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The natural world. Looking pretty for 3.5b years.

Raffi Lied to Me

Author: Guest Writer/Thursday, September 20, 2012/Categories: Uncategorized

Why Letting Your Imagination Run Away With You is a Good Thing

By Michaela Capps

Growing up in the ‘80s, before Baby Einstein and Baby Mozart, we listened to Raffi every day on the way to school.

My favorite one was always “Baby Beluga.” Sing it with me:

I sang it at school, around the house, around campfires, on hikes, at night trying to make myself fall asleep.

My mom, who was an elementary school teacher, knew how much little kids liked this crap and, at the time, I was convinced she was playing it over and over teach us something. When I caught her listening to it well into my teens, I realized its repetition was never about making us smarter. It was instead about making us happy, happy to imagine a world where these songs are true, where Baby Belugas swim in the deep blue sea, swim so wild and swim so free, heaven above, sea below, just a little white whale on the go. Now I sing it to my nieces to help them fall asleep.

The other day, I read that the beluga whale that inspired this song had died -- a whale named Kavna who lived in the Vancouver Aquarium.

I was heartbroken. I felt like I had lost a childhood friend.

And even worse, she was a friend I hadn’t even known existed. I never knew that Baby Beluga was real.

Since this news, I’ve delved in to learn more about my lost friend. And I learned something important:

Raffi was a big, fat, stinking liar.

Lie #1: Baby Beluga was not even a baby at all.

She was 46 years old! Forty-six! And it’s possible she might have even been older than that. Now, according to my calculations,
that makes Kavna 14 years old in 1980, when Raffi released the song. Hardly a baby. 

Lie #2: Kavna had lived almost her entire life in the Vancouver Aquarium, that is, in captivity. I foolishly believed Raffi that somewhere in the deep blue ocean, there existed an adorable baby whale that was ‘curled up snug in [his] waterbed’ under his Dukes of Hazzard bedspread. I can’t figure out where my brain conjured this setting, I Googled it to death and not one of these kid videos shows anything similar.

I don’t blame Raffi. He’s gone out of his way to note that the song was “inspired” Kavna, not “about” her.

It was my imagination that ran away with me. Obviously whales don’t sleep in waterbeds or play with dolphins. I should’ve realized that long ago. And, even more obviously, parents and kids alike prefer songs about baby animals living perfect lives as opposed to songs about beautiful wild animals being kept in tanks at aquariums. Or songs about how baby beluga whales in the wild have to navigate the Pacific Trash Vortex.

This is just an amazing example of the contrast between how I wish the world was and how it really is.

In fact, I’m part of a whole generation who loved Baby Beluga, seduced by that fiction. Raffi calls us “Beluga Grads,” and he’s urged young people about my age who grew up loving that song to act to turn around environmental degradation, embrace the “precautionary principle” and generally take care of the environment.

And, in that way, a song about a whale (a song that was full of lies) might be doing some actual good.

God bless my mom for instilling this fantastic vision in my head. Idyllic stories of pristine nature always made me happy, and it is one of the last strongholds in the fight against complete adult cynicism.

RIP Baby Beluga, thanks for keeping me young.

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