Although it is Jonah and the big fish/whale, and not Brett's whale, it was Brett's inference as to the meaning of being swallowed by a whale that inspired this commentary. (See Brett Lamb's blog post 1/22/12 "The whale has swallowed me".
Brett explains that to have the feeling of being swallowed by the whale is something "akin to fate", though it is not a desire to die nor the pain of mortality. Rather, "It is instead the simple feeling we all have in the deeps of our stomachs that there is something going on that we cannot quite put our fingers on...the truth that no man, woman or child can quite describe or grasp in language alone."
The notion of fate we know as a fixed set of events for the future. The notion of something bigger than ourselves is much less prescribed and can be as simple as a quality of humility--submitting to the ideal of family or a community. It can also be deeper, believing in an ideal that has intelligence and subsequently power to affect our lives in significant if not all-encompassing ways. Whether one believes in a predestined life or more broadly a life in which there is an affecting body of person, state, ideal or supreme being(s)...there is still a notion of something existing inseparable from our life...we are not alone.
The next concept to note is that the intelligence other than ourselves (free-willed or not) is not always known. In fact as decades progress it seems more and more would refer to this intelligence as the unknown. Brett alludes to this as that which we can't put our fingers on, that which we have no words to describe. Though artists and poets may reach for the existential to inspire them, many others may feel that being swallowed by the whale can be disorienting or even scary. Most people want to have control over their lives. To feel that their life is being moved, out of their control, or at least under the varying influence of another, can seem to them like a wild sea creature is eating them whole without a moment to escape. Being swallowed by a whale is not a positive experience.
I offer another perspective. The swallowing whale is a fact of life--being overcome, without warning, by a darkness. We get overwhelmed. We transition into new phases of our life--adjusting to new people, new environments, new and unfamiliar anything-- adjustments that are like having to be born again, finding our way unclear of our path. Some experience depression. Sometimes we simply feel lost. Even the most elevated and positive thinkers can find themselves tested or challenged to prove themselves over darkness and back into light.
Whatever metaphor the swallowing whale serves, I venture to claim the purpose of being swallowed is all the same. The purpose being--to be brought closer to that which you seek. This kind of darkness that is cast upon people means that they were previously in light. Thus, their natural instinct is to find a way out of the darkness and back to the light. Darkness thrusts us in a potential search and discovery process, if we accept the opportunity. Searching can return to us void initially and we can feel hopeless and lost...but eventually the discovery of whatever it is we seek, if we continue looking, emerges, we find our footing and the unknown is less obscure and more understood. So if we feel absorbed by the question of our fate or of the general unknown, the question only begs an answer. We are then engaged in the search for the answer--the answer that will bring us out of the whale. The whale is merely the place we go to search deep within ourselves...even if we don't consciously invite the experience.
Having a different outlook of the purpose of the swallowing whales in our lives...that it actually serves us rather than attacks us...can make for a much different outcome in the experience. Those who feel attacked or absorbed unannounced by something unknown that may be friend or foe are likely to remain stuck in the darkness longer. Take this metaphor: If someone knows there is an exit to a maze they are likely to seek the exit until they find it. If someone does not know there is an exit they most likely won't look for it and thus live in the maze (the darkness of the whale's belly) much longer. Putting whale swallowing experiences in context--varied experiences though they are (some blatantly scarey and disorienting, some more subtly so)-- makes for a different overall life experience. Potentially the difference of having greater peace. Some people live around the challenges of life rather than in conjunction with them. It's all life and each person's life belongs to them in its entirety--whale swallowing experiences and all. Put your finger on that notion...it might make all the difference.