Wednesday, October 31, 2012

Celebrations, Day One

Friday, October 26, St. Demetrios Day

Thessaloniki has given the Church some 17 saints, including such notables as Sts. Cyril and Methodius, who evangelized the Slavs, and St. Gregory Palamas, who defended theologically the Orthodox experience that God does deal with us directly. But of all the saints of Thessaloniki, St. Demetrios is the best beloved of them all. There are probably more men named Demetrios and women named Demetra here in Thessaloniki than anywhere else in the world.

It was a hundred years ago this very day, on the Feast of St. Demetrios, that Thessaloniki was liberated from the Turks. The population naturally attributed their deliverance to the intercessions of their patron saint, Great Martyr Demetrios. Today, they still flock to the churches on this day with hearts full of gratitude.

We learned the hard way, one year, never to attend the Church of St. Demetrios on his feast day. Our local church, though, was also so crammed full that my claustrophobia got the better of me and I couldn’t go in. When people inside were standing shoulder to shoulder, when the balconies and stairs to the balconies and the aisles and the side chapel were all packed tight, people breathing in one another’s faces, a couple of hundred more people were pressing to get in the door. I set up my little camp stool on the porch, facing the door, where thanks to an over-enthusiastic amplifying system, I could hear every word, although I could see nothing.

A woman came and stood in front of me and opened her purse. For one startling moment, I thought she had mistaken me for one of the beggars who sit outside every church during every service. I was getting ready to protest when she pulled a Kleenex out of her purse and wiped her nose.

I sat there cursing my pride, which would have prevented me from simply accepting the money with thanks, in order not to embarrass the lady.

Eventually somebody did hand me something. It wasn’t money; but something even more startling: a baby. The little girl, about a year old with hair in little brown ringlets, sat in my lap laughing and smiling and pointing at her grandmother, who sprinted down the steps to the sidewalk below, where she retrieved the stroller and hauled it up the steps to the door of the church. I was sorry to part with the child, when we set her back into her stroller.

We had the big meal of the day around 1:00 at the taverna across the street from our flat, joined by Christos and his son Phideas, who also celebrates today, his middle name being Demetrios. Here in Greece, ones name day is much more important than ones birthday. We all had seafood.

We gave Phideas two books about Greece and a heavy sweater. Demetrios inscribed something on the front cover of one of the books. I asked Phideas what his uncle had written, and he said, in English, “That I must remember I am Greek and must struggle to preserve my Greek heritage.” But, he added with a shrug, “I don’t have to fight for my Greek heritage; that’s something I never knew.”

I never thought of that, but of course he pretty much grew up as a European rather than a Greek. I said, “You are still going to have to resist the EU if you don’t want to live in a diktatoria.” He nodded, but it seems clear such matters do not interest him.

It reminded me of a limerick somebody wrote for my husband. I don’t remember whether I ever wrote about Millie in Ormskirk, the artist who painted a picture for us. Well, her husband, Bob, writes limericks. He mentioned having written some for people on their birthdays. Demetrios wished aloud Bob would write one for him. So Bob did, and the other day, sent it by e-mail:

A Doctor Demetri from Greece
Is a man, not of war, but of peace.
But he’s very emphatic,
He’s proud to be Attic!
May his happiness ever increase.

Demetrios hooted and crowed and laughed in delight when I read it to him. He had to wipe away the tears from his eyes, from laughing so hard.

After our little feast with Christos and Phideas, we spent the rest of the day resting in between phone calls, which came every few minutes, to congratulate Demetrios on his name day. It made us realize how few of our friends we have actually seen this trip, on account of (1) being so busy with the new bathroom, (2) feeling we should stay near the newly-widowed Mena most of the time, and (3) a medical project Demetrios has been working on for a month, which I hope to describe to you in detail another time. Poor man is worn out, hasn’t even worked on his book for weeks. The resting today was a great blessing.

Tuesday, October 30, 2012

Smiling after Death

I commend to your attention the remarkable story of Elder Joseph's Smile, posted here by Emily.  Do have a look; you'll be very glad you did!

Our Prayers

...are with all of you in the path of Hurricane Sandy. We've only heard the briefest of snippets about it on TV, but I see from the Internet Sandy has done quite a lot of damage.

Diary Entries

24 October, Wednesday

The very day I was discussing the recipe for rabbit with the Jewish chef, we were served rabbit by Vasilea. I had eaten Vasilea’s rabbit before, so I didn’t hesitate this time; I knew it would be very good. Mena says hers is, too, and she will give me her recipe. Maybe some day I’ll have the courage to try it. It’s considered a delicacy here.

Our new washing machine arrived today and I’ve already done three loads of laundry; the fourth is in the machine, waiting for morning. Petros came today, too, and put a new gasket under the toilet tank, so it no longer leaks. So now all the issues about the new bathroom are resolved and it’s just a matter of awaiting the new door.

The instruction booklet for the washing machine, which has a section in English (hooray!), has the following notices.

Under “Safety Measures”:
Appliance complies with European Directives 73/23/EEC and 89/336/EEC, replaced by 2006/95/EC and 2004/108/EC, and subsequent amendments.

And in the section describing the various wash cycles you can select:

Wait, wait! Anonymous, unelected EU authorities even tell everyone who sells clothes washers in Europe how their machines must clean cottons?

Today a major newspaper had this headline: How Our Democracy was Lost. Reminds me of a television documentary we watched last year in England, “How Rupert Murdoch Controlled Britain”. What these stories have in common, of course, is they both came too late.

An Exercise in Terror

12:15 p.m. It’s a quarter past noon on Thursday and as I type this, we in Thessaloniki are being strafed — with fake bombs. So far, thirty or forty fighter jets — or maybe it’s only one, returning time and again — have screamed overhead, skimming the rooftops and in some cases, flying lower than the buildings. (No, surely that has got to be an optical illusion!??) They are shaking everything with a terrifying sound I guarantee is louder than anything you’ve ever heard. Even if you’ve lived on or very near an Air Force base, you don’t get the full effect because these jets stay as low as possible and are already flying faster than the speed of sound. They’re past you by time you hear them coming. They come again and again and again, with such sudden screaming they make you jump every time. They drop things you think are bombs, and the noise could hardly be louder if they were, but they’re only stupid pink flares. Very funny. I see no smoke, no fire anywhere.

12:45 p.m. The fighter jets have gone and now there’s loud, frenzied chanting in the streets. Almost certainly, as usual, it’s related to football (soccer). Bad timing, guys!

6:00 p.m. Among the few people on the street (shop clerks, etc.) with whom we’ve discussed this, opinion is divided. About half think it was a practice fly-by in preparation for Sunday’s big military parade. The other half says no, what happened today has never been done before; it was to frighten us.

