Friday, August 31, 2007

What Greater Grief ...

What greater grief than the loss of one's native land.

~ Euripides, Greek tragic dramatist (484 BC - 406 BC), Medea, 431 B.C.

Finally, a week after hundreds of wild fires began rampaging across Greece, all of the fires are under control. So reported the Associated Press about six hours ago.

Since the story of this tragedy first hit the news, my heart has gone out to the people of Greece. The loss of life, the destruction of villages and farm land, the plight of those made homeless by the conflagration, all seemed to rise each day. Also each day, the reports indicated the fires continued to burn out of control, the end of the inferno not in sight.

At some point, perhaps it was the account that said that the uncontainable fires had reached the ancient city of Olympia, birthplace of the Olympic Games, I began to think of this catastrophe as affecting people beyond the Greek nation to the whole of Western civilization. For, in my mind, the land of Greece is the cradle of Western civilization.

Even here in the United States, where knowledge of “the classics” is by far the exception rather than the rule, there is at least a recognition by many of classical Greek names, if not an understanding of what the classical references of those names: Plato (a sex club in NYC), Trojan (a brand of condom), Greek (anal sex).

Perhaps I am underestimating my fellow countrypersons. After all, in 2004 Hollywood did release the film Troy and even gave screen credit to the Greek poet Homer (not a "4-bagger” in a baseball game) as one the writers. That I understand more people were drawn to the film by the highly publicized nudity of Brad Pitt than by Homer’s epic, does not undermine the truth that Hollywood is able to produce a film based upon an heroic classic. And, in the same year, Hollywood also released Oliver Stone’s film Alexander, based upon the life of the Macedonian king and the first world conqueror. That the film was less historical than melodramatic and had poor audience attendance does not undercut that Hollywood at least tried to bring a bit of culture into the American world of historical illiteracy

But I digress from the tragedy of the Greek fires. With the cost thus far is 64 dead, an unknown number injured, nearly 500,000 acres of land burned, and an estimated $1.6 billion cost, the time for recovery is approaching, unless the unthinkable occurs:

Fears remained, however, that a new heat wave accompanied by strong winds that have been forecast for the weekend could feed smaller fires or rekindle those that smoldered around the country. ~ MSNBC

The people of Greece remain in my prayers even as my thoughts center on what that land of classic history, poetry, philosophy, democracy, theater, religion, and mythology means to the world. As such, for my late evening reading, I have taken Plato’s Republic from my library shelves.

Be kind, for everyone you meet is fighting a hard battle. ~ Plato

Remember September 27:Details


  1. Thanks for writing about this and the terrible loss experienced by those Greeks, the ones who live directly on the land and not in cities most of all, of course.

    As for Greece being the cradle of Western civilisation, yes, i am sure it is true, but this is a double-edged sword, in my view. Though I am as white as you, I prefer to embrace Africa as my spiritual home, for I feel that civilisation is rather a perversion in the overall scheme of things and responsible for our ills.

  2. Whoa, Rev Saint! I think you are being overly generous in your evaluation of the classical literacy of us Americans. I’ll bet 95% of us have never even heard of Plato’s Retreat!

    Regarding the serious part of this post, I join you in hoping that the fires in Greece will soon be history.

  3. You are so right in that Greece is the cradle of civilisation, Nick. I loved ancient Greek history when I was at school...actually I still do and it grieves me to see this ancient land burning.

    My heart goes out to the people of Greece, also, and I can really emphathise with them, as we have bushfires here and I know the damage they can inflict so quickly.

    Good post...makes us think.

  4. Hi Nick-

    Thanks for bringing to my attention that my blog feeds were turned off. I don't remember changing that setting, but whatever. They are turned back on now.

    I was about to send you an email. I'd noticed you hadn't been around for a while, and I wondered if I'd offended you somehow. I'm glad it just turned out to be an errant setting. :o)

  5. Hi Nick ~~ The fires in Greece are
    awful for the people there and th lass of life is horrendous, not to mention all the buildings etc. A real
    disaster, which I pray will end soon.
    Thanks for your comment of the Colors of Friendship. Take care, All the best, Merle.