In this stone, we see a plethora of creatures. I would go so far as to say that this stone represents day six of Creation, as related in chapter one of the Book of Genesis, which is when God created the land animals – cattle, creepy-crawlies, beasts of every kind (domestic and wild animals and insects) – together with man. In the middle of the upper half of this stone is a creepy-crawly, a spider perhaps, its legs outstretched as when it balances on its web. Indeed, slung across the paths of Ithaca are numerous fat spiders waiting on their webs. But there are the faces of other animals, also – I see a happy dog, laughing and playful, barking to receive a ball; a dinosaur looms out of the primitive forest, gone but not forgotten; and there is the figure of a seated child with its shadow, that insubstantial form that follows us about and sometimes takes our attention.
Meanwhile, in language, some Church Fathers claim that at our death our souls will be released from our bodies and have to pass through a series of toll houses as they ascend through the sky. It is as if there is a net slung over the world, preventing our escape, and “net” in reverse reads “ten”, which is the number accorded to humans in the celestial hierarchy, after archangels and angels. How are we to get through this net? Well, we are fortunate in that a net has meshes, those interstices – is that the word? – those gaps in the paper, those gaps of silence, through which, if we are lucky, we can wriggle to our freedom. They are like the tiny pockets of light we glimpse in the leaves of trees when we look upwards, which, if they are caught by the sun, turn into blazes of light that can blind us. This is how I understand Christ when he says that, like camels, we must pass through the eye of a needle. This seems impossible and yet, caught at the right angle, perhaps the eye of a needle is vast. “Net” and “mesh” – they are perfectly connected (steps in the alphabet, m-n and s-t, with the addition of breath, h). So let us not lose heart. If we have our eyes set on the light, we can swim to freedom.