Struck by the linear perfection and balance of the Acropolis, a literary observer noted how nervous the ancient Greeks must have been – how high strung, highly sensitive, neurotic. They were delicate and high maintenance, thus the ancient Greeks quested, they built and calmed themselves with high aesthetic achievement. They conquered chaos through beauty and order (cosmos).
Traveling through Greece, I think about how elusive that balance is. Greece is straddling, struggling, highly sensitive to its lack of balance and desperate to find some poised ground.
Greece is poised between many things – Western Europe and the Levant, American business and Russian orthodoxy, the market and the common good, the sensual and the ascetic. The eagle symbol of the Byzantine Empire, which Greece was a part of for twelve centuries, faced both east and west, and Byzantine means something tangled and intertwined.
There are stony cities which are unforgiving in the heat and current economic crisis. They feel closer to Cairo or Tunis, with patriarchal families calling the shots. There are gentle villages and old women dressed in black and vast olive groves. Picturesque white-washed villas and perched domed churches and truckloads of sheep. There is the sea – consoling, for everyone, the public good. It’s possible that the azure blue beauty of the sea provides Greeks with their good humor and kindness. It calms their high-strung nervous systems naturally.