wore a long dress bathed in light with a delicate golden belt. Countless sparking diamonds formed each strand of her long golden-blonde hair. But the most striking thing about her was the large sparkling diamond on her forehead, which shimmered in all colors.

The woman’s warm-hearted gaze expressed everything that we humans try to put a name to using terms like love, wisdom, and truth. All of this was united in her. “Let me show you reality,” I heard her say as our surroundings transformed once more … We were on a snowy mountain top.

“These are all reality,” Anke. Reality is a creative process that’s continually drawing on itself and creating itself anew in each moment. This continuous re-creation is a playful, curious and wholly conscious process …

The Presence returns and undergoes more transformations. He showed himself as Jesus, the Buddha, a Native American chief, a bear.
************************

So to quote from a famous Beatles’ album, what we learn from “this magical mystery tour” is that the Presence which manifests as the Light and that exudes a LOVE that is beyond compare can appear in any form it wishes. And we can also now understand is that the afterlife is a mind-built world, ever-changing, and responsive to our own background, desires, interests and creative impulses.  

Another good example of the ability of the Presence to change forms at will in response to our character and background is provided by the late Mellen-Thomas Benedict, whom I first met in 1981. I would later write about him in my book, Lessons from the Light. Here is what he told me:
The Light kept changing into different figures, like Jesus, Buddha, Krishna, mandalas, archetypal images and signs. I asked the Light, “What is going on here? Please, Light, clarify yourself for me. I really want to know the reality of the situation.” I cannot really say the exact words, because it was sort of telepathy.

The Light responded. The information transferred to me was that your beliefs shape the kind of feedback you are getting before the Light. If you were a Buddhist or Catholic or Fundamentalist, you get a feedback loop of your own stuff. You have a chance to look at it and examine it, but most people do not. As the Light revealed itself to me, I became aware that what I was really seeing was our Higher Self matrix.

We all have a higher Self, or an oversoul part of our being. It revealed itself to me in its truest energy form. The only way I can really describe it is that the being of the higher Self is more like a conduit.
This helps us to understand that certain features in NDE accounts are not what they appear to be. For example, when people who have an NDE report meeting and being embraced by Jesus, it’s not what it seems. Instead, it’s the Presence that manifests in that form, a form that makes sense to the individual who experiences him in that way. I don’t think there has ever been an NDE in which Jesus identifies himself as such; people just intuitively identify the Presence as Jesus. He knows what moves our hearts.

Another example of how the Presence can transform itself into any one of a number of forms has just been brought to my attention by my webmaster, Kevin Williams. It concerns a very unusual case of multiple NDEs that all occurred at the same time. Here is a brief account that Kevin sent to me:
May Eulett was struck by lightning at the same time as her cousin and a friend. All of them appeared in each other’s NDE (a "group" NDE) and experienced the same thing with the exception of some aspects of their NDE. Here is an excerpt:
We saw that the sparkling lights were tiny, transparent bubbles that drifted in the air and sparkled on the grass. We realized that each tiny sparkle was a soul. To me, the valley appeared to be Heaven, but at the same time I knew that James and Rashad were seeing it differently. James saw it as the Gulf of Souls. Rashad saw it as Nirvana, and somehow we knew all this without speaking. The light began gathering at the far end of the valley, and slowly, out of the mist, a pure white being began to materialize. I saw an angel with a strong, bright face, but not like you’d usually imagine. She was closer to a strong, Viking Valkyrie. I knew she was the special angel that watches over the women of my family, and I perceived her name to be Hellena. James saw this same being as his late father, a career Naval officer, in a white dress uniform. Rashad perceived the being to be the Enlightened One, or Buddha.
Soon Anke learns how to create her own reality, as if by magic. She first tries to create a Christmas tree and was astonished to find that she could, just by imagining it.
A small, beautifully formed Christmas tree stood before me. It was the first thing that had come into my mind … I only had to think of a Christmas tree and there it was (as real as my teacher was). 

It was pure magic. One after another, a multicolored umbrella, a streetlamp, a pond with a rowboat and every animal imaginable all appeared. 

Her teacher says, “You create your own reality with your thoughts.”
Anke is not the only NDEr who has described the wonder of creating your own environment after you die. One of my very good friends is PMH Atwater, who has had three NDEs, and is a very popular author of many very worthwhile books on NDEs. Her latest book, Edge Walker, is her autobiography. In it, you will find this ebullient description of what she discovered during one of her NDEs. 
First, I decided to create and shape a house, a specific type of house. Exact details were fixed in my mind – seeing each part, noting proportions, readying myself to project to what seemed as if a definitive space in front of me. I then released that thought. I held true to my goal and there it was, the same house I had envisioned. I ran to it, at least it seemed as if I did. I kicked the foundation, opened and shut windows, stomped across the green floor of the front porch, fingered the brass doorknob, gave a slap to each of the three porch pillars.  As near as I could tell, this was the four-square white house with steeply pitched roof that I had envisioned. Right here. Right in front of me. Real! 