It’s been a couple of years since the fighter jets even made an appearance during the parade and I’ve never seen them drop flares or fly so low. Well, it should all become clear come Sunday.

Actually, nobody has even told us for a fact that the jets were Greek; we just assume they were.

Wednesday, October 24, 2012

Having Fun

We have been having fun but since I find writing about the details boring, it seems logical to suppose you will be equally bored reading about it. We’ve had good meals with good friends (including wild boar, which turns out to be delicious). We’ve had another of our theological discussions. Subject is still death, but the session went far better this time. George and Pelagia took us to their village of Pefkochori on the Kassandra Peninsula and it was wonderful, but it was an exact repeat of what I’ve described before, here.

On St. Luke’s Day, George and Pelagia and Mena and I went to the Church of St. Luke, buried in the countryside about an hour north of here, to visit a monk, Fr. Luke, who is their confessor. (Demetrios stayed home to work on one of his projects.)

Fr. Luke had probably been up all night doing a vigil, because he appeared very tired when we congratulated him after church. All he said was, “Thank you very much,” and, “May you be well!” which is a Greek way of saying goodbye. So we didn’t stay long.

We passed through various picturesque, hilly villages on our way home with names like Five Springs and Many Trees.   We stopped for refreshment at a spa in the little town of Lagada, where there are thermal springs and people go to take the water. We looked around at the spa’s two gigantic swimming pools,.one for children, including a deep end, and one for adults. Inside, we were shown the “Hydro Massage” area, perhaps 40 rooms, each containing a Jacuzzi — or two. A few photos here.

Then this past weekend, Mena took us to Kastoria, where we met our friends who live there: Katerina and Nikos and all four of their parents and their two children. Kastoria is, not counting some seaside places, the loveliest town I’ve seen in Greece so far, and Greece is full of gorgeous places. It sits on a large, blue lake hemmed in by blue mountains. The lake is full of ducks, geese, swans, cormorants, gulls, terns, and its chief glory, White Pelicans. Kastoria is a leafy, gracious town with many houses in the old and uniquely Kastorian style. It’s also a wealthy city, or used to be.

Mostly all we did (besides go to church and take a marvelous walk up into the heights above the town) was be with our friends, which of course is the best thing of all, but what can I say about it?

The children, Spyros and Semiramis, both speak some English, and understand virtually everything. It’s fun to watch them play cards.

Spyros: Semira, dose mou ena five. (“Semira, give me a five.” The five is in English.)

Semiramis: Den echo ena five. (“I don’t have a five.”) Go fiss!

Semiramis is only three, I think, so she often doesn’t even know what cards she has. She just shows them to her older brother, who takes the appropriate one if she has it.

Spyros lays down his matching cards; Semiramis lays down cards, too, from time to time, not necessarily matching, and the game goes on until they tire of it, neither one having won nor lost.

Nikos, their father, the handsomest man in a country full of gorgeous men, is the only person I’ve met in Greece who has told us he favors the European Union, and highly, too. It was an excellent chance for us to hear another point of view, for three reasons. The first is, he’s a very good man and a serious one, so his opinion is especially worth hearing. The second is, he knows what he’s talking about; he’s a professor, no less, of political science! The third is, having spent most of his growing-up years in Canada, he speaks fluent English.

It turns out I do not really disagree with him. I think he has a dewy-eyed view, is all. He envisions a pan-European state that is brought about by just and above-board means, without cruelty or force, without duplicity or secrecy or thieving or wrecking existing nations, genuinely democratic, and genuinely interested in world peace. He readily admits that what is happening so far is the exact opposite of all that, but says there are two competing agendas and he’s for the other one. Okay. I’ve no problem with that other than thinking it a chimera.

His father, Sypros, now has a blank look on his handsome, blue-eyed face, from Altzheimer’s. Sad to see such an elegant, dapper, sweet gentleman so lost. He can no longer join the conversation. He becomes easily bored and wants to do something else.

Yesterday a thing happened which, although sad, is funny, too. We were eating in a restaurant, and between courses, Spyros stood up and wanted to go outside for a bit. Nobody hindered him.

Sometime later, he came back inside and seated himself at another table, rejoining the wrong family. The funny part is to imagine how startled they must have been! They had accepted him and were treating him as one of their own, however, when we discovered and retrieved him. Apparently they had realized somebody would.

(It reminds me of the time a couple of years ago when Demetrios and I came upon a baptism party. Demetrios and I just sort of slipped in among them, and, um, well, a number of the photos included us.)

Norma, Spyros’ wife, has a hard, hard job, but she is undertaking it with grace, courage, and a positive attitude. Her face betrays her sorrow, but her voice, her words, and her manners do not. She is a great example and inspiration.

We departed in the late afternoon Sunday: up into the mountains, past the signs warning of bears, along the highways rimmed with fences to keep the bears off it, through the valley polluted by the electric company, where they make Greece’s electricity by burning coal, back up into the mountains, through the 13 tunnels under them (15 going the other way), to Berea, where the mountains suddenly end, across the plateau until we could see Thessaloniki spread out below us, and her wide harbor. Smog hung over the city, first time I’ve ever seen it here, and thick enough to turn the sun to deep orange. Into the town, still crowded because a marathon had been held here earlier in the day and home again, exhausted but having had a glorious time.

Tuesday, October 23, 2012


Christos is doing somewhat better. He began taking the pills and eating the porridge Demetrios gave him. Between the two, he has had very little trouble with his alimentary tract, which encourages him to eat more, and he has put on about 4 pounds, by Demetrios’ estimate. (We bought him a bathroom scale a couple of days ago so he can keep track.) He looks and acts stronger. His complexion isn’t as gray, but is even rather pink. But the most important thing is, he seems to have regained the will to live. Demetrios had to badger his little brother at first to get out of the house every day and go do something enjoyable, if only to take a walk or to sip a cup of coffee by the sea — but now he does it. If you could see the improvement in Christos, you’d have to agree he has a very good doctor!

* * *

There’s an Englishwoman who works right across the street from us. In fact, she owns the convenience store on the corner. Her name is Lorraine, and it is fun for me to have somebody nearby to speak to in English. “Are you married to a Greek, like me?” I asked.

“Oh, yes,” she said. “In fact, he has that bar over there,” gesturing toward the next corner, on the opposite side of our building.

I put on my best fake smile and said, “You mean The Drunken Duck?”

“Yes; he’s had that about six or seven years now.”

In other words, ever since we began coming here.

