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25 January 2007

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demonax

And the Turk now has the audacity to make claims about the treatment of the Muslims in Thrace and the Greek government responds not by denouncing the atrocities in Constantinople, Imvros and Tenedos and demanding restitution and repentance, but by playing the Turk’s game and defending itself against the ludicrous and outrageous charges.
It defies belief that whenever the Turk mentions Thrace we don’t throw Constantinople, Imvros and Tenedos in his face.

By the way, that frontpage mob look like a nasty lot. I hope you’re not related.

Stavros

Demo,

They can't be any worse than the guys over at Phylax. I would recommend that you read the following:

http://www.frontpagemag.com/Articles/ReadArticle.asp?ID=2003

Then do a search on FrontPageMagazine.com and type in Turkey. Read some of the articles.

BTW, Have you read "Christianity Faith and Democracy" by Greogory Vlastos?

I was skimming through it, (although now I must read it all, much more carefully) and came across this:

"A friend of mine, a decent. pagan, asked: "Why are you a Christian?" I replied: "Because I believe in love." He said: "Don't you feel like a prig when you say that?" I had to admit that I do. But why?

I go back, think through the meaning of love once again. No, there is no other way of life that will stand comparison with it. Stoic self-sufficiency, Nietzschean will-to-power, Bentham's pleasure-calculus, Epicurus' delicate self-protection against pain -- these philosophies, and others, break down where they miss the truth that one can find life only by losing it. I know the substitutes for love that men have tried throughout history, and their dismal results. I know from my own experience that the only thing that makes life human, to say nothing of making it noble, is love. Without love there can be no humanity, only brutality. Then why this inner uncertainty when I declare my faith in it? Why does the clean eye of this pagan detect a lurking unreality, a kind of involuntary humbug, in my statement of faith? There is humbug somewhere. But there is nothing wrong with love. That is the law of life by every standard of analysis and observation that I have ever used to test it. The humbug is in him who professes it, and in the world of which he is a part."

Priceless.

BTW, Thanks for the link regarding cosmopolitanism , nice site. I am going to write a post about it.

PS I've ordered Socrates: Ironist and Moral Philosopher and look forward to reading it.

demonax

It’s a nice article on Kephalonia (and it’s refreshing to see such accurate assessments of Turkey), though it must be weird to be that author (Richard Poe) and go through life examining everything in terms of whether it’s conservative (and therefore good) or liberal/socialist (and therefore bad). It seems to me that if you do this, you’ll end up, at best, narrow-minded and, at worst, somewhat deranged.
I haven’t read ‘Christianity, Faith and Democracy’, didn’t even know of its existence. The only Vlastos I’m familiar with is ‘Socrates, Ironist and Moral Philosopher’. I note CFD was written in 1939 and so is an early effort by Vlastos. Hermo seems to know more about Vlastos and perhaps can explain the relevance of CFD in the Vlastos oeuvre. When I read the Socrates book, I don’t remember being struck by any overt or underlying Christian predisposition.

Stavros

Agree labels can be dangerous, sometimes misleading, trying to put everybody in a box so to speak is counter-productive just like dividing the world into pro-Greek and anti-Greek parts. Talking and exchanging ideas even when we disagree is preferable. No argument from me on this point.

Vlastos appears to be a complex figure. Perhaps he evolved in his thinking and dropped his Christian perspective later in life, I don't know, but he is worthy of further investigation. Although my lack of knowledge when it comes to philosophy is readily apparent when I try to understand the great philosophers. Unfortunately, the hardest crusts always fall to the toothless.

demonax

Sorry to quibble, but I don’t think dividing the world into pro-Greek and anti-Greek parts is ‘counterproductive’; rather, it is worthwhile, necessary and amusing.
I read another chapter of Mountain of Silence today. There was a point where I’d almost had enough – when Maximos says that unbelievers have only themselves to blame for not being able to comprehend or appreciate God – but I ploughed on.
Stavros, if by getting me to read MS you were hoping to show me the path to salvation, then (so far) you have had the opposite effect; showing me instead that I’m way beyond redemption, that redemption is not for me in fact.
I hope there’s football in hell.

