If you’ve ever talked with someone that’s been to Athens, chances are the words that you’ve heard are dirty, polluted, crowded and of course magnificent, cultural, and educational. What’you probably haven’t heard is that someone had a religious experience there or that they found inner peace in Athens, Greece – even though the rhyme is so nice that it should be said all the time.
First of all – a bit of history about Athens. This is a city with a history of at least 3400 years – a place that dominated the known world at one point, and a place that has inspired modern western thought, architecture, education, and government from the remote ages well into today. With a population of about 650,000 – this isn’t the largest city in the world or even in Europe, but it is an important city.
Birthplace of the olympics, home to the Acropolis, and seat of the basis of all Western thought. It ranks high on bucket lists and ranks high on disappointment lists when people do finally go there – the reason is the high crime, the pollution, the traffic, the crowding, and the overall – not very much like classical Greece at all feeling of the place – but, when all is said and done this is Athens. The horns, the noise, the crowds and everything else in Athens can be completely overwhelming – it was for me.
The air can be difficult to breath and when you get to the Acropolis it can be disconcerting to find it desecrated with graffiti and dog turds (which you will find everywhere). After a long flight, a bus ride, and a bad meal – I found myself sitting near the Acropolis at sunset and I saw this:
At first, I found myself getting depressed that the center of our civilization had declined so much. Then I started to laugh, because honestly – it was such a foul joke that I couldn’t help myself. And then – then I started to wonder if the ancient Greeks would have found it funny – I’m pretty sure that if they understood English well enough – they would laugh. In fact, I could picture Jason of the Argonauts scrawling a joke on a temple wall. And then it hit me – we’re not any worse than the ancient Greeks – in fact, we might better. In 3500 years archaeologists might just look back at our century as a time of great enlightenment and wonder. This might be a golden age. For all of our problems and issues – things could definitely be worse. Sure, we have a super greedy rich class – but so did the Greeks – the Greeks had slaves as well. We have wars – so did the Greeks and genocide was the norm. We have awful politicians – but the Greeks made Socrates drink hemlock poison.
Hey, maybe we aren’t so bad after all. After that, things got better. I wasn’t so judgmental of the pollution, the crowds made me feel excited, and as for the grafitti – it really showed me something wonderful. It showed me that we aren’t so bad after all. It gave me a sense of inner peace. Thanks random person who painted it.