Long-time readers of this blog know that the Drunken Duck (no wonder its name is in English!) has been the bane of our existence here. OOPS. No more praying for it to close!

* * *

A wolf, yes, a wolf, has been spotted in the village of Nea Sylatta, where Mena has a summer home we often visit on weekends. Most wolves in Greece have been rounded up and put into a special reserve, so it is unusual to see one on the loose. This one has taken a sheep, maybe more than one since last we heard. I realize the sheep owners are not thrilled, but I am! Pray with me for the safety of the wolf as well as the sheep and the people. How I wish somebody could find it and talk to it, the way Francis of Assisi, in the legend, talked to the wolf of Gubbio, persuading it to kill no more in exchange for being fed every day by the villagers..

* * *

There has been a lot of negative publicity about a new political party in Greece called The Golden Dawn. Most often, the party is accused of being neo-Nazi. Now then, they do use the same salute the Nazis did, but the fact is, that salute, in Greece, pre-dates the Nazis. In fact, it was used in World War II by those fighting against the fascists. The Golden Dawn people also wear black shirts, which is unsettling. I’ve heard that they use a "modified swastika" for their symbol, but in fact it isn't; it's the very ancient Greek key or meander.
Ancient Pavement
Golden Dawn Symbol

Here in Greece, I, who despise fascism, am defined as a fascist, simply because I fly the Greek flag.  So when The Golden Dawn is also called fascist, it’s hard to know whether that’s true or just a smear, just propaganda from a government that has good reason to be alarmed by this group.

The Golden Dawn did go around in Athens shooing away unlicensed street vendors who were selling pirated goods. That’s true, and yes, that's taking the law into their own hands. That’s vigilantism. But there’s another point of view, which is that somebody has to enforce the law. The government isn’t doing it.

The Golden Dawn is also accused of being xenophobic, anti-immigrant. Well, you have to understand what is happening with immigrants here in Greece. For just one example, they can come into your house and boot you out; and as the establishment wants the mushrooming immigrant vote, no official will help you. But The Golden Dawn will kick them out for you and return your home to you. They also distribute food and clothing to the needy, although only to Greeks, not to the various immigrants threatening to overwhelm Greece by their sheer numbers.

I don’t yet know what this party is. I’m watching them for myself instead of heeding the propaganda and meanwhile, I’m reserving judgment, albeit nervously. Are they more like Adolf Hitler or Robin Hood?

Robin Hood, of course, was an outlaw.

* * *

For reasons unknown, I’ve lately been humming a song my father used to sing to me, “Daddy’s Little Girl.” He played it on the piano without sheet music and sang to his own arrangement. He must have sung it to Wendy and Barbara, too, later, but that I don’t remember; I only remember him singing it to me.

In his later life, when he hadn’t sung it for years, nostalgia gripped me and I asked him to play it and sing it again. He declined. It hurt my feelings at the time.

We (his family) didn’t know he had dementia, didn’t realize he couldn’t even remember the song itself, much less how to play it.

That’s the thing, isn’t it? We seldom, if ever, really know what is going on in another person’s head, let alone his heart. How many, many things we must be misinterpreting every day! How much misery do we suffer — hurt, anger, jealousy, and such — on account of some mistake?

* * *

In the butcher shop this morning, Ia strange hunk of meat was on display. It was something with a tiny head and its body was chopped into four pieces. I was still puzzling it out when I saw the sign: Kounelli. Rabbit. Ah, sure enough, its tail, complete with fur, had been left on to show that’s what it was. (Maybe to prove is wasn’t cat or rat?)

“I don’t know how to cook kounelli,” I said to the butcher’s wife. The customer standing beside me, an older man who looked as Jewish as it is possible to look, said, “The basis of it is pearl onions and tomatoes. You add some wine…” and he went on, listing the spices and the amounts for me, all with a captivating smile. I didn’t know what all the spices were that he mentioned, and it’s a pity, because, as the butcher’s wife told me when the man had left, “He’s a chef. He has cooked all over the world.”


I know the Greek names of the spices I use, but now I am going to learn the rest of them.

Greek Taxes, Greek Myth

WARNING: another rant
A current myth is that the Greeks are a dishonest, tax-evading people.
The truth is more complex and much worse.
First, the economic problem in Greece has very little to do with the general population evading taxes; it’s far, far more due to Greek politicians making off with literally hundreds of billions of Euros of the country’s money. The former defense minister alone is charged with looting 10 billion with a “b” and stashing it in a Swiss bank. (His lawyer says all these charges will be cleared up when his client appears before the judge. When will that be? Whenever his client decides it will be. Oh, and nobody, nobody will tell the defendant what to say or what questions to answer.) Even more, the economic problem has to do with irresponsible borrowing by the government and irresponsible lending by Greece’s creditors. Taxes are a miniscule, microscopic part of the problem.
Second, most taxes in Greece can’t be evaded. They’re sales taxes. You pay at the counter.
Until two years ago (years after the onset of the economic crisis), there was no property tax for most people. Only the largest dwellings were taxed, and ordinary people like you and me couldn’t afford such properties and/or took care to keep their dwellings smaller than the taxable size. So when you hear about people in the suburbs of Athens with unreported, taxable swimming pools, that’s only the ruling elite (and to this day, nothing has been done about that, nor ever shall be). That’s a red herring; that’s a distraction from the real problem. Most people did not evade property taxes because there weren’t any.
Nowadays, everyone pays is supposed to pay property tax. It’s collected for the government by the electricity monopoly company and is included in your electricity bill. You can’t evade this tax unless you want your electricity turned off. Or unless you are rich and privileged, I suppose. “The golden key opens all doors.”
There is also an income tax. Pensioners and government employees (together, about half the population) have this tax deducted from their paychecks, so they can’t avoid this one, either. The other half of the people can.
There are no private tax preparers in Greece similar to H & R Block or People’s in America. The tax-preparers and the tax-collectors are one and the same and they are much like the despised tax-collectors of the New Testament: they work for the government and they guesstimate decide how much tax you owe. The decision is entirely or almost entirely arbitrary because it has to be; there’s no method for it to become otherwise. Very often, the official takes his unofficial cut and that cut is whatever he determines it is. Often it’s highway robbery. Usually a bribe love offering can lower your “taxes” a little. In short, you couldn’t possibly design a system better suited to encourage tax evasion!
And this is not by accident. There’s no reason a government of today couldn’t, if it wanted to, set up some reasonably efficient, modern, non-arbitrary (and dare I add fair?) system of collecting income tax. The only reasons not to are:
  • if the government wants to steal the money
  • or to use tax evasion as an excuse to grab even more control over the people
  • or government employees just don’t want that much work.
All of these are happening here in Greece. (“We have governed very sloppily casually,” said Mr. Venizelos, the finance minister, attempting to explain the disappearance of a document listing 30-odd alleged thieves in high office.)
When you lose faith in your government and conclude, as perhaps most people here have, that it is not a legitimate government but only a crime ring, then you begin to think there’s no use supporting it with your taxes. There’s also no use obeying unjust laws. And then a weird thing happens: you begin failing to distinguish between just and unjust laws and wonder why you should obey any of them. Why pay my parking ticket, you may ask yourself, if the money is going to line the pocket of some already rich thug? And so law loses its moral authority and it all unravels.
Luckily for Greece (and Italy and Ireland and Portugal and Spain and other once-prosperous countries of Europe), the EU is ready to step in and knit everything together again, all into one, common, privately controlled regime. You just have to hope your country can survive its membership requirements meanwhile. Better still if it cannot, since the existence of individual nations, we are told, is an obstacle to the dream of a United Europe.