Stavros

Demonaki mou,

I am the least likely person of anyone to show you the way to salvation since I got lost somewhere along the way myself. Still I keep looking for the right path. I recommended Mountain of Silence because I like the book and it answered some of my questions. Quite frankly I am surprised that you didn't find even one nugget in it that would make the whole exercise worthwhile. Sorry I wasted your time.

Nevertheless, Maximos sounds spot on to me. Knowing God requires effort and love on our part, it doesn't come from reading a book nor will it happen by works alone.

As for dividing the world, perhaps that is why we are currently in the mess we find ourselves in.

I think in Hell we will be what we hate most in our life, and that is truly horrific.

demonax

There you go putting words into my mouth again. I didn’t say you’d wasted my time. Far from it. I’m grateful that you have prompted me to consider my damnation, its roots and consequences – in this life and for all eternity.
Nor did I say I have found nothing intrinsically interesting in the book so far. Indeed, I admitted I was ploughing on. My aunt thinks that because I do not believe in God, I must be a communist or live a life of despair. I’m determined to prove her wrong.

Stavros

File,

I apologize for jumping to conclusions but you've got me all wrong, I wasn't trying to change you or scare you. Maximos intrigues me to no end and I thought he would intrigue you, especially given your connection.

As for fire, brimstone and eternal damnation, it is not how the Orthodox approach those of us who fall short (I include myself). God is not angry with us. The problem of sin is within ourselves. It is not God's problem.
Metanoia or repentance is available to all of us into eternity. In Gifts of the Desert, Markides sequel to MOS, he relates the story of David, a death row inmate in an Arizona jail who began a correspondence with Maximos. This resulted in his baptism. In a letter to Maximos he wrote that the only good thing to come from his past life was his discovery of God.

I think all of us lead lives of quite desperation to some degree, however,although
how we live those lives is important it is not the endpoint. Even the Greek philosophers who you look to for guidance realized there was more to life than what we can experience through our senses.

I really am not the right person to carry on this conversation with you. I missed an opportunity to hear Maximos speak in Boston, something I truly regret. Search out a spiritual Elder who is qualified to help you answer the very important questions you and all of us have. In the meantime we can read.

Hermes

Gentlemen, the relationship between Hellenism and Christianity is tenuous to say the least. Superficially it may not seem so. The latter assumes the answers before one asks the questions and the former asks the questions before finding the answers.

This is difficult to accept for most people. Scroll down this list of cognitive biases and you will find Confirmation Bias. Greek Christians have suffered from this disorder for 1600 years.

http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/List_of_cognitive_biases

http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Confirmation_bias

Stavros

Hermes,

The age old conflict between faith and reason. Confirmation bias is a two edged sword and people arguing opposing sides of an issue can fall victim to its effects. This will take me awhile to answer and requires a post. So many posts so little time.

Hermes

Stavros, it is not about the age old 'Faith versus Reason' conflict. The analytical framework you use to understand Christianity and Hellenism has been constructed by Christians and therefore remains susceptible to bias. I think Tertullian was the first the frame the debate this way.

However, try telling Plotinus, Libanius or Proclus they did not have faith. Also, the Greeks were always concerned about the limitations of reason and faith and where the two intersect and conflict. This issue was an ongoing debate within Hellenism for over 1000 years. The 'faith and reason' debate did not suddenly arise when the Christians cam onto the scene.

You might love your religion but if you want to truely analyse the relationship between Christianity and philosophy then it requires a certain level of detachment.

Stavros

I am not exactly sure I follow you. Are you saying only we Christians are biased or simply that we are incapable of detached analysis?

