Tonight, I found myself alone in a library in the centre of Larisa, and was able to take this picture of the ancient theatre, built 2,400 years ago.
The picture does not convey the beauty of the scene or the subtle colours but you can get some idea, I hope, of how magical the theatre is at night.
Imagine, attending one of the performances at that theatre back then, sitting with ten thousand other people in the arena, illuminated by the fire of torches, underneath the wheeling stars, the night air, filled with the scent of grass and chirping of birds, listening in hushed silence to Homer’s epic poems, the Illiad and the Odyssey.
“A good poem helps to change the shape and significance of the universe, helps to extend everyone’s knowledge of himself and the world around him,” said Dylan Thomas
These poems were so amazing that Alexander the Great carried copies on his campaigns. Plato called Homer the great educator of the Greeks.
Homer was the pop culture of his time. He was popular but great at the same time.
If I were able to take a photo from the roof of the building, Mt Olympos would also be visible.
Jacques Denton Snider speculates whether Homer grew up in this area since he mentions Mount Olympos so often and seems to be so familiar with the geography.
A Greek airforce base is also just beyond the hill. The ancient theatre has been, in fact, on the flight path of F16 jets returning to their base following an escalation in an engineered confrontation with Turkey.
The reason I bring this up is because at this time as people awaken to the way our popular culture has been weaponized against us, to make us dead, passive and ignorant, it is time to awaken to real culture.
The culture that gives us life, knowledge about who we are, where we are, what a life that is good for us means.
The other day when I was in this very same library trying to learn modern Greek by reading the Odyssey, I met a student who was studying that same book for her university exams in Thessaloniki. As she poured over her text of the Odyssey, her eyes sparkled.
Homer is full of life, nature, history, legends, myths, feelings, pain, sacrifice, struggle, love, frustration, stars, flowers, animals, the sea, storms, lightning, thunder, songs, feasts, peaceful palaces, foreign barbaric people, even the Kingdom of the Shades or Hades is full of life. Everything is full of beauty and free, full of movement, force, power. The sea is moving, the character is constantly moving, making an incredible, crazy voyage driven by his desire to get back home to Itaca after the Trojan war.
In the Illiad, Odyseus is a soldier in the army, carrying out orders and fighting with the other soldiers. But in the Odyseey, the focus is on him as an individual spirit and character. He has been split off from the rest of the army and is on his own with his small band of soldiers. He cares for them and tries to save them as much as he tries to save himself. In fact, Odysseus is shown in his many relationships as a husband, father, son, king as caring, fair and just, and he shows a great respect for the gods.
In Odysseus, religion is not abstract, speculative, theoretical, moralistic or institutional. It is not the religion of someone like Theodekti or the Bishop of Volos.
The gods and humans act together in this world, carrying out plans. Both have free will to cooperate or not.
The gods are in their own region, Olympos, and different, immortal. There is a huge gap between the immortal gods and the mortals but the mortals are also responsible. The gods have withdrawn because of the many follows of the humans. For example, at the beginning of the Odyssey, Zeus discusses the madness of Aegisthus for seducing the wife of the leader of the Greeks at Troy, and for killing him on his return from the war, in spite of being warned that this act will lead to his death at the hands of Orestes, the son of the leader. Athena says that any one who behaves like that deserves death.
But she says, Odysseus has not behaved like that. He has always paid observance to the gods and he deserves more help in getting home, so triggering the action.
Although Odysseus gets help from Athena, ultimately he has to do most of the work himself, show great powers of endurance, resolution, courage, wisdom. We learn the value of these qualities, not through moralistic teaching, but by seeing the main character in action, thinking, planning, and bringing his plans to fruition.
Isn’t it time for us to go back to real culture? Real books which give us real insights into our lives and how we should live?
Our modern culture has been used to teach us how to be dead, passive, victims, seeing nothing, thinking nothing, feeling nothing, focussed on consuming.
With Donald Trump, we have the return of the epic character, the great individual.
His three children have also shown themselves to be epic characters and preidential material. But we are all of us, every single human being, potentially epic if we learn to observe freshly, think for ourselves and act with wisdom.
The gods of Olympos helped Odysseus because, for all his faults, he was basically good and well intentioned. May God help Donald Trump and his family and bring them success and satisfaction!