It’s interesting that once you become accustomed to the noise of something, it is in its silence that you notice change. It is the same here on our island of Aegina. The ferries are scheduled to strike today. And while I barely notice them anymore slipping back and forth to Pireaus in the distance (unless I mean to catch one) when they don’t run there is a strange and noticeable silence and emptiness on the sea.
Tankers laden with cargo are anchored off the port of Pireaus as the sun rises over Athens and one lingering light shines on the shore of Salaminis.
The banks and stock exchange are closed this week, which causes its own kind of silence of waiting. Not knowing. Wondering.
At one time Aegina boasted a sailing fleet to rival Athens and I wonder if at some other time someone stood on the hill where my house is and watched the Persian legions sail to their fate. Ahhh, the history of man.
The sun is rising through the pines, fluorescent red. The cockerel crows and the cats wonder if breakfast will be early this morning. There is a timelessness to this day. While history is being written in emails between Athens and Brussels and the media blast an astonishing array of versions, life, as it is, continues.
Everyone I speak to has his or her own version of facts and I suppose it has always been thus. There is anger and fear and blame and resentment and frustration and resignation and anxiousness in equal measure. We all wonder how it will affect us – personally. But the sea is speaking to me of other things.
Timelessness. And how each of our lives is a blip on the shining cord of eternity. Around the table in Brussels and surely in countless boardrooms and government offices around the world, single lives do not matter. There are bigger issues at stake. But in a recent Facebook thread one bewildered writer from Crete posed, “How do I answer people who come up to me and say I don’t want to pay your debt!?” One retort was, “Tell them that it is not the people’s debt. The funds went to the banks not the economy and tell them that their government shouldn’t have encumbered the taxpayers of their country with an unsustainable debt of another country in the first place!” Emotions are high.
Is this exactly true? It depends which spin you put on it. The issues are complex and the ways of power labyrinthine. Will anyone ever know the whole truth? And will it matter? How can one man answer a question to another that he cannot answer for himself. What does this have to do with timelessness? Well, just this.
Each man and woman’s life is sacred to themselves. And in the space of a waking day we love, we eat, we work and if we are truly wise, we play. Last Sunday when the bank’s ATMs were out of cash and the uncertainty of the next day was flying through the air in conversations and texts and news bytes on the overhead screens at the cafes, there was laughter and leisure. Families and friends. Locals and tourists.
Sailboats bobbed along the harbour wall while boaters ran errands, polished the brightwork or hung wet bathing suits over the railing. Octopus was hanging to dry across canopy supports and the scent of grilled meat sent tourists flocking to the seaside tavernas, which were bustling. The ferries ran back and forth and back and forth crisscrossing the sea in front of our house.
Anger, fear, blame, resentment, frustration, resignation and anxiousness rob the day of its joy, of its liveliness and its creativity. The local and global media is playing these emotions for a reason. They make us choose sides: Right or wrong, good or bad. And we make these value judgments out of confusion. We don’t really know what is going on. We do know it’s not personal, but it affects us personally. The Greek people will have to choose nonetheless on Sunday.
There is a wedding on the island this coming weekend, the daughter of friends of friends. People are coming from all over Europe to celebrate. There is another story here of an Aegina family, the daughter of the cousin of a friend. She too is getting married but there is no money for invitations, a gown, special flowers or a reception. But both families of these young people will be celebrating love and the sacredness of marriage. Love is timeless and marriages and children to come don’t wait for perfect timing. Love is now.
Whatever happens in the coming days and weeks and years will be written in various accounts of the history of man. And the people will live with its consequence. But as Aristotle said, history expresses the particular. What is of graver import, to paraphrase, is in the nature of universals: the timeless poetry of life itself.
With love from Aegina Island, Greece
From Marilyn Harting