| 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
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
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 firstname.lastname@example.org.
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.
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