I think part of the confusion may derive from the fact that you and I probably have different definitions of Hellenism. Greek Christians are an integral part of my brand of Hellenism but not compatible with your view of Hellenism. If that is the case, then your Hellenism stopped about 2000 years ago.

Hermes

A Christian is not capable of detached philosophical analysis because to be a Christian you must accept certain assumptions as being true i.e. the son of god etc.

A philosopher accepts nothing as being true before he starts out on his analysis. Even the process of analysis itself.

It is also not about my or your definition. This is relativism.

Stavros

Perhaps so. I guess I can never be a philosopher, besides I don't have enough time to devote to properly contemplating my navel.

BTW, I really want to thank you for introducing me to the Strategikon and to ELLOPOS. Have you seen this?

http://www.ellopos.net/elpenor/koinonia/topic.asp?TOPIC_ID=99

Hermes

Stavros, please do not get me wrong. There are many aspects of Hellenism compatible with Christian Hellenism i.e. language etc but some are not i.e. philosophy.

Although I am ambivalent about SOME aspects of Christianity (particularly Protestantism) it does not mean I cannot appreciate its many positive manifestations. For example, I still believe Kontoglou is an incredible painter and visionary although I do not exactly agree with his religious beliefs. Likewise, Cavafy is an incredible poet but I do not subscribe to his sexual preferences. I have also visited most of the important Orthodox shrines (including in Turkey - one must see the Kariye Church or visit St George Koudouna before one dies) and talked to some Churchmen about some questions I wanted help with. Actually, one of my favourite places is the courtyard of the Anafronitia Monastary near Volimes in Zakynthos where Agios Dionysios stayed for a while. Go there in the late afternoon after a swim, lay down on one of the benches and let yourself fall asleep.

Even my uncle invites me every year to Athos but so far I have declined. I will take him up on his offer because I'd like to spend some time with him, experience the natural and manmade beauty of the peninsular and get a better understanding of an important aspect of Greek life, Orthodoxy, by experiencing it in an almost pure form.

Obviously, Byzantium much be studied and experienced intensely. There are many important military texts if you are interested being a military man yourself. There are also important military figures. Two that have particularly intrigued me has been George Maniakes and Leon Sgouros. I remember seeing an good little bio in a bookshop at Akadimias in Athens on Maniakes but I did not buy it. Ellopos is a tremendous website and I surf it religiously (excuse the pun). A lot of effort has gone into it and it must be supported. But in certain parts it lacks objectivity. However, that is no reason to throw the baby out with the bathwater as the Anglo-Saxons say.

Stavros

Hermes,

This thread is not like the ones we usually engage in. I rather enjoyed reading your latest comments and I concur wholeheartedly that we can all appreciate what other Greeks have to offer us in spite of their personal quirks or political orientation. I personally enjoy the music of Mikis Theodorakis even though he and I are polar opposites politically. That is one reason I respect Ted. He has never tried to shut any of us down regardless of whether or not he agrees with us.

I think you should take up your Uncle on his offer. Visiting Athos has been a dream of mine which I plan to fulfill. I recently attended a lecture by an American photographer, Douglas Demetrios Lyttle who has been going there annually since the 70s. He converted to Orthodoxy as a result. He has published a superb collection of his photos. They were breathtaking. Even more impressive were his experiences and the people he met there. He has a website.

http://www.athosmonasteries.com/

Ellopos is like a labyrinth. It is like walking through a maze. You never know what is around the corner. Like Ted, George is one of the unsung heroes of the Greek blogging world.

Maniakes and Sgouros are completely new to me. This is the first time I heard of them. I will endeavor to learn more about them since as you know I have a real interest in Greek military history. Let me know if you find a title. As for Byzantium it is a treasure trove that has been relegated to the dustbin (possibly by those dastardly Anglo Saxons) but I think that it is slowly emerging into the light.