Monday, October 22, 2012

The Television News…

…on Thursday night was full of talk on two subjects. The first topic was how well Greece is doing in the negotiations with the Troika (European Commission, European Central Bank, and the International Monetary Fund) and the other topic was all about uniting all the banks in Europe into one.

WARNING: Obviously this post is going to be a rant about European politics, so skip it if this sort of thing disturbs you.

Yes, the news analysts assured us, we’re doing very well in the negotiations with the EU. Does that mean Greece has won some concessions, some relaxation of the ever-increasing hardships the Troika imposes? No, the opposite. It means we’ve already managed to meet 90% of their new demands, showing we are indeed capable and worthy of remaining within the Eurozone. We expect to come to agreement soon on the remaining 10%. We are on track to pay all the remaining debt, and the Greeks should be very proud of this.

The main thing is Europe, say all the politicians of virtually all parties. All our efforts, all the people’s suffering, must be geared to the preservation of the EU. Greece must make great sacrifices to that end. Europe first.

Now in the old days, if you were supposed to be working for your country but were found working for someone else instead, especially someone intent on destroying your own country, well, that was the very definition of a traitor.

And only one bank in all the EU? Imagine! One bank, controlling debt, credit, interest rates, monetary supply; fixing prices and fees, sharing all your account information all over Europe. All over the world, really, because of course American and other non-European banks operating in Europe would have to be merged as well. If the bank decided to charge you 40% on your credit card, you couldn’t escape by changing banks. If the one bank wouldn’t give you a mortgage, there wouldn’t be another bank to try... and on and on. In the old days, merging all the banks into one would result in what was called a monopoly (an anti-competitive, anti-consumer, price-fixing, anti-free-market entity) and a monopoly, at least in America, used to be illegal, as in, criminal offense.

When Greeks call their politicians thieves and traitors, they are not exaggerating. They’re just being terribly old-fashioned.

Sunday, October 21, 2012

And Now, Finally, Some Time to Relax!

Friday, 19 October
Our bathroom is finished, more or less. The ceiling, once barely above our heads, is now 11 or 12 feet high. The whole room is tiled up to 2 meters and painted white above that. The tiles are all large, white, and oblong except the shower walls, the base of the shower, and a column in the back corner of the room, which are all done in tiny (1/2 inch?) tiles, very glittery shades of cobalt with some silver tiles mixed in. Yes, it’s as pretty as we had hoped it would be. Hard to believe, at last we have a bathroom that is both functional and truly beautiful!

A woman (the sister of Petros, the contractor) came and gave it (and the whole house) a thorough cleaning and now the bathroom sparkles, literally. It all looks very clean and tidy; there’s more room to move around and more room in the shower. There are three elegant lights hanging down from above.

I only had to spend one night in the Queen Olga Hotel and Demetrios toughed it out at home even that night, with a totally empty bathroom except for the freshly-laid tiles. Not I. Thirty-two Euros were, I say, well worth the single room with no view of the sea and Mt. Olympus, but with a working toilet (Hallelujah!) a tiny but real shower (Praise the Lord!), air conditioning (Glory to God!) a single bed, a TV, telephone, and clean towels. Those were all I needed (desperately ).

We still don’t have a washing machine because it broke after 4 loads of laundry. That’s a long story and part of it has to do with the fact that the instructions came in Romanian, Hungarian, Slovakian, Slovenian, Czech, Polish, Croatian, Ukrainian, Albanian, Bulgarian, Lithuanian, and Estonian – but not English. Or French or German, which I could perhaps have deciphered. Greek, yes, but Demetrios was exhausted and, well, it wasn’t his fault, or mine either. But between us we made some sort of horrible mistake, still aren’t sure what, and when at last we were able to open the lid of the washer, we found the drum absolutely mangled. We had to buy a whole new machine (why is another long story) which we did today. Different brand, same brand I used to have before all this began but in a small version. English instructions. To be delivered Thursday afternoon. Hope our clothes supply can hold out until then. I’ve been doing some things by hand – as most of the world’s women have done throughout most of human history, I remind myself. (Nausicaa, the mythical princess in Corfu who met Odysseus, had been doing the palace laundry at the time. She and her maidens had brought it down to the sea and spread it out over the rocks in the shallows and they danced over the laundry until they were tired and it was clean. Who but the Greeks would think of that? I wish I could dance over mine.)

The other unfinished business is, the bathroom still has no door! And that’s because what started out as just a bathroom door – you know, plain, pre-fab, off-white door minus any decoration – somehow turned into a Work of Art.

It began because the space for the door isn’t a standard height or width. (This is an old building.) We needed a custom door. (That’s “bespoke” for you Brits.)

And then Demetrios noticed that the man selling plain doors didn’t seem to have any of very good quality.

So we went to a store near Mena’s house that we’ve noticed for years. There you can see a downright confusing array of doors with panels, swirls, squares, diamonds, lines, whatever, in dozens of different colors and quite a range of sizes. You can even have a photograph enlarged and worked into your door. We still wanted just a plain, off-white door to match all our other interior doors, just better quality than we had seen so far. And custom fitted.

And then the man showed us the glass doors. Glass, for a bathroom door? Well, not glass you can see through, but frosted glass, textured glass, solid-colored glass – and fusion glass. It’s highly textured, colored art glass, and we fell in love with it, specifically with some containing our cobalt blue, plus splashes of other colors.

We couldn’t afford to have a whole door in it, and that might have looked odd anyway. But we are having this glass put in what would be the top panel of the door if it had three panels. Which it hasn’t because it’s still, otherwise, a plain, off-white door. To be delivered – ouch! – the first week in November.

