Know thyself

Know thyself, and you will know why shadows

Are making love on empty walls,

And you will understand why summer

It’s always under autumn’s thrall.

 

Know thyself, and you will understand forever

Why footsteps haunt you in the dark

Why tears flow on mystic faces

And why Noah strived to build an ark.

 

Know thyself, and you will know the world

The nothingness from which was born

The silence in the land of Eleusis

While harvesting the ear of the corn.

____________

Reference to the Eleusinian Mysteries of ancient Greece, which included the ritual of “an ear of corn cut in silence.” It is believed that this ritual symbolized the birth of a new life.

 

Zeus: The Thirst for Power

Fifteen columns are still standing from the largest temple ever built in Greece: the Temple of Zeus. Jokingly I am telling to myself “Your Majesty, here you are!” I start laughing. Miguel, raises his right eyebrow. I almost can read his thoughts: “What can anybody do? This is Clara!” Then, with no word, he turns toward the temple and starts taking pictures.

So, here I am in front of the place where the ancient Greeks used to bring offerings to their most powerful god: Zeus, the leader of Olympus. The sunlight is oppressing. The heat is baking my soul, my cracked lips, my swollen feet, my already dry hands. But I keep my eyes straight to the columns: yellow stone which witnessed centuries of worshiping, jubilation, pain, and finally disaster; yellow stone which is still tragically trying to reach a hot, petrified sun that is desiccating its old, dusty face. Miguel turns towards me:

“Clara, welcome to the condo of Zeus! Meet the unlimited power of the god of gods!”

I am smiling for a moment, and then, I am forcing myself to think. Did Zeus have unlimited powers? No, not really. In all those confused Greek legends Zeus did not win all the time. The story of Demeter and Persephone comes to mind. In the fight between Demeter and Hades, Zeus will rule in favor of Demeter, and order Demeter’s daughter – Persephone – to return from the underworld. He tried to do some good at least! But Hades will lure Persephone with the fruit of dead. She ate the fruit. One who eats the fruit of death is doomed to live forever in the haunted, dark world ruled by Hades. The legend ends up with some kind a compromise between Zeus and his brother Hades. Persephone will live on earth with her mother Demeter for half of year. But, she will have to spend the other half, as Hades’ bride, in the underworld. So, in front of death, Zeus has limited powers. Yet, the ancient Greeks, still accepted him as the god of gods. Why?

My eyes turn to Miguel.

“No, no, Miguel, Zeus did not have unlimited powers. He just had an immeasurable, odious thirst for power! I was just…”

“What did he do now, Clara?”

I don’t answer. I know he’s joking. I go and sit down on a stone, and start thinking to myself.

In fact, despite trying to help Demeter, Zeus was an abusive, repugnant character. He dethroned his father Kronos, and ate most of his children – just like his father- fearing that the power can be taken away from him. He was adulterous, and hysterical.  He oppressed, and abused the weak. He threw thunder on the heads of those who stood up to him gods, and humans alike.  Did the ancient Greeks equate power with uncontrolled behavior? Did they think that such “qualities” make one a true ruler?  Or, the ancient Greeks were trying to warn us, to tell us, that the thirst for power comes from our deepest human past, and that it will plague our future forever? Were they trying to say that the thirst for power will eternally be flowing through the veins of every ruler of this world? Were they trying to warn us that madness is a hidden characteristic of rulers?

Instantly, form the heavy clouds of my memory, Miriam’s tearful face appears. Miriam and her abusers. She has never spoken much about. I knew almost nothing.  But I could feel her abusers in every thought of hers, in each color of her paintings, in every line drawn by her. They were there in every glimmer of her eyes, and in every sound of her voice; their hideous faces forever carved in her soul; their repugnant touch imprinted forever in her soft, velvety skin.  What did they do to her? What kind of suffering did she have to go through? Who’s going to bring them to justice? Who?  Who? Where’s the god of gods? Where is he?

He is nowhere to be found. His face is lost in legend, and his columns are buried in the deepest, darkest silence.

“Miguel, I want to go back to the hotel! Now, please!”

 

Greece

 

 

I am driving from Athens to Patras on E-94. On my left steep mountains, made out of white rock, sparsely covered by shrubs. On my right the Gulf of Corinth adorned by the early, dazzling morning light. Its waters are calm, dreamy, soothed in an ineffable silence: the silence that reigned before the beginning of the world. The views are savagely beautiful: mountains and waters coming together, eternally caught in a hushed battle, a battle born from the abyss of the old Greek myths. There is only one car behind me. I slow down. The car drives past me. Intoxicated by the beauty that surrounds me I close my eyes. In a moment I am overwhelmed by the premonition of a sudden event. Chills are running through my body, icing my every fiber, cooling my heated soul, slowing the flow of my blood. I open my eyes. And then it happens.

I start breathing in an unfamiliar rhythm.  The sun metamorphoses into a golden liquid: hundreds of glittering rivers are inundating the blue of the sky. The water starts murmuring. The pendulum of the earth goes astray. The North Pole disappears. The icy castle of wisdom and thought melts before my eyes. The earth becomes just a heated platter, carried, together with the sky, on the shoulder of the mythological Atlas.

A nude nymph appears from the water, beautiful, wild. Her black hair is tightly braided, her skin is white like milk.  She runs in the middle of the road. Bewildered I press the brake. She looks toward me, laughs, and rapidly starts claiming the mountain on my left. The shrubs are scratching her skin.  She doesn’t stop. Who is she running from? In a flash I see him. An ephebus follows her, his body tense, his passionate eyes wide open, his feet crushing the heated mountain rocks. After a few seconds they disappear in the dark shrubs, leaving behind the distant echo of a primordial ecstasy.

My arms ache. I take my foot from the break. I can breathe normally now.  It’s over. I slowly pull the car on the right of the road, and stop again. Out of nowhere, I feel his hand touching mine. I turn my head. Jacques is sitting by me, his cold blue eyes piercing into mine. Why is he here? I left him behind in Athens. I left him with Miriam and Angelo! I stare at him, and suddenly I can hear the nymph’s laughter. Oh No! Not again!