Saturday, March 21, 2015

Wrong prognosis

As a child, I often quarreled with my brother. And when I complained to my father, he always said, "Maya, don't get annoyed over unimportant things. Think of your future! You will grow up, your mother and I will grow old and die, and then you will find much support in your brother and he in you."

Of course, this helped little to cheer me up at the time. Moreover, because of the inherent uncertainty of the future and particularly of individual life spans, my father's prediction eventually turned out to be wrong.

Sunday, March 15, 2015

The problem with Orthodox Christianity

Because of the fast and often violent onslaught of Islam, I am understandably preoccupied with criticizing this religion. At the same time, however, I do not forget that the religion of my ancestors, Orthodox Christianity, is also defective. As I recently said to a friend, there is not one decent country dominated by Orthodox Christianity (Greece is the best, but still not good enough) and this cannot be a coincidence. So I knew there was something wrong with this faith, but because it is the traditional religion of my country, I was too much inside it to spot the problem.

Maybe the clue is in the following text, which I found while searching information on Putin's whereabouts:

"This is why it’s impossible for the Kremlin to lie about Putin’s weird disappearance

March 14, Washington Post 

It’s been more than a week now since anybody’s seen Russian President Vladimir Putin. He had a mundane meeting with Italian Prime Minister Matteo Renzi on March 5, and then … nothing. Since then, Putin hasn’t been seen in public, and the Russian blogosphere can talk about nothing else...  #PutinIsDead began trending on Russian Twitter, and the Russian blogosphere began to churn out theories of what happened to Dear Shirtless Leader, each version more ludicrous than the next...

You can see why some in Russia are panicking right now—or veiling their discomfort in humor. It certainly doesn’t help that Putin’s disappearance comes at a particularly nervous time for the country. It is at war in Ukraine, its economy is shuddering under sanctions and historically low oil prices, and the opposition leader, Boris Nemtsov, was recently gunned down steps from the Kremlin. There is a sense in Moscow that the wheels are coming off. To Moscow’s chattering class, Putin’s disappearance confirms that impression.

As for the rest of Russia, if the buzz about Putin’s mysterious absence doesn’t make it on the television screen, it didn’t happen: for 90 percent of the Russian population, TV is the main source of news. And, even if they knew, for a majority of Russians this event would be like most other political events—that is, above their pay grade. When it comes to the intricacies politics, the prevailing attitude outside Moscow’s liberal circles is a semi-religious one, and it comes from Byzantine culture. Just as the Eucharist is prepared behind the wall of icons that separates the altar from the eyes of the laity, so it is with political maneuvers: We are but mere mortals, unable to understand such mysteries. Let the professionals handle it.

The problem is that the professionals aren’t handling it too well anymore..."

(Emphasis mine - M.M.)

Update: Damn it! Putin reappeared today, in apparently good condition!

Where is Putin?

Russian President Vladimir Putin has not been seen since March 5. Everybody is asking where he is, and Kremlin's display of photos allegedly showing Mr. Putin in good health only ignited tensions after the photos turned out to be old.

Rumors circulate all around the Web: Putin is ill, or is in Switzerland where his stupid girlfriend has given birth to a new baby, or is deposed by a coup d'etat, or is brooding over plans to attack yet other countries, or is simply dead.

As the International Business Times reported, "Twitter got a hold of it next, with Russian users tagging posts with #ПутинУмер, or #PutinIsDead with what were clearly Photoshopped, tongue-in-cheek photos from Putin’s “funeral.”"

View image on Twitter

Shocking footage from Putin’s secret funeral.

Friday, March 13, 2015

The dull culture of safety

"Two fates may bring about my death. If I remain here, continuing the fight against the Trojans’ city, that means I won’t be going home, but my glory will never die. But if I go back home, my fame will die, although my life will last a long time—death will not end it quickly."
Homer, Iliad IX, translated by Ian Johnston

When I was young, I was romantic, seeking an interesting, exciting, full life. I not only enjoyed Exupery's books but agreed with him that if you become a clerk who does dull routine work and cares just about sick family members and financial problems, you have "forgotten your human quality". To be truly human, one had to meet nature, to test himself, to leave leave aside petty routine and safety concerns.

I admit that, as a child and a young adult, I have fairly often asked for trouble. I have climbed trees and rocks, passed improvised bridges, eaten wild mushrooms, swum dangerously long distances into the sea. It was fun, I enjoyed it, and I didn't become statistics because I was lucky. In fact, this was the culture those days, all were more or less doing the same, and most were lucky and grew unharmed. That was the world described in Gerald Durrell's Corfu trilogy and in Ray Bradbury's Dandelion Wine

Now, the culture has changed. Children don't play unsupervised. Moreover, most of them don't seek extreme experiences. They don't want to climb trees and need much persuation to learn swimming or cycling. I am sometimes annoyed to see that my sons have no adventurous blood in their veins and are most interested in video games and movies. Most of the time, however, I am glad about it. You may say many things against video games, but, unlike the pastimes of our youth, they have never done any physical harm to anyone. You may say that sitting in front of the screen shortens life, but I'd object that even if everybody lives 5-10 years less than they could otherwise, this cannot be compared to the tragedy of a few dying young as a result of adventures.

I acquired a phobia of sudden disasters, the things that "just happen". I wish the life to be as risk-free as possible. Of course I still admire those who take risks for the sake of others, in the name of making a better world, but otherwise I wish the dull culture of safety to prevail. I wish the younger generations to stop taking risks just to feel fully alive. They need not test themselves against the invincible and hostile nature - actually just indifferent, but at the end of the day it is all the same.

Yesterday, I attended the farewell ceremony of someone whom I knew. Just a week ago, he was vibrant, strong, loved, with a bright future in front of him. A sudden disaster struck him in the mountain. He had always been happy to be there and died while doing what he liked most. I know I'd honor him best if I say that he sought the beauty of nature, felt one with it, expressed himself fully by facing the elements and had a short but full life. 

And all of this is true. But I wish he hadn't.