Girl Reaching Up to Shelf

This is one of the most precious stones I have found on the beaches of Ithaca. It seemingly depicts a small girl reaching up to place something on or to retrieve something from a shelf. What secret is this? Perhaps something insignificant, but for her it has great value. We enter into her world, where the values are different – something adults often fail to do, imparting knowledge to children they find superfluous. And yet there is more to this stone than that. On the left and right are strange figures. At the bottom right, one figure seems to be sinking into the ground, or rising from it. And there is an elongated cross with its roots in the ground, maintaining the balance, spilling drops of blood on the old man below. Up above, along the top, a question mark. And the whole is looking at us, like the front of a train.


Meanwhile, in language, Christ was given as a ransom for many. He came to translate for us the meaning of life, which is theosis. He became human in order that we might become gods. All he asks from us is a little willingness. The name of God in the Old Testament is AM (this is the name God gives to Moses at the burning bush when he asks who he should say has sent him). AM, of course, is the first and last letters of the Greek alphabet: Alpha and Omega (except the Omega is upside down). Also in “ransom”, apart from AM, we find “son” (the letters are in the middle, rearranged, but clearly visible, I think). So language is telling us that God gave himself a ransom for many in the person of his Son. Another theological connection we might find is between “blood” and “spirit”. How so? Well, first the phonetic pairs b-p, d-t and l-r, and then the vowels i-o, with the addition of s. Blood, spirit. Our first calling may be to our bonds of kinship, the blood that runs through our veins, but we soon discover there is a higher calling, one that makes us members of the body of Christ. Everything is in place, we just need to show a little willingness.


After the figures of a pilgrim (heel-sole) and a tightrope walker, here we have the figure of a skier, also from Gidaki Beach, that cold and yet beautiful beach on the east side of Ithaca, overlooking the mainland, with ferries and the odd cargo ship passing down the strait. The waters turquoise blue, the stones like ink drawings, and we swim round and round the buoy. Meanwhile, this skier is flying through the air, bouncing off the snow, taking advantage of the winter conditions to leap down the slope, in joy, in confidence, his mind on the present, the glistening surface, the hidden stones, and also on what awaits around the corner, the unseen, the treacherous, but gliding on his skis, if he can just keep his balance…


Meanwhile, in language, the Greek word for the underworld, used as a kind of synonym of hell, the place where the souls of the damned must go, is Hades. Isn’t it strange that the letters of this word rearranged should spell “shade”, since this is precisely the abode of the shades, those without bodies, the ones Odysseus meets in his visit to the underworld in Book XI of the Odyssey, who will only speak the truth once they have tasted of the drink offering? Even stranger, perhaps, is that a step in the alphabet will connect “Hades” and “death” (s-t). We do not know where Hades is, but it is meant to be an underworld – under the world – and by another alphabetical pair, r-s, and the phonetic pair d-t we will find “Hades” in “earth” also.

Tightrope Walker

Here we have a tightrope walker walking the line of life, the thread that connects our first breath and our last, which seems sometimes to cross a chasm. It is easy to lose our concentration, to panic, to flail our arms, even to fall. We do not want to look down. So what is it that enables us to stay upright, to continue on the line, to walk the rope? It is, of course, our outstretched arms, the balance of faith. Faith is like the metal pole that funambulists use to keep their balance. It can be heavy, a little awkward even, but when it finds the right position, when we find the right position for it, then our balance is maintained and we make it safely across to the other side.


Meanwhile, in language, let us take a word, any word. Dark, for example. Are words connected? Do they contain information that has been passed down through the centuries, put there by an unknown force, that of language? I think they do. If you know your phonetics, you will see (phonetic pair l-r) that “dark” is “cold” (forget the vowels, they are fluid). If you use the appearance of the letters and turn them around, then “dark” is also “black” (b-d). Opposites attract, and if we are competent, we might see “light” in “dark” (three phonetic pairs, d-t, g-k, l-r, with the addition of h). Turn it around, and we will find “create”. After all, wasn’t the world created in darkness? And here’s my favourite connection. We find the word “dark” in “cradle”. A baby is kept in the dark, so that it can sleep. “Baby” is a step away from the Aramaic word for “father”: “Abba”. In the act of giving birth, language has moved away from the A of creation to the I that signifies the ego in English. I talk about this progression in my books. We have to learn again how to call upon our father, God, who in the Old Testament is also known as El, the two remaining letters in “cradle”.


I see here the figure of a pilgrim putting one foot in front of the other, heading westwards perhaps, a low-lying hill in the background, carrying a backpack, which may be protected by a waterproof. There is a paradox here: the only way we bear fruit is by staying in one place, literally or metaphorically. If we keep moving about, we will not achieve many things, we will flit from one place or activity to another. And yet, at the same time, as humans we are obliged to make progress, to learn from our mistakes, we cannot stay still or rest on our laurels, it seems the ups and downs of life, the blessings and temptations, force us ever onwards. So we work away at our surface. Perhaps this is where the two things meet: in the act of pilgrimage, we are wearing away the ground, polishing the surface, there is a constancy, one foot in front of the other. The journey is not so much about arriving – that will come later – as about finding company and fulfilment on the way.


Meanwhile, in language, the act of walking involves placing the heel on the ground and rolling forward on the sole. The sole is like a cradle or a blotter. We cannot walk without making this movement, heel-sole, and this may tell us something about the purpose of walking, of moving forward, of staying alive: to heal our soul.