Freedom to Think

Bow and Arrows against the Lightning

In recent days over London the 32 degree sultry heat has been broken up by occasional, and to my eye quite dramatic lightning storms. Happenstance I have also been reading Ernest Hemmingway’s short story The Old Man and the Sea. Both the storm event and the reading have opened my mind to considering those things about which we can do nothing, and those things about which we may bring to bear influence.


My thinking I guess goes something like this….


A lightning storm is a huge display of nature, and whilst I may consider it a wonderful honour that in all the universe I happen to find myself in a place where I can observe such a thing, in truth there is nothing that I can do to influence that thing.

But heh it’s a lightning storm, I find them awesome, majestic, quite humbling.


I guess some people may find them other things, perhaps scary, boring, intrusive, worthy of worship, debate, or monitoring to name but a few possibilities that come to mind. But any of us I guess, however fortunate I might consider those lucky souls that happen to exist consciously in a time when such a thing occurs, my truth is that there is nothing we can do to control, influence, subvert or deny such a thing as a lightning storm…..


Turning to the iconic tale by Hemmingway, which is to me somewhat like the message I found in Siddartha.

As the tale goes an 85 year old fisherman, down on his luck and at the end of his means, surviving in sizeable part only through the loving ministrations of a child, heads out to sea on the 85th day consecutively having not caught a fish in all those days. He is in some part both a laughing stock amongst his more successful peers (in fish catching terms) and a source of some small sympathy, though no help towards his plight.


He sets abroad alone and determined that this will be his time, far out of sight of land, alone in a small skiff, and secure only in the knowledge that has grown through his long years as to who he is, and how much he might contend with.


After long hours and applying that learned habit of patience he does in fact catch a fish; a great Marlin, possibly the greatest fish any amongst his peers would ever have encountered. Hooking the fish he wrestles with it, his own mind versus failing body, and the elements for three days unbroken.


Eventually he takes life from the noble creature and as it is far greater in size than his small craft he manages only to lash it to the side of the skiff, and malnourished, and exhausted he turns and heads for shore, his resolve strengthened by the wisdom that he has done what he set out to do and caught that elusive great beast….


He was able to push himself beyond the boundaries his mind had set for his body, so it appeared to me as I read on; and had influenced that which he could (himself mostly); and in greater part by exercising patience:


‘If you are wholly perplexed and in straits, have patience for patience is the key to joy’ Jalaluddin Rumi


Patience being one of the skills this fisherman had learned down long reflected years of trial he mastered the beast it seemed to me by mastering himself.


At the moment the great Marlin was lashed to the boat the old man hoped that his travails were over. But strangely as he set off on the long jag back to land ‘nature’ imposed herself in just such a way (to my mind) as the lightning, and set about proving to the old man that all the best laid plans of mice and men mean naught when measured against the great plan….


To kill the 1500 lb fish he had needed to harpoon it through the heart, and so in time the blood trailing into the water bought the predators, in the form of sharks.


Many came, and for a time the ancient mariner fought them off manfully.


In the end though he was beaten down, the great Marlin was stripped of all its flesh and meat by the sea, and ultimately he limped into port with only a worthless spine and a fish head and his own exhaustion.


Towards the end, I as the reader, and here Is I think where I saw an overture to Herman Hesse’s great fable Siddartha, saw the old man acknowledging that he could no longer fight the inevitable, and so he turned away and went with the flow

I never read anywhere that the struggle was pointless, again like that other fable the quiet suggestion (written in Hemmingway’s 3rd person omniscient) appeared to me to be that the struggle was as much a part of the journey as the learning that may come at its end.


Upon his return the boy still loved him, and he strove both to minister to him, and (so it seemed to me with great wisdom) to ask the old man to continue on his journey with the boy alongside, if for no other reasons than to pass on those wisdoms that he had stumbled upon


My truth (I don’t believe there is only one universal truth, rather the versions that each of us apply based on our encounters with the world) is that an arrow shot into a lightning storm will likely achieve naught, but isn’t it a wonderful thing that each of us, armed with our own unique quiver and bow, get to choose when and how to loose our arrows, albeit never how the target may respond. And one day perhaps even to put the bow away and loose arrows no more…….


‘This discipline and rough treatment are a furnace to extract the silver from the dross. The idol of your self is the mother of all idols. To regard the self as easy to subdue is a mistake.’ Jalaluddin Rumi


Tis just my thinking……

David Jackman


Journeys of Jackman ..The wanderings, musings, learning and thoughts from one man who woke up