09 apr Poetry and the meaning of life
Travelling through Greece these days helps you to differentiate between the news in the media and the reality lived by the Greek people themselves. Except for the big cities, Athens and Thessaloniki (where half of the whole population of only 11 million live), the crisis is not considered a reason for panick. Nor is the economical disaster a reason to start moving. ‘Greece has seen centuries of wars, its fields are drenched in blood, whole regions burned, and it has survived it all’ , says Apostolos Kosmopoulos (real name) the owner of bookshop Orphee in Olympia. According to Apostolos, the Greek DNA is based on fatalism, not on optimism. I would add that it thrives on melancholy, self pity and drama. A constant search for balance between eros and thanatos, myth and reality, the anger of the gods and the corruption of the politicians in Athens. It goes without saying that the average Greek sees the devil in others, in Brussels, Washington and Ankara, certainly not in himself. It is his fate to be victim, in the antiquity like it is today. What can he do? Maybe write another poem, one talent the Greek really possess (two Nobel Prizes for Literature have been awarded to Greek poets, Séféris and Élythis). Poetry is the best way to reach the public, that has difficulty understanding classical or intellectuial Greek and prefers common or street Greek. Poetry is something you can learn by heart, sing and dance on. Poetry has helped the Greek to overcome four hundred years of Byzantine oppression, and to save its culture in the homes and chappels. It is poetry, not the economy, that gives a meaning to life. Rather a nice philosophy, albeit not very productive in the eyes of those who are pumping billions into the country. Last week a Greek citizen shot himself through the head in front of the parliament. In his farewell note he wrote that he prefered an honorable death than looking through dustbins in order to survive. All Greeks cried about so much pride and courage. What seems senseless elsewhere, is of crucial importance in Greece. One wonders if Hellas shouldn’t just have stayed in its splendid and somewhat arrogant isolation, unintersted in modernism, not more than a spectator in the global village, not prepared to become an actor except in its own theater. Why was it forced into a European corset if its fate lies in the hands of Zeus? It is Greece’s right to be helped by the European Union, why else would it have become a member? It is its right to take and give little in return. But isn’t it the right of the other members to give Greece the chance to go back to where it wants to belong? On the Olympus?