Shark Bait: Humble Pie

 I’m not sure how and when I became so fascinated with sharks. It’s possible that watching Jaws 1,2 & 3 as a child peaked my interest (insert theme song here!). I also watched the movie Deep Blue Sea (another ridiculous plot about sharks who become more intelligent than humans…which is surprisingly SO entertaining). I still remember swimming at the lake when I was younger, hoping I wouldn’t get eaten by the viscous sharks lurking in all that fresh water… There is something intriguing about these creatures of the deep. Something which draws me in.


National Geographic Photo by Brian Skerry

So what is it about these sharks that is so interesting? After all, tons of people are terrified of these man-eating-machines. The shark reputation is far from glamorous. Most people have a tainted view of sharks, their nature, their habits and their behaviors. Its a shame, but sharks have really been given a terrible image from the media.

Personally, I think one of the greatest characteristics of the shark is it’s ability to rule the oceans with such authority. The way it moves, swims, hunts and jumps to catch its prey, is like an artform. Sharks have learned and mastered this art over the centuries, earning their status as top predators on the food chain. For this they are greatly revered, feared, and rightly respected.

In his Encyclical Laudato Si, Pope Francis says the following:

“What is more, Saint Francis, faithful to Scripture, invites us to see nature as a magnificent book in which God speaks to us and grants us a glimpse of his infinite beauty and goodness. “Through the greatness and the beauty of creatures one comes to know by analogy their maker” (Wis 13:5); indeed, “his eternal power and divinity have been made known through his works since the creation of the world” (Rom 1:20)” (#12).

So with this frame of mind, we can also come to a greater understand of God’s goodness, wisdom and beauty through sharks. Sounds wierd, I know!

These creatures (created beings from God) ultimately have a purpose and a design, or else, they would cease to exist. Many believe that a sharks purpose is rooted in a viscous nature; eating people, bearing their rows and rows of sharp teeth, and reeking havoc on the ocean. Some view sharks entirely for the lucrative, highly illegal buisness of shark finning. For more details on the devastating effects of shark finning, I would suggest watching the documentary called ” Sharkwater”..

Of course, one of the main purposes of the shark is to help control and aid in the oceanic ecosystem. Back to grade 3 science, we recognize the importance of the food chain. Each creature, each member of this chain is connection to one another. Remove any part of the chain and it collapses. In a more indirect, but no less valid way, I believe that sharks also show us something about ourselves as humans: our inability to fully understand, predict and rule the spieces of another and our littleness.

Though we may study, observe, track and swim alongside sharks, we can never say that we completely understand them. At the end of the day, this massive thousand pound fish has its own distinct nature, behaviours and characteristics.

For the human, this sort of claim can be taken as an insult. In our pride, we would like to claim full knowledge of any and all given creatures on the earth. We did send man to the moon, right !?

Yes! Humans are incredible. Yes! We should be so proud of our accomplishments. BUT, without God’s grace and goodness, we couldn’t have done it. He has allowed man to uncover some of the greatest gifts of science, medicine, art, engineering, literature…

So, in one sense, looking at sharks can show us the humility that we must find in our humanity. We are still creatures, who serve a Creator. We don’t have every answer. There are mysteries which stretch beyond our understanding. We can’t predict the actions of another.

We fear these great creatures of the deep, because they are mysterious. We fear them, because we don’t understand them completely. We fear them because we can’t control them.

It’s amazing. This is not a negative conclusion at all. When facing the shark species, man is confronted with his own littleness. To be little, is not a weakness. On the contrary, becoming little is recognizing that there is Someone greater than us.

Hmm… Perhaps this shark example is also a parallel to the humility in which man must possess to begin contemplating the great mystery of God…. I’ll let you ponder that one !