Until then, the doorless bathroom is slightly awkward, but then, there are only two of us. We manage rather easily to give one another all the privacy we need, if not all we’d like.

Anyway, for now everything’s done that can be, and we are free at last to start having some fun! We have been, mind you; here and then; I just haven’t had time to write about it yet. I shall soon. But for now, we’re off to Kastoria tomorrow and Sunday with Mena, Renna, and Theodosios.

St. Demetrios Day will soon be here (October 26) and we need to start planning that, as well. And two days after that, Ochi Day, which after last year’s events on that day, ought to be very interesting indeed, no matter what happens or doesn’t.

Saturday, October 20, 2012

Norse Seers

Just don’t even try to tell me that in the olden days, God never revealed Himself except to Israel, or that knowledge of Him was/is only to be found in the Holy Scriptures. Then, as now and always, God revealed Himself all over the place, to all men as far as they were able and ready to receive the revelation. Some people had more of the Truth than others, but nobody has ever had any monopoly on It Him. Rob Bell, in his book, Love Wins, speaks of (but doesn’t substantiate or supply examples of) missionaries who went to faraway places to preach Christ, and the natives, as surprised as the missionaries, said, “Oh, is that His name? We’ve always worshipped Him.” You already know from the book of Acts that the Athenians had a statue to the Unknown God. I’ve already written recently about the ancient Greeks who expected Christ’s coming; now I find out, so did the ancient Norsemen.

The Norsemen knew perfectly well their gods would ultimately fail, eventually die. But they also knew what would happen after that. From Edith Hamilton’s wonderful book, Mythology:

The Frost Giants and the Mountain Giants who lived in Jötunheim were the enemies of all that is good. They were the brutal powers of earth, and in the inevitable contest between them and the divine powers of heaven, brute force would conquer.

But such a belief is contrary to the deepest conviction of the human spirit, that good is stronger than evil. Even these sternly hopeless Norsemen, whose daily life in their icy land through the black winters was a perpetual challenge to heroism, saw a far-away light break through the darkness. There is a prophecy in the Elder Edda, singularly like the Book of Revelation, that after the defeat of the gods, – when
The sun turns black, earth sinks in the sea,
The hot stars fall from the sky,
And fire leaps high about heaven itself,
– there would be a new heaven and a new earth,
In wondrous beauty once again.
The dwellings roofed with gold,
The fields unsowed bear ripened fruit
In happiness forevermore.

Then would come the reign of One who was higher even than Odin and beyond the reach of evil –
A greater than all,
But I dare not ever to speak his name.
And there are few who can see beyond
The moment when Odin falls.

How’s your throat doing? Mine has a lump in it.

Friday, October 19, 2012

Reason and Orthodox Christianity

Check out Fr. Stephen's wondrous post on the relationship between reason and Orthodoxy. You can find it here.

The Suffering of Odin: Paying the Price

I’ve been reading Edith Hamilton’s wonderful book, Mythology. Most of the book is about Greek mythology, with some Roman thrown in. But Part Seven is about Norse mythology. Norse, as Hamilton points out, means Teutonic, and Teutonic includes the English and many of us today.

Norse mythology differs from Greek in that it predicts the eventual triumph of evil over men, over all the earth, over Valhalla, and even over the gods themselves.

The chief god, Odin, has
the responsibility more than all the other gods together of postponing as long as possible the day of doom, Ragnarok, when heaven and earth would be destroyed. He was the All-father, supreme among gods and men, yet even so he constantly sought for more wisdom. He went down to the Well of Wisdom guarded by Mimir the wise, to beg for a draught from it, and when Mimir answered that he must pay for it with one of his eyes, he consented to lose the eye. He won the knowledge of the Runes, too, by suffering. The Runes were magical inscriptions, immensely powerful for him who could inscribe them on anything – wood, metal, stone. Odin learned them at the cost of mysterious pain. He says in the Elder Edda that he hung
Nine whole nights on a wind-rocked tree,
Wounded by a spear,
I was offered to Odin, myself to myself,
On that tree of which no man knows.
He passed the hard-won knowledge on to men. They, too, could use the Runes to protect themselves.

Does this sound familiar, the deity hanging on a tree, wounded by a spear, being offered to himself, for the benefit of men? Is this a foreshadowing of the Christ?

And the dark distortion of it, a gut feeling in many of us that good gifts from above (like “forgiveness”) must be paid for, and paid for specifically in the coinage of suffering – is Norse mythology where that notion comes from? Does the terrible assumption date all the way back to Odin?

That possibility may not be as far-fetched as it first sounds; to me, at least, it appears Norse mythology still influences us today more than we are aware. Consider, for example, that four of our weekdays are named after Norse gods. Tuesday was originally Tyr’s Day; Wednesday is Odin’s Day, Thursday is Thor’s Day, and Friday is Freya’s Day.

Thursday, October 18, 2012

Reversible Stripes Knitting Pattern

Here’s a pattern I found on with which I’ve been quite taken. It’s so simple – only 4 rows – you can catch onto the method of it and memorize it quickly, yet it’s so clever: horizontal stripes on one side and vertical stripes – plus Swiss dots – on the other! Every knitter needs a few reversible patterns in his or her head for scarves and blankets and such. I think we all ought to add this to our standard repertoire, right along with other old stand-bys like garter stitch, moss stitch, 3x3 checks, and ribbing. In fact this is ribbing, with the all-important difference that every 4th stitch is slipped (purl-wise).

Yarn: For a scarf you need about 200 yards of two different yarns. For anything else, buy very generous amounts of yarn, as this fabric will be dense. It does not stretch the way ordinary ribbing does.

This pattern works well with A: one smooth (worsted weight) and B: one fluffy or more textured yarn. You can use white and some bright color or two contrasting pastels, but the pattern doesn’t look as pretty with two bright colors competing with each other. I’m regretting my choice of bright red with bright blue.

Needles: Size 9 or 10 circular for a scarf in worsted weight; or, for a rather thick blanket, size 7 for worsted weight or one size smaller than called for by whatever weight of yarn you use.

Cast on 31 stitches with color B (for scarf) or any multiple of 4 plus 3.

Slide stitches to the other end of the needle and begin Row I at the same end where you began the cast-on. (Two “starting tails” will be hanging off of same end.)

Row 1:
With A – K1, Slip one w/yarn in front, K1, *P1, K1, Slip one w/yarn in front, K1, repeat from * to end, TURN

Row 2:
With A – P1, Slip 1 w/yarn in back, P1, *K1, P1, Slip 1 w/yarn in back, P1, repeat from * to end, SLIDE STITCHES TO OTHER END OF NEEDLE, do not turn.