For something animate, I chose to create a large oak tree complete with huge gnarled roots, a canopy of limbs, leaves and birds and fliers of all types. Each detail was pictured in my mind, then I aimed for a particular spot some distance away. Presto! It happened! Not only was the tree beautiful, it was complete with individual leaves, textured bark, and insect holes. 

I proved it! A human such as myself could create from scratch. Thoughts are things!

On a binge of non-stop creation, cities took form, along with people, dogs, cats, trash cans, alleys, telephone poles, schools, books, pencils, cars, roads, lawns, birds, flowers, shrubbery, rain, suns, clouds, rivers. And everything moved on its own and had breath, noise, language. All manner of activity occurred aside and apart from anything I designed - then went about their own business according to their own pleasure and perception. 

And Jesus: I wanted so much to see him. I wanted to thank him for the role he played in history and the examples he gave for others to follow. His life and mastery of being had deeply affected me. Instantly he was there. No, there was no sense or need to bow down and worship him as if he were some kind of God figure. He was my elder brother whom I had not seen for a long, long time. The mood was joyous. We laughed and hugged. I expressed the thanks held deep within me.  
*********************

Our tour of the afterlife must end here, not because there isn’t much more to our lives after death, but because we cannot go further. You have to remember that NDErs like Anke, Joe, Tom, Mellen-Thomas and PMH have only entered the vestibule of the house of death after which they return to their time-bound physical bodies on earth.

We know there is more, that there must be more, and that eventually most of us will find ourselves having to reincarnate after having been shown what kind of life and challenges we need for our soul’s growth after which we find the mother whose womb awaits us. And then, down the chute we go into another life. Life after life.

January 16, 2024

The Revenge of the Orcas


Several years ago, I wrote a blog about orcas, who are often referred to as “killer whales, “although, confusingly, they are actually a species of large-bodied dolphins. They’re just whale-sized denizens of the ocean. In fact, they are the largest species of dolphins in the world. They can range in size from 23 to 32 feet and can weigh up to 6 tons!  

In my blog, I told a number of stories about how these orcas who appear to have a kind of telepathy had helped to rescue people whose boats had got into trouble or whose owners had become lost and disoriented in the fog. Typically, a group of orcas would suddenly appear and somehow “knew” where the owners of the boats lived and would escort them to their ports and safety. There was even an instance when a pod of orcas all at once stopped feeding and swam to a location where they found a woman who was drowning and saved her life. (It later turned out that the woman had attempted suicide.) Indeed, such stories are well known among marine biologists who have studied the behavior of orcas.

This is perhaps one of the most paradoxical things about killer whales. Despite the fact that they have been hunted down and savagely slaughtered by humans for many years, not only do they not respond in kind, but only with kindness itself. As the naturalist and ecologist Carl Safina, who has studied orcas extensively, remarks, “The fact is, killer whales seem capable of random acts of kindness.” However, I don’t think that’s quite accurate. Their acts of kindness are not random; they are targeted and deliberate. Furthermore, as deadly as these orcas can be in hunting down their prey, there has never been a recorded instance of orcas in the wild harming, much less killing, a human being.

But perhaps this is changing. Consider, for example, the following case that comes from a recent article in The New Yorker:
On the night of May 4th, the skipper Werner Schaufelberger was sailing the Swiss yacht Champagne toward a Spanish port town on the Strait of Gibraltar when he heard a loud rumble. His first thought was that the boat had hit something, but he quickly realized that the vessel was under assault—by a group of orcas. “The attacks were brutal,” Schaufelberger told the German magazine Yacht. Three orcas, the large black-and-white dolphins also known as killer whales, worked in tandem; a large orca rammed the boat from the side while two smaller ones gnawed at the rudder until it was destroyed and the yacht was taking on water. Schaufelberger radioed for help, and the Spanish Coast Guard sent a helicopter and rescue cruiser to collect the four people on board. None were injured. The only casualty was the Champagne itself, which sank while being towed toward land.
This not an isolated incident either. These attacks, which started in 2020, have continued and, if anything, have become more numerous as well as more vicious. The orcas involved in these deliberate assaults near the Strait of Gibraltar comprise a group about fifteen individuals who generally work as a team. They seem to have sunk three boats (and attacked others) in 2020, and according to the article in The New Yorker, 
The orcas have continued their disruptions—with encounters happening almost every day in May and June … One sailor said that the orcas had playfully thrashed his boat around “like a rag doll,” removed the rudders, and left him marooned for days.
A captain of a boat reported an original attack three years ago, and said that recently they had honed their strategy and had detached both of his ship’s rudders. In late October, several of these orcas spent more than an hour battering another yacht off the Moroccan coast. Eventually, the crew had to be rescued.

