31 July 2019

Balance On The Road To Delphi

Yesterday, I took my first trip outside Athens, in the company of an unemployed historian.

Actually, Kostas is employed in three different jobs.  He was performing one of when he drove a passenger van designed to carry a few more people but which--luckily for me--had to transport only me and him on the 2 1/2 drive to Delphi.

His employment situation is like that of too many young Greek (and American) university graduates.  Even though he didn't incur debt for his education, Greek salaries are so low (at least in comparison with other European countries and the US) and taxes so high that he has to work nearly non-stop.  That, in itself, is troubling. So is something else he told me:  "In Delphi, I can't guide you."  As he explained, he is not part of the guild of licensed tourguides.

Still, our conversation en route and on the way back to Athens was interesting.  When you talk to him, you start to see that modern Greek life, even among the uneducated, is a reflection of the philosophies of espoused so long ago.  "They all stressed balance," he explained.  "The body, mind and spirit, all should be in balance," he said.  "So should all areas of life--work, family and everything else."  The fact that so much of the media stresses materialistic values and the body--or, at least, a particular image of it--is why the cause of so many of our problems.

While none of the philosophers focused on the body, "it all starts with the body," he explained.  That made perfect sense when I saw this:

The stadium, for the Pythian games, is at the very top of the Delphi site.  Below it is the theatre, which in turn is behind the Temple of Apollo, where consultations with the oracle took place.  While the stadium is at a higher location, the Temple, the most sacred structure, is right at the center of Delphi, thus "balancing" different aspects of human life. 

and under that, various stages, temples and treasuries.  Near the base is the "navel" of the world.  That stone was left exactly where archaeologists found it. I suppose leaving the stone there is also a kind of balance, too:  After all, how do we define what is the "center" of our planet?  The core?  The point where zero degrees longitude (the location of which is pretty arbitrary, when you come right down to it) meets zero degrees latitude (the Equator)?  Those archaeologists, I believe, were balancing what they knew as researchers and scientists with portraying what ancient people knew about the world in which they lived. 

On our way back to Athens, we stopped in Arachova , which looks like an Alpine ski village.  Actually, it is, except that it, of course, isn't in the Alps.  I admitted to Kostas that until we saw , I never would have used "Greece" or "Greek" and "ski" in the same sentence.  Then again, I am neither Greek (as far as I know, anyway) nor a skier, so I wouldn't have known how well-known the place is among skiers--and Greeks.  

Now there's a balance:  skiing, on the slopes around Mount Parnassus.  On the other hand, I have to wonder how many folks are thinking "Nothing in excess!" as they're barreling down the slope. 

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