Trip Reports

Delphi (25-Jul-2002-21-00):
9:00 PM local time, Thursday, July 25 (1800 July 25 UTC) 38 22 N 022 23 E. Temp. 85, Humidity 51%, Cloud Cover 20%. On the quay at Galaxidhi, Greece. We now transport the reader to the high and precipitous slopes of Mt. Parnassos, a few miles inland from Galaxidhi on the north shores of the Gulf of Corinth, where he will find among the tour guides and their charges the ancient temple of Apollo at Delphi. Herein resided the famous oracle that for more than eight hundred years was the most prominent source of augury in the world, Jeane Dixon eat your heart out. The greatest leaders of all nations of earth sent their emissaries or came in person, bearing, of course, handsome gifts, when an important decision was to be made. Like soothsayers of all times and all techniques, the oracle had a knack for phrasing the answers to its supplicants' questions in a manner that could not be gainsaid, no matter what actual outcome the fortunes may eventually determine. This aptitude for ambiguity together with some savvy political knowledge, and the wishful thinking and money of those seeking its wisdom, assured its long-term success. It was to this oracle that Chaerephon, an old friend of Socrates, came to ask, on his own initiative, if there were anyone wiser than Socrates. When it was reported to Socrates that the oracle said that no man was wiser, he did not do as the Captain would have done, and stood pat with that answer, which after all was a jolly good outcome. His response was quite perverse, no matter how you view it. He decided that, since he knew he personally had no wisdom, he would try to find someone who did, and, presenting this evidence to refute the god, thereby receive more clarity on the issue. Yet famously, he failed to find anyone who was wise. It's akin to Martin Luther's saying that, if you want to become convinced of the truths of Christianity, go forth and sin and sin and sin. At least I think it's akin, and I think that was Martin Luther, or else perhaps Jimmy Swaggart. It was a weird excuse for Socrates' asking his silly questions, but if you Christians would like to try on Martin Luther's saying for a time to prove him right, you may have the Captain's blessing.

Now the Greeks were what we might call catholic with a small c in regard to their religious beliefs. Unlike Judaism, Islam, Christianity, Hinduism, and Buddhism, there was no ism in Greece and no sacred text in Greek religion; Homer and Hesiod were honored but not considered canonical. And there was no body of professional theologians to decide what was very pious to do, like giving them money, and what would get you burned at the stake. Galileo almost had it both ways. Ho, ho, ho, those inquisitors were such funny bunnies. In Greece all gods were available for worship, and of course, an offering. The Greeks even went so far as to have temples for unknown gods, so in case there were some odd ones they didn't know about, they were covered. Your thoughts, St. Paul? Alexander carried on this practice He would visit the holiest of shrines in the countries he pillaged and plundered (please help me make that distinction), and worship and make sacrifices according to local practice. He did this because he was a shrewd politician but he also felt that, city-sacking being a kind of shaky business and all, it wouldn't hurt to seek accidental death insurance from any and all brokers.

Back on Parnassos, Apollo was the main guy for sure but there was another candidate. Apollo was the god of oracles and also of light, harmony, and reason. The other god celebrated up there was Dionysus. His votaries believed that through ecstatic dance, consumption of large quantities of wine, and engaging in orgies, a practitioner would feel at one with the god, and probably just about everything else in the bargain. Woohoo!! In The Birth of Tragedy, Friedrich Nietzsche argues that these two gods represent the human psyche but ultimately it is the Dionysian that provides the power and passion of the soul, and the Apollonian part, or measured, rational part, is an outgrowth of passion, to be used as its tool like the tiger uses his claws. It was Nietzsche's opinion that Socrates and Plato turned things upside down in proposing that Apollo, or reason, should run things. This lead to the anti-life teachings of later Hellenistic philosophers and also Christianity, according to Nietzsche, and these teachings were not any fun and I suppose he was. Freud's Id and Superego followed on Nietzsche's teachings, being based respectively on the Dionysian and Apollonian, and the good Doctor confirmed their existence under assumed names with clinical data. Or so say some. The Captain's motto is, "Moderation in all things, including moderation." On Apollo's temple at Delphi were seen the phrases, "Know Thyself" and "Nothing in Excess," the latter often translated as "moderation in all things." To my knowledge old Dionysus had no large temples on Parnassos even though important Dionysian rites, heh, heh, were held there; but if he did, his motto might have been Marvin Gaye's "Let's Get It On." Dion of the Belmonts, Dionne Warwick, the Dionne Quintuplets, and Celine Dion were all named after him.


Love all those cards and letters, and please forgive our not responding to each one. Sometime, when the boat is all fixed and we don't have to get anywhere that day, it would be my honor and pleasure to correspond with every one of you. Send them to

Food tips for world travelers: Greek tavernas all have the same menu, even though there may be twenty of them in a few blocks. As is the case everywhere else in the world, you might as well break down and go to MacDonald's if you want fries or a chocolate shake, or Pizza Hut if you want pizza. These sciences are in their infancy out here, even though widely practiced. We have figured out the secret of finding absolutely the best local food wherever you are: Get on a plane and fly to San Francisco.

Next report [more or less] from this location: Ithaca

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