It is as if these orcas have become a kind of seafaring mafia, and as one wag put it, they are now engaged in orca-nized crime.


Why is this happening now? Why have the orcas, at least in this area, turned savage whereas before they seemed benevolently disposed toward humans and, as I said, were known to rescue them from perilous situations. But lately, they seem to be willfully and maliciously causing these dangerous and indeed life-threatening rampages. How come?

Various authors and lay persons have already proposed several theories, and there is not as yet any consensus on the matter, certainly not among experts. However, it is hard to avoid speculating on the matter, and what I will offer here is only my own hypothesis.

To begin with, it’s known that a particular adult female, dubbed White Gladis, was involved in many of these incidents, with others who were mostly juveniles. Some have suggested that White Gladis had been injured by a boat or by fishing equipment, and was attacking the vessels because she had learned to see them as a threat. That’s at least a plausible possibility.

But perhaps more telling is the fact that these Iberian orcas are critically endangered. It appears that there are only about forty of these orcas still alive. I don’t know how many have already died, but we can guess who is responsible for what is assuredly a sharp reduction in their ranks. 

Even when I was writing years ago about the orcas in the Pacific Northwest, it was already clear that their numbers were in precipitous decline owing to various factors, but certainly the toxicity of the oceans and the navy’s use of punishing sonar were among the main causes. And it is now well known, and I’ve written about this, too, that our oceans are full of crap, plastics, fishing nets, and all sorts of debris that are harmful to marine life. We human beings are very good at poisoning our environment, including the oceans. Now the alpha-predator of the planet, we also have a talent for extinguishing most varieties of megafauna, and the climate change crisis we are all experiencing will only accelerate that dreadful and lamentable trend. 

Orcas are very smart creatures. They have to live in the marine environment most of us only see from the surface. They can tell which way the sea winds are blowing and smell the rotten stench that is beginning to pervade their waters, to say nothing of the dangerous debris that they now must encounter and try to evade. And surely, being the savvy and telepathic animals that they are, they know who is responsible, so that when pleasure-loving yachtsmen, who may be oblivious to all the undersea dangers orcas have to confront daily, come with their boats, what can they expect? And who else can the orcas attack, anyway? So it’s easy to imagine the boat strikes as acts of defense by a group facing existential threat. In short, all this may well represent the revenge of the orcas. 

Although this is my own provisional interpretation, I am far from alone in suggesting it. And while this is a serious matter, regardless of its cause, it can also be the fodder for a kind of playful whimsey as the author of the article in The New Yorker points out: 
A world away from the Strait of Gibraltar, at the Minnesota State Fair, a crop-art contest got so many political-orca entries, one observer noted that “‘Let orcas eat the rich’ was literally an entire subgenre.” It was a tidal wave of cheeky projection: the orcas were comrades, applauded for a revolutionary uprising, striking a blow for climate justice one yacht at a time.
Still, until recently, such incidents have been rare, and so far as I know, they have been narrowly localized to the Iberian area. Nevertheless, they could signal a disturbing trend that we should be alert to monitor. After all, although no orcas in the wild have been known to kill human beings, several orcas kept in captivity and trained to perform at marine amusement parks have attacked their human trainers. One named Tilikum actually killed three people. When aroused and mistreated, they can turn deadly.

All the same, in the interest of balance, I have to mention that some marine biology experts have been warning against the dangers of anthromorphizing the behavior of orcas. No matter what may underlie the attacks, these experts aren’t buying the kind of interpretation I have proffered in this blog: “It is,” they write, “unfounded and potentially harmful to the animals to claim it is for revenge for past wrongs or to promote some other melodramatic storyline.”

And yet … As the author of The New Yorker article, concludes:  
Can you blame us, though? We love charismatic megafauna. And orcas, in particular, have rizz … Orcas occupy a sweet spot in terms of how humans see wildlife: they’re captivatingly alien, but the presence of trained orcas in film and amusement parks has taught us to think of them in relation to our own culture—often as a symbol for nature reacting to human overreach. When such creatures start ramming the boats associated with the rich, it’s natural to want to connect the dots.
Well, you know how I connect them. What about you?  Let me know….