Remember the kid in your fifth grade class who gave his book report like he was telling a story about having met MC Hammer (which in those days, was cool)? He acted like the giant squid he researched was his childhood hero, and they got a beer together while hanging out over the weekend. You know the kid I mean. He got so excited about things like dinosaurs, platypus milk glands, parasitic worms, and cuttlefish. In fifth grade, you got sucked in by his enthusiasm. Defying explanation, you were all of a sudden wishing your best friend was the giant squid, and maybe you felt a little jealous that someone else knew more than you.
I miss those days. There was something so magical about sitting in a room, full of your friends, exchanging information. It was rarely practical information. I don’t think I’ll ever bump into a platypus and need to know where its milk glands are, but I love knowing about them. If you’re rolling your eyes…I’m calling you out. You’re going to google platypus milk glands after you’re done reading this. You know you are.
I’m living with the kid in your fifth grade class. The kid who sucks you in, and makes your jaw drop with his cuttlefish facts. Last week, Nathan decided that he was going to give a book report about sperm whales. At first, I was a little disappointed that he wanted to present his book report on our date night. Listening to a sperm whale presentation at the bar of a pizza joint didn’t strike me as romantic, or particularly enjoyable.
Nathan spent his free time that week doing research. On Friday evening he informed me that he wanted to make sure we were comfortable before he started his presentation. I had no idea how long he planned on lecturing, so I agreed that we should probably order our food and drinks before he began.
And then, something magical happened. He started telling me about how sperm whales are the largest mammal with teeth, the animal with the largest brain, the deepest divers, their clicking vocalization is the loudest sound made by any animal, they can communicate across entire oceans, and they can hold their breath for up to 90 minutes. Did you know that sperm whales can dive to a depth of two miles? That they feed primarily on giant squid? Or that the annual consumption of marine life by sperm whales surpasses the annual consumption of seafood for the entire human race? Males can grow to be sixty feet long. Their heads can account for up to a third of their body length. I could go on…but I don’t want to overwhelm you.
That night, Nathan reminded me how much I love learning. As adults, I think we get caught up in a very specific pattern of learning. Like – what our political parties are doing, what our finances are doing, what classes we need to get our masters degree, what software we need for our jobs, what TV shows will entertain us. We forget that knowing about the world, the amazing things that happen every day, is worth our time. It helps our minds remain flexible and creative. It makes us interesting and interested.
If your date nights are starting to bore you, I highly recommend pulling out the Britannica for inspiration. Book reports are in.
For a sample of some sperm whale clicking, check the link below