Row 3:
With B – P1, K1, P1, *Slip 1 w/yarn in back, P1, K1, P1, repeat from * to end, TURN

Row 4:
With B – K1, P1, K1, *Slip 1 w/yarn in front, K1, P1, K1, repeat from* to end, SLIDE STITCHES TO OTHER END OF NEEDLE, do not turn.

Continue until desired length and then bind off with B.

TIP: Whenever you have both yarns at the same end of a row, you will need to be consistent in how you handle them. I like to twist them, bringing the yarn “in waiting” under the working yarn from back to front, then over the working yarn. I then hold the yarn in waiting wrapped firmly around the fingers of my left hand while working the first few stitches with the other yarn.

Another TIP: The right and left edges differ slightly from one another, but the difference only applies to one side of the last stitch. You may not care, especially if you plan to add a border. Variegated yarn (“self-striping” in the UK), as in the photo, will also mask the difference. Using selvedge stitches will not.

Yet Another TIP: Once you catch on to this pattern (test swatch!!), you’ll easily understand how to vary it so you don’t need double-pointed needles.

The Four Most Important Knitting Rules*

*In my opinion

1.) Buy more yarn than you think you will use. You can always find uses for leftover yarn.

2.) Admire your work very often.

3.) Do your gauge swatch (tension square in the UK). Yes, even if it’s a blanket or scarf and you don’t need precise measurements, do your homework. The advantages are more than just getting gauge. You also get used to the pattern, find out whether you enjoy knitting it, and discover where you are most likely to make mistakes. And you end up with a coaster, potholder, or table mat – a little souvenir of everything you knit and give away.

4.) No knitting late at night.

Wednesday, October 17, 2012

A Prophet Among Us?

About a month before he died, Kostas’ daughter Liana came upon him in his office holding a photograph of his mother and kissing it and weeping and saying, “Mama, I will soon be with you!”

After his cardiac arrest and resuscitation, Mena said to him, “Well, you survived this one.” He smiled and shook his head and said, “It makes no difference. I will be gone soon.”

Another time, Mena, visiting Kostas in hospital, was giving him news of a friend, and Kostas said, “Poor thing; she is going to have a very hard time at work.” And a few days later, she did begin having serious problems at work. Another time, about another friend, Kostas said, “He will be with me in the hospital.” And the man was indeed hospitalized before Kostas died.

That’s a perfect score so far; three out of three. But there’s another, happier prediction; Kostas told Liana she would some day give birth to twins. As she assures us she isn’t pregnant and as she isn’t married, either, we shall have to wait a while to see if this one comes true.

We all look around at each other and wonder, did we have a prophet in our midst? Did God give him that gift toward the end? It certainly seems to us he was humble and meek and compassionate the caring enough to have been a prophet.

Thursday, October 11, 2012

More Grandchildren Disneyworld this time...

Here are Sydney and Jackson and their mom, my daughter Erin, and, well, you know who.

Wednesday, October 10, 2012

Endless Journey

C. S. Lewis, in his wonderful little book, The Great Divorce, has a character, an Anglican bishop, who when offered a chance to enter heaven, decides to go back to hell instead. Why? Because he would miss his theological discussion groups. In heaven, what would there be to talk about? Wouldn’t it be terribly dull to be where all the answers are known and Truth is obvious? Where would be his intellectual fun?

Is that why some people belittle us, who confess that Christ, the Light of the World, has shone upon us who walked in great darkness? “We have seen the Light”, we sing with grateful hearts, “The true Light. We have received the heavenly Spirit. We have found the true faith: worshipping the undivided Trinity, Who has saved us.’” Is that why people assert that such words as these are arrogant – because they enjoy the questions so much they do not actually want any answers?

I think that’s only true for some of them. Other people do not want solid answers because, failing to appreciate the catholicity of Christian doctrine and praxis, they want the freedom to adjust it to their contemporary, cultural understandings. Other people, in effect denying Christ, simply do not believe there exists anything that is knowable as absolutely true.

But those are other subjects. For people who don’t want answers simply because they think having them would be boring, I have some good news: finding Truth will never be boring, because Truth is infinite. Finding Truth will not end your journey; it will be only the beginning. It will not give anyone all the answers, but will raise increasingly more questions. Finding the Truth will open up ever new vistas, further horizons. Even in paradise, when we see Him face-to-face, there will be infinitely more to learn, countless more ways to keep growing. And that, surely is the kind of endless journey we all want to be on, isn’t it? I mean what kind of a journey is the other, in which definitive answers are taboo and you are “Ever learning, and never able to come to the knowledge of the truth”? (2 Timothy 3:7)

Tuesday, October 9, 2012

Lines for Knitters, Written Late at Night

No knitting late at night!
This should be the knitter’s creed.
Do your laundry, eat a bite,
Take a book and read,
But No Knitting Late at Night!

No Knitting Late at Night!
Learn a pattern, check your stash,
But never think the rule to scorn
Don’t be tempted, don’t be brash:
You’ll feel a fool come morn.

No Knitting Late at Night!
For then our minds are not so bright;
We’re sleepy and dim-witted,
Each stitch you knit by man-made light,
Next day must be unknitted.

No Litting Nate at Kite!
By time for bed, it looks alright,
But in the clearer sight of day,
Not just the night’s work’s not okay,
The rows below are now a fright.

No Nitting Kate at Light!
How late is late? You cannot fix
The hour or the season.
"Late" can be as soon as six
If fatigue has dulled your reason.

Monday, October 8, 2012

Congratulations, Kelly!

Or, Grandmas have a right to brag about their grandchildren!

My eldest granchild, Kelly, won a chance to ask a question of her favorite children's author, Rick Riordon, when he came to Wake Forest University. She won by having one of the best questions. She asked what had inspired him to write about Greek mythology. (Yes! How's that for a winning question?)

Kelly Asking Her Question

Author Riordon Answering Kelly's Question

(And does this photo of Wait Chapel ever bring back memories of the old Alma Mater!)

Really, Really, REALLY Forgiving

Mena feels guilty because she used to scold Kostas so much when he was alive.

I said he understood she was under a lot of pressure all the time and furthermore he knew, we all knew, she loved him dearly.

Demetrios said it’s not too late to ask his forgiveness. He said as we all, either side of the grave, are dwelling-places of the Holy Spirit, the Holy Spirit would make Kostas aware that Mena was asking forgiveness, and obviously Kostas would forgive.

All in a split second, I thought (well, “thought” is not the word, but I don’t know what is):

I’m so glad I was on good terms with everyone I know who has died! Oops, not true, come to think of it. But give me a break! It’s hard enough to forgive people who tormented you without having to ask them to forgive you! That’s just too, too much! NO WAY!

