A couple of weekends ago I was invited to go to Seaworld along with my husband and our niece. Our friend, Bill, receives day passes to the theme park as a result of participation in the VA equivalent of the United Way. It’s a yearly event and I look forward to what is inevitably a long but enjoyable day at the park.
Truth be told, my favorite attraction is the underwater dolphin viewing room, complete with its plate glass windows providing front row seats to the dolphins swimming and playing in the artificial lagoon above it. Every time we go there I tell Andy that I want to live there though I’d guess that I’d find that space pretty confining after awhile.
At some level I feel the entire premise of Seaworld is cruel, cramming all those wild animals into confined spaces for the purposes of entertainment of the human animals. No doubt, the dolphins are simply biding their time before they are transported up to the waiting space ships and will tell us "So long. Thanks for the fish" enroute to their new homes. But I am always thankful for the opportunity to see animals up close that I would probably not have a chance to see otherwise and to engage in an intentional appreciation of the beauty of the good Creation for a day. And I assuage my guilty conscience with the belief that Seaworld generally has a reputation of taking good care of their animals and occasionally rescuing injured or sick animals as well.
My 13 year old niece, Grace, is quite the marine biologist. She has two 55 gallon tanks in her bedroom and is a walking Wikipedia when it comes to these fish. As we were walking through the Shark Encounter, the long plexiglass tube which allows people to observe a wide variety of sharks and other large fish, the father of the family ahead of us pointed to a given shark and identified it as a Mako Shark. Misidentified it, actually. Grace immediately piped up and said, “No, that’s not a Mako Shark, it’s a Blue Shark. And there’s a Hammerhead. And over there’s a Tiger Shark.”
Suddenly I realized that it had gotten pretty quiet in the Shark Encounter. Everyone in the tube had stopped talking and had turned around to listen to my little niece who had outed herself as a bit of an expert on marine biology at 13 years of age. That’s my niece, I thought, as I smiled to myself.
Then I noticed that not everyone had been taken in by Grace’s spell. A boy who appeared to be about 16 was with the family in front of us whose comments had set off the impromptu marine biology lesson. He held an iPhone and was furiously texting away. At first I thought perhaps he was texting a friend to share what he was seeing and hearing. But as I watched him move through the remainder of the tunnel and out into the park, I realized he wasn’t seeing or hearing much of anything, he was simply glued to his iPhone.
So here’s this family, all the way from Kalamazoo (or wherever else they had travelled from) here to see one of the world’s greatest marine life parks, surrounded by sharks and other sea animals that most of us will probably never get another opportunity to see. And their kid, whom they’ve paid $91 to get into the park this day, is so busy playing with his electronic toys, his weapons of mass distraction, that he cannot even benefit from being there.
The Rev. Harry Scott Coverston, J.D., Ph.D.
Member, Florida Bar (inactive status)
Priest, Episcopal Church (Dio. of El Camino Real, CA)
Instructor: Humanities, Religion, Philosophy of Law
University of Central Florida, Orlando
If the unexamined life is not worth living, surely an unexamined belief system, be it religious or political, is not worth holding.
Most things of value do not lend themselves to production in sound bytes. ++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++