Jellyfish Sting

I swam

not with Tom Cruise,

not with Anthony Hopkins,

not with Kim Kardashian

but with a cormorant

fishing

in flips and furls

seemingly oblivious of me

as I cut silently

through the water

I start the day like this

– arms outstretched,

hands upturned,

palms white,

seeking the sun

and then I draw

a long arc

like Moses

watching the Israelites

fighting the Philistines

keeping God on their side

The sea is

an altar cloth

– an antimension –

which I open

and wipe with a sponge

I begin my prayer

above the water

“Lord Jesus Christ,

have mercy on me”

After a while

my prayer descends

I no longer enunciate

the words

as my mouth goes

below water

My mouth is now

the underside of the boat

(I have learned

something of

the spiritual life)

But when I turn

the sea changes

a dark cloak

has been cast over it

with coruscating

sequins

that prevent me

seeing

below the surface

A sudden

searing pain

wraps itself

around my wrist

I thought pain

was supposed to be

a knife

a spit

something driven in

not something wrapped around

an embrace

an arm around the shoulder

and what to do

when the threat

is your milieu

– you cannot get out

of it

except by swimming

to shore

you cannot stay still

Prayer is tossed

to the four winds

safety is the priority

now

and as I head

to the shore

another hidden enemy

still has time

to give me

a parting shot

On the beach

I accost some locals

unsure as yet

what has attacked me

Jellyfish,

they say

Then how do you swim?

I ask

The old Greek lady

gazes at me

through dark tinted

glasses

I can just make out

the pearls

of her eyes

We look,

she replies

Jonathan Dunne, 28 June 2022

Time

Time is a line drawn by teachers of English on a whiteboard, with the points past, present and future marked by crosses. It is a line in a vast expanse of white, which can only exist because of the whiteboard. If there is nowhere to draw the line, then time cannot exist. We cannot just draw it in the air. Or we can if we use a sparkler. But it won’t last very long.

Time is a kind of zip. An Orion’s Belt drawn in chalk on a blackboard that is expanding space. Three points: past, present and future. Have, do and will. I have lived in London for ten years. Do you like London? I will come with you. Three auxiliary verbs that reflect our attitude to this world: to have (possessions), to do (activity) and to will (what we want). The only way to enter the line, to burrow inside it, to live in the moment, without regret for the past (nostalgia, which spells lost again), without fear for the future, is be. What are you doing? I am listening to music.

Time is a window of opportunity opened for us to take part in creation. It is a soap bubble floating in the air. It cannot last for ever, at some point it will pop. We saw in the previous article that if we are to take part in creation, if we are to be co-creators with God, if we are to have our own children, then the reproductive maturity that enables us to do this comes with age. To be left to age for ever really would be a punishment, so when we acquired carnal knowledge of the other and were expelled from the Garden of Eden, a clock was set in motion. Now we had a ‘life’, a finite period of time, three score years and ten, enough to grow up, reach sexual maturity, have children, raise them and then grow old. We are not authors, so we cannot breathe the breath of life into an inanimate object. We can, however, translate life. We receive it from our parents and pass it on. We are translators in everything we do, from having children, to breathing, to eating, to communicating. Nothing begins with us. We arrive mid-conversation, take part in the conversation and then leave.

But in this process we acquire meaning. We learn things. This is what time gives us. And note that time is clearly connected to line, there is a jump in the alphabet (m-n) and an l with a line drawn through it to make a cross: t. So that is what a cross is – a line that has been deleted, an ego that has been rejected.

Because with time came sin, and again you will see that these words are connected. Imagine letters are like reels in a slot machine: s becomes t and m becomes n, with the addition of final e. Sin-time. In time, we have children. But we also abuse this ability. We do not care for the other as we should. We try to take possession. We remain in permanent activity. Our lives are considered useless if we do not produce. Have, do and will. These auxiliaries dictate our lives, tell us how we should lead them. And what about be?

When we push aside the demands of the ego (a word that is in stark opposition to God), it is as if we turned the ego, the line (I), into a number (1) and counted down to O. We take the I of sin and turn it into son. In a similar way, we turn live into love (and not into its reverse, which is evil). We do this by removing the ego and then we see that time contains a cross (), I and me.

So time († I me) is not just the chance to have children, something we can only do with another person and which will cause us to age, it is also the opportunity to grow spiritually, to realize our need, to meet God and not to deny him.

Church Fathers say that Jesus Christ is waiting in our heart. He calls to us and, when we have grown tired of the things of this world, external objects that can be classified and counted (which is what much of our activity is about), we heed his call. We turn away from our possessions, from the incentive to own, which is nothing less than the attempt to make ourselves the source of life, and approach the heart with our mind. After knocking for a long time – because we must learn to desist from the passions, what caused us to sin in the first place – we are allowed to go in. We call on him – ‘Lord Jesus Christ, have mercy on me’ – and enter. Our mind meets itself for the first time, and becomes aware of the presence of someone far greater.

So time is a bottomless pocket. A door handle. A bubble God blew in the air. Here today, gone tomorrow. A place where we can learn the true value of love, who is the only one that matters.

Jonathan Dunne, http://www.stonesofithaca.com

Monet’s lily pond