And yet, it isn’t the case, is it, that during their attempts to make you miserable you always responded the way Christ would have, had it been He, living through you? So yes, you need not only to forgive them but also to ask them to forgive you. Yes, you do need to. No way around it.

Worse still, now that the person has departed this life and can no longer harm you, what is it holding you back? What else but that your own so-called forgiveness of the other must not be quite as thoroughgoing as you flattered yourself it was?


Behold the Love extended to you: uncompromising, unconditional, boundless, all-encompassing, undiluted, total, all-forgiving, death-defying, never failing, perfect! And this Love is your very life, is the meaning and essence of everyone's life. You must share this miraculous treasure with all people and all things – or else you have not laid hold of it even for yourself, because that’s what it is; to be shared with all is its very nature. What’s the problem, then? If it can be shared with YOU, why not with others not so very different from you after all?

The problem is delusory. There’s no problem; there’s only Joy. You just have to throw away your trash – trash! – to enter into It.

Saturday, October 6, 2012

A Flop

We had another get-together with several of our dear friends Thursday night, this time at the home of Manolis and Vasilea. This time, it was somewhat structured; we had agreed in advance we wanted to discuss theological matters. The chosen topic was death, on account of the recent loss of our dear Kostas.

I thought the whole evening was a big disappointment, and this surprised me. I had looked forward to the evening so much and had expected to enjoy it so greatly. Being in a whole circle of Orthodox theologians, including even one professional theologian, how delectable is that?

Far better simply to live the Life of Christ together. This encourages the best in each of us, and the theological insights are by no means wanting! They flow naturally and abundantly from that Life. But sit down for the purpose of intellectualizing about it all and not only is it a complete bore, it also tends to bring out the weaknesses of each of us. It’s as if we had driven the Holy Spirit away.

There were some positives. One is that the discussion appears to have helped Mena, the new widow. Another is that her son, Vasilis, came along, the younger generation! (Younger, I say, although he is pushing 40.) And the discussion seems to have been useful to him as well. And a third joy was Maria, the one who has Altzheimer’s. She did surprisingly well this time. Once or twice, she was heard to murmur, “That’s it, exactly!” And twice she herself had something to say, although she could only say half of it before the rest of it slipped away from her mind.

And that reminds me of another thing I rejoice to observe, one that probably deserves a whole post of its own, and that is how beautifully her husband, Dimitrios, deals with her and with their situation. He never makes her feel ill at ease or embarrassed. He never tries to gloss over her disability or hide it or apologize for it. Neither does he call attention to it. He never chides her for not remembering, nor tries to get her to. He never talks down to her or (heaven forbid) uses the cooing sort of voice most of us use when addressing a baby. He behaves as if his task, which must be very challenging indeed, were the easiest thing in the world, and as if things like turning her fork around for her if she’s holding it upside down were perfectly normal and natural. There’s no fuss whatsoever, not so much as a sigh, not so much as an, “Oh dear!”

Watching that would alone have made the evening worthwhile.

Friday, October 5, 2012

Who Gets into Heaven and Who Doesn’t?

Last Pascha, I strongly urged you to read this sermon. Well, it’s the wrong one. It’s a beautiful one and I hope you do read it, but the one I meant to bring to your attention was this one.  I think it second only to  St. John Chrysostom’s Paschal Sermon, which is high praise indeed, as Chrysostom's is perhaps the most joyous proclamation in all of human history.  Well, this sermon should be treasured right alongside that one. 

And it, together with a summer of wrestling with Rob Bell’s book Love Wins, has greatly simplified for me the issue of ones eternal destiny. Yes, it’s starkly simple: when we die, (perhaps just as we are dying), we shall finally see Jesus as He is. As He truly is, not as we may have heard Him preached. And He will say to each of us, “Come with Me into Paradise.” And those who love the One they see and above all else want (albeit quite suddenly) to be with Him forever, will be. Period. They may have believed a slew of wrong things. They may never have been baptized or ever heard of Christ. They may have committed almost nothing but evil deeds. They need have neither any goodness of their own nor any imputed goodness; they are all invited, for God’s love in absolutely unconditional.

Those who rejoice in this blanket amnesty rejoice in it forever; and whoever resents it, his very resentment excludes him from it.

In a way, I probably should end this post right here, because that really is all there is to it. But I know this position raises a lot of questions, such as: Well, if anyone will enter Paradise who wants to, what good is it to preach the Gospel, to spread Christianity? Or what good, to labor so hard all our lives to follow Christ’s path, to become pure and holy? But I think most of these questions are wrong-headed or rather, wrong-hearted. They remind us of all sorts of Parables, of the Prodigal’s elder brother, who resented his bother’s homecoming party, of the laborers in the vineyard who resented the latecomers being paid the same wage they were paid, who had worked all day long.

The value of being in communion with Christ in this life is that – imagine this! – we get to be in communion with Christ in this life! Being in communion with Christ is in itself already the highest value, is already Paradise in embryonic form. (What else did we expect Paradise to be? Are crowns, golden streets, or gates of pearl even comparable to Him?) If we are following Christ for any other reward, or for any other reason than for love of Him, we aren’t really doing it.

Note, too, that the more we become like Him, the deeper our communion with Him grows, so we struggle for it; or we may express the same thing by saying the more we grow, the greater our salvation; either way of putting it is a tautology.

Thart's all there is to it, and yet there is a furthermore, a danger inherent in not following Christ here and now. And that has to do with our passions. To the extent we are not living for Christ, we are being driven by our passions; that is, by our pride, lust, gluttony, greed, and the like. And when we are living for our passions, we immediately begin to fear God, because we are aware that His will and ours are opposites. Our deeds are evil, but our pleasure in them is great, even downright addictive, and we do not want God or anyone else interfering with them. Or judging them. Or judging us. And this fear of God very soon begets dislike, and dislike begets hatred. The danger, then, is that when we die and see Christ just as He is, He will be just as we feared He would be, the hated spoilsport, the Revealer of the Light Who by His very contrasting Presence, makes us keenly, consciously, inescapably aware of the evil in us; and when we hear Him summoning us to paradise, the danger is, we will refuse to go.

And Love, of course, will never force us.

“This is condemnation: that Light is come into the world and men preferred darkness, because their deeds were evil.” –Jesus Christ, to Nicodemos (John 3:19)

Construction, etc.