BTW, I am planning a trip to Northern Epirus, Athos and Constantinople, in that order. I want to write about these three places because of their importance in my own life.

Hermes

Stavros, I went to Constantinople by train from Thessaloniki. If you have the time it is a good way to travel as you get to see some of the scenery of Macedonia and Western Thrace. Eastern Thrace is one big plain so it is not that exciting. Before my trip to the City I read this excellent series of articles by Alex Penman which allows you the follow his steps and get off some of the usual tourist traps:

http://www.athensnews.gr/athweb/nathens.print_unique?e=C&f=13071&m=A24&aa=1&eidos=A

http://www.athensnews.gr/athweb/nathens.print_unique?e=C&f=13073&m=A24&aa=1&eidos=A

http://www.athensnews.gr/athweb/nathens.print_unique?e=C&f=13072&m=A24&aa=1&eidos=A

This is a more recent article on Pringipos which I believe is a must see.

http://www.athensnews.gr/athweb/nathens.print_unique?e=C&f=13168&m=A24&aa=1&eidos=A

Also, most bookstores in Greece are packed with good books on Constantinople. At least when I was there last it appeared like there was a nostalgic yearning for these lost fatherlands.

Stavros

Hermes,

Thanks much for the links, I look forward to reading them.

demonax

Apologies for being a little late with this, but I’ve been on a decorating marathon.

My point about my aunt is that between despair and communism, there is philosophy, reason and the aesthetics of tragedy. No need for a spiritual father, just a good philosopher or poet, like Vasillis Tsitsanis.


Kάνε λιγάκι υπομονή

Μην απελπίζεσαι και δεν θ' αργήσει
κοντά σου θα 'ρθει μια χαραυγή
καινούργια αγάπη να σου ζητήσει
κάνε λιγάκι υπομονή

Διώξε τα σύννεφα απ' την καρδιά σου
και με το κλάμα μην ξαγρυπνάς
τι κι άν δε βρίσκεται στη αγκαλιά σου
θα 'ρθει μια μέρα μη το ξεχνάς

Γλυκοχαράματα θα σε ξυπνήσει
κι ο έρωτας σας θ' αναστηθεί
καινούργια αγάπη θα ξαναζήσει
κάνε λιγάκι υπομονή

The version of this song sung by Sotiria Bellou can be found here:
http://www.greecetravel.com/music/rembetika/

My reference to damnation is not that serious, more an affectation. The most powerful description of the ‘afterlife’ can be found, in my opinion, in The Odyssey, when Odysseus descends into Hades and converses with the shades of the dead. Lucian of Samosata also wrote some entertaining Dialogues of the Dead, which are reminiscent of Dostoyevsky’s short story, Bobok.
Here’s a nice article I came across recently about Dostoyevsky and Orthodoxy.
http://www.interfax-religion.com/?act=interview&div=45
The great Marxist theoretician Georg Lukacs says of Dostoyevsky that he asks the right questions (about modernity and morality) but comes up with the wrong answers – Dostoyevsky’s answer being Christ and Orthodoxy, Luckacs’ answer being revolutionary socialism. Kazantzakis says of Nietzsche that he too asks the right questions (about modernity and morality) but comes up with the wrong answers.

Here’s a nice quote from Wittgenstein I came across a while ago:

‘People are religious to the extent that they believe themselves to be not so much imperfect, as ill.’

Indeed in The Mountain of Silence there is a chapter called ‘Illnesses of the heart’, which tends to bear out Wittgenstein’s prejudice.


Happy anniversary, by the way. These are the things that matter in life. Everything else, including (especially) what I have written above is irrelevant, though maybe not Tsitsanis.

Stavros

Welcome back Demo,

You were sincerely missed. You have thrown quite a bit at me that I will have take some time to digest given my mere passing acquaintance with philosophy. I always enjoy learning from you and Hermes even if we don't always agree. Thanks for you kind remembrance of my anniversary.

Hope the decorating went well.

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