Intermission: Whales Sing a Song of Compassion

Posted by Nina Lincoff

In an animated short film called Song of the Spindle, Seattle-based illustrator Drew Christie presents an interaction between a human and a whale to show that the two have more in common than one might think.

Among the similarities between humans and whales—the need to nurture their young and travel in family pods—is a microscopic component of the brain called a spindle neuron. Spindle neurons facilitate the transmission of feelings of compassion. It’s that capacity to think outside ourselves that differentiates humans and whales from other creatures. The two species also share the capacity to sing, a fact made famous in Pixar’s animated film Finding Nemo by everyone’s favorite musical fish, Dory the Pacific Blue Regal Tang when she attracts a new whale friend.

After rattling off a list of humanity’s species-centric tendencies, the whale insists that our two best similarities, compassion and music, could be best be used together. Instead of infighting and destruction, the whale says, try a song of compassion.