The total re-do of our bathroom began Monday and is proceeding about as speedily as possible. The workers, unlike some previous ones with whom we’ve dealt, are professional. They are not slackards, as some have been, but work diligently. They show up early every morning, do the noisy stuff before 2:00, which is when we in our building begin observing quiet hours, and work quietly until 3:00 or 4:00, when it’s time for their own meals and siesta.

We wouldn’t want them to work any longer than that, because every day until today, they’ve had to remove the toilet first thing and put it back last thing. I mean, they place it where it was without bolting it down or connecting it with any water. A big bucket of water substitutes for the tank.

During the day, we take turns going places like the internet café, or coffee shops, or wherever there is a ladies’ or a gents’. It’s also good just to get out of the house, away from the noise and dust.

At night, there’s an old sheet hanging in the doorway for a modicum of privacy.

So far, the 6-inch thick, concrete “false ceiling” has been removed, the new plumbing arrangement is in place, the gas lines have been moved, and today the new, high ceiling is being plastered and smoothed, together with the walls. What remains is the tiling of walls and floor and the installation of: the toilet, the new sink and cabinetry, the new washing machine, new shower, and new radiator, the kind that doubles as a towel rack. All that, if you can imagine, is to fit comfortably in a space that’s little more than a meter and a half along each wall.

Every morning the paleogis (“pah-lee-ode-ZHEES”, gypsy junk man) comes around in his truck with a megaphone, calling for people’s cast-offs, but we had no need of his services. Christos, Demetrios’ brother, wanted the clothes washer; the one he has isn’t very good, he says. (Ours is, but it's too big! New one measures 45 by 60 centimeters. Somehow it still takes a full load of wash...) Christos got himself out of bed, where he now spends most of his time most days, and drove into town from an hour away to fetch it. He wanted the old sink and mirror and radiator as well.

His son, Phideas, carried everything out of our apartment and into the car. Then, per his father’s instruction, he unscrewed all the handles, knobs, hinges, and light sockets from our beat-up old cabinetry in the junk-heap outdoors. Christos had him rescue all the screws, nuts, and bolts, too.

Christos is in terrible shape. He weighs 80 pounds and his doctor says part of his breathing problem is that he doesn’t even have enough muscle left to move his diaphragm properly. Just the drive here exhausts him; he has to sit and rest and have strong coffee and then sit and rest some more before he’s able to drive home. He looks like he can hardly hold his head up; in fact he usually doesn’t. Most of the time it kind of lolls to one side and he looks at you sideways. He has advanced emphysema, the most severe case of osteoporosis Demetrios has ever heard of, and a life-long malfunctioning digestive system which puts him in frequent excruciating pain. He can only eat bland food because anything else disagrees with him; and only soft foods because he has virtually no teeth. (Demetrios once gave him money to have his remaining teeth fixed and buy dentures, but he spent the money on something else.) We sent him home with some ducosate sodium capsules, same ones we take, and a can of Quaker Oats. Until now, he never knew oatmeal (porridge) existed. We hope he will like it and that it will provide fiber and vary his diet some, the monotonous diet being one reason he doesn’t eat enough.

I haven’t yet heard how or whether Christos, once home in Katerini, solved the problem of getting everything back out of the car or up the stairs to his flat, because Phideas didn’t go with him; he lives here in Thessaloniki. All I know is Christos was safely home and resting when we phoned him in the evening.

He hadn’t yet tried the porridge or pills.

Our building’s President, Zisis, and Thomai his wife have each been here twice, inspecting the work in the bathroom. (While they’re here, they always manage to take a look into each other room, too.) Dear Thomai brought a plate of freshly-baked spanikopita, realizing I cannot cook in all this hullaballoo. Zisis was concerned first that we not remove anything weight-bearing; we assured him we had checked all that before beginning the project. Then he was worried that the 40-plus bags of broken concrete, brick, and tile that had to be removed must not overburden our elevator. No problem, our workers spent a long time, one upstairs on our floor, one down in the lobby, sending the tiny elevator up and down, removing the rubble little by little. (Our elevator holds 3 people at a time, provided they are all on very friendly terms, or one person and two suitcases.)

It’s a big mess, and predictably is going more slowly than scheduled, but in a few days we hope to have a new, bright, sparkling bathroom with a bit more room to move around in, a less claustrophobic feel now that the very low ceiling has gone, and a bigger shower so we won’t always be bumping our elbows on it. If it ends up looking as we envision it, it may even have a touch of glamour – insofar as such a tiny space can have.

Tuesday, October 2, 2012

Science and Philosophy: Inseparable

A Nobel Prize winner was speaking at a psychiatric conference recently. The speaker said truth is a product of the brain. During the question and answer session afterward, someone asked, “What if the brain goes wrong?”

We all know the brain can go wrong from many things: infections, injuries, drugs, psychoses, passions, prejudice. .. What if it goes wrong, asked the questioner, and then how will we know the truth?

Well, said the Nobel Laureate, that is a philosophical question. This was said by way of dismissal, as obviously the physicians in attendance all wanted to be scientific rather than philosophical.

But, but, but — wait just a doggone second! Is the question any more philosophical than the premise? If you say truth is a product of the human brain, what else is that, pray tell, but a philosophical statement?

Furthermore, science is a discipline unavoidably based upon philosophy, and a particular philosophy at that. Science is based upon the faith that there is a reliable, discoverable order in the universe. If you say there isn’t, then please note, you have not dispensed with philosophy! You’ve only changed your philosophy.

But in the process, you’ve also uprooted science. The new philosophy that says the order in the universe is only an appearance, is of course intended to remove support for religion. Instead it makes science impossible, because science is the opposite of chaos. If the ultimate reality were chaos, then there would be no use seeking any “laws of nature”, any relationships between things, or any way to put observations together logically. Experiments would prove nothing, because their results, however unvarying, would in principle be pure chance. Theories could predict nothing, because whatever appeared to be a natural principle would really be a random something churned up by the underlying chaos. Everything would be like an image of Jesus someone sees on a slice of burnt toast: a random set of markings having only the appearance of inherent meaning. Change the philosophy, you unravel science.


That’s what Greece is today: surreal. So bizarre that even five years ago, one could never have imagined the current political/economic developments. Can this possibly be for real?

The latest, announced with glee in a major newspaper here (in fact, the major newspaper according to Demetrios), is that now many medical and legal practices will be closing. That’s euphemism for, “will be driven out of business”. Having made it more difficult every day for small businesses to survive (due mostly to extortionate tax and insurance rates plus mountains of red tape), the powers that be are now targeting professional practices. Self-employment, says the newspaper, is no longer acceptable in Europe, will no longer be tolerated. Everyone will have to work for one of the large corporations or for the state. The alleged reason? The self-employed can evade taxes too easily; corporations can’t.