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What Sea Turtles are Teaching Me About Our Shared Humanity

shutterstock_165527009I first became aware that outer differences do not equal inner differences when I was six.

At the time, we attended a local church, and every so often we had special lessons to teach us about different religious practices.

I don’t remember what the lesson was on this particular day. I only remember that the story (parable) our teacher shared from a different religion sounded just like one of “our” stories, only with different costumes and character names.

I went home and told my mom, “Hey, guess what – our teacher told a story from a different religion but it sounded exactly like ours!”

Mom, busy fixing lunch for a hungry family, simply murmured something suitable and went back to building sandwiches.

But I was transfixed.

Thereafter, I have been on a lifelong search for at least one single shared point of connection common to us all….something tangible and powerful enough to make all the surface differences dissolve to reveal our shared humanity.

As you may know, I also deeply enjoy daily communion with non-human companions. Currently, I have two who share my household – my parrot, Pearl, and my baby tortoise, Malti.

I know a lot about parrots but very little about tortoises, so lately I’ve been reading everything I can get my hands on (which isn’t actually all that much).

My newest read is called “Voyage of the Turtle: in pursuit of the Earth’s last dinosaur,” by Carl Safina.

I will admit I did not expect to find that single point of connection I’ve been searching for these last 37 years in a book about sea turtles, but then all of a sudden there it was. 

In this particular paragraph, smack dab in the middle of page 119, Safina is describing a new companion who has just joined their crew to help search for sea turtles.

“Jim” is a lifelong swordfisherman. He is a professional “spotter” – which basically means he can see swordfish swimming in the ocean when no one else can. Safina writes:

Whether fishing, cooking, even laughing, Jim’s demeanor seems imbued with a heightened awareness, as though he is yearning to be right where he actually is, as though a fishing trip is for Jim one long sacred meditation from which he sucks each moment’s marrow, each interaction’s essence. Jim’s presence is pilgrimage.

Just reading that line – “yearning to be right where he actually is” – it sounds like the whole reason for and point of being alive.

How often do any of us really ever truly LONG to be right where we are? How frequently do we connect so deeply to our present moments that we forget about our past/future hopes, dreams, fears, plans, and predictions?

For me, it is not very often.

Speaking of which, this particular phrase also makes me think of my meditation practice, because the only time I ever feel that particular type of yearning is when I am immersed in meditation.

I have a friend who feels that same way only when he is practicing drums.

Another friend feels this yearning only when she is deeply engaged in reading a book.

And a friend of our family’s once told me the only time he feels totally at peace is when he is walking in nature with his rifle and his dog by his side.

We all look and seem so different on the outside. We have different beliefs and opinions, different lifestyles and habits, different preferences and professions.

But I wonder – do we each and all have something – that “one thing” – which uniquely for us brings forth that yearning to be exactly where we are, that deep desperate gratitude to experience more of the exact same?

Is it this – this sense of complete unity with ourselves in a single present moment –  that truly ties us all together?

Is this the one common experience of truly being alive that we all absolutely share?

I wonder.

Today’s Takeaway: Do you have a “something” you could put in place of the words “fishing trip” in the quote above? How would you complete this sentence: 

… though [you are] yearning to be right where [you] actually [are], as though a ________ is for [your name] one long sacred meditation…..

Turtle image available from Shutterstock.

What Sea Turtles are Teaching Me About Our Shared Humanity

Shannon Cutts

Parrot, tortoise & box turtle mama. Writer. Author. Mentor. Champion of all people (and things) recovered and recovering.

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APA Reference
Cutts, S. (2019). What Sea Turtles are Teaching Me About Our Shared Humanity. Psych Central. Retrieved on February 19, 2020, from


Last updated: 29 Mar 2019
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