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Comment Fungie reminded us the only thing worth having is freedom





The miracle he bestowed on his vast, spellbound congregation was the gift of wonder.

A single consultation with this water-bound shaman decommissioned cynicism and angst, restored the precious ability to view the world with childhood incredulity and joy.

Fungie, the forever young oceanic Peter Pan, transported his guests to a briny Neverland of the soul.

His eternal smile, mischievous, benign nature, his sheer playful lust for life, shrank the vast and yawning Atlantic expanse to a single profound dollop of euphoric beauty.

Swimming with this charismatic, cerebral, maker of dreams was an authentic spiritual experience.

It provoked a unique stew of emotions: A surge of the blood as he corkscrewed gymnastically from his watery castle into human airspace; a rush of healing elation; a meditative, trouble-melting calm; and an overwhelming sense of a world beyond mankind's neurotic self-obsession.

He was handsome in his two-toned wet-suit, sleek and streamlined and graceful and carefree.

A crowd-pleasing acrobat, the swell of surf off Ireland's rugged and magnificent south-west shore his Big Top.

Anybody who stood on the deck of a tour boat and saw him leap and dance like a watery Nijinsky knew they would have those cathartic moments of uplift forever.

He made the heart leap as high as one of his balletic surges from the waves.

Fungie paid the mortgage on his bobbing Dingle penthouse in the currency of wisdom.

He taught us that what mattered were not the preoccupations with money, status, the disease of ambition, materialism or the nine-to-five carousel of life.

No, he reminded his devotees that only thing worth having was freedom.

Fungie never doomscrolled through the news, he chose not to fret over Covid or Brexit or the US election.

He simply gave himself, for all of his 37-year Kingdom residency, to the sheer intoxicating thrill of being alive.

And ensuring anybody who entered his submarine living room felt the same vital thrill coursing through their veins. It was infectious in a visceral way, the manner in which he worked his alchemy, a transcendent artist working on his own unique liquid canvas.

Time in the company of this bottlenose healer amounted to a reconnection with nature, a return to factory settings.

With each click of delight and growing recognition of his sixth sense understanding, he awakened our inner David Attenborough.

How he mimicked his county men - became more Kerry than the Kerrymen themselves.

Fungie was as poetic as Brendan Kennelly, as natural and scholarly a storyteller as Con Houlihan or John B Keane.

Graceful in his movements like Gooch or Maurice Fitzgerald, yet as untamed and freewheeling as Paidi; he rose from the waves as if auditioning for a midfield role alongside Darragh O'Se or Jacko.

The most powerful endorphin release came with looking into bottomless eyes that were the centre of his conscience. In that instant came an understanding of his deep emotional intelligence; the realisation that here was a sentient, empathetic creature.

Studies indicate that dolphins have a sense of humour, an advanced capacity to communicate. Fungie spoke to us, touched the core, made a bone-deep connection.

A bottlenose dolphin brain is, on average, 25 per cent larger than its human equivalent.

Observations have shown that they can recognise themselves, use tools and understand symbols.

Their 5.6 EQ - an estimation of brain power based on the ratio of brain to body size - is significantly larger than a gorilla (1.76), chimpanzee (2.48), even our four million old hominoid ancestors.

These professors of the deep are only marginally surpassed in their capacity to think and calculate by humans (7.4).

Fungie's sashaying chat-up lines, his pursuit of the gallery's affection, left you regretting not being able to invite him for a pint in Dick Mac's.

This marvellous, mysterious creature cast a spell that endured for days.

In that moment of miraculous witness, to quote Philip Hoare, author of the mind-blowing Leviathan, or The Whale, he became "the visible emblem of an alien ocean in which 90 per cent of Earth's biomass resides".

And now that faucet of happiness is run dry.

The parting lesson from this sage of the deep is maybe his most profound: Mortal gravity takes us all down in the end.

So seize the day, rejoice in childlike wonder, and, like Fungie, squeeze every last available dollop of joy from the tube of life.

Sunday World