Greece reminds me that history doesn’t judge. History doesn’t care.
Ah Greece. It’s nice to be back.
Greece holds a special place in my heart. And I know that these days I only live one side of Greek life. I live the beautiful islands and private yachts and cocktails at 3 in the afternoon side of it.
(You’ve got to try that side out. It’s fantastic.)
So maybe my view of things is a little martini-coloured, but this place is special. The land, the air… everything is ancient. And that makes everything feel epic. When you wander the streets of Athens, you have to wonder at how many people have walked these streets before you.
How many soldiers from how many wars? In greens fatigues or in bronze armour. How many merchants, selling fish, or fabric, or television sets to mobile phones? How many lovers, who got married, had kids, grew old and died… over and over again?
It’s easy to lose focus of history living in Australia. Western civilisation is still a baby there, and the indigenous civilisation before it had a circular, almost timeless concept of time. History (in a western sense) feels shallow.
But not here in Athens. Here history is deep, and it has a life of its own.
It’s humbling and liberating. It’s humbling because you become aware that 2016 is just one tiny notch on the bed-board of human history. To us, 2016 feels like it’s been pretty epic so far. Brexit and all that. But unless something pretty major happens pretty soon, 2016 will go down in history as a pretty unremarkable year. In a hundred years it won’t even deserve it’s own entry.
In a thousand years it just be lost in an entry marked – Digital Age. And in 3,000 years it will all just be lumped in with the second millennium.
~2000AD – America became an independent state. Powered flight was developed. Humans evolved an extra finger.
There are sites around Greece that had Greeks kicking around them 7,000 years ago.
That’s like thinking about from now to the year 9,000. Can you even imagine?
And when I think about someone living 7,000 years ago, I often imagine their life was easy. What did they have to worry about? They don’t have any of these real, 20th Century concerns.
But the truth is they probably experienced their lives with the same intensity I do. The concerns would have been different. I’m looking at how I can expand my business empire and forge it into a global business. They were worried about being massacred by neighbouring tribes and catching deadly diseases from chickens.
Wherever and whenever you live, life at the cutting edge of history is always intense. So much is unknown. So much hangs in the balance. It’s never a golden age until past-tense kicks in.
So I find walking side by side with history in Athens humbling. I know that whatever I’m stressing about today, will very quickly be forgotten.
Even by myself. I imagine 80-year old Jon will be looking back at this time – cruising on a private yacht, lunching on the islands, ouzo before dinner and a spread of amazing sea-food, and he’ll wonder why I spent my mornings hunched over a lap top, fussing about this and that.
(I even find that’s true after a few ouzos in the same evening.)
So this history is humbling. It reminds you that you’re not as special as you think you are.
But if you can be ok with the ego-shock of that, it can be incredibly liberating. Whatever you do today, no matter how spectacular your success or how hilarious your failures, it just doesn’t matter. There’s no way to make an argument that it matters.
You are totally free to do whatever you want. Kiss her, write a book, start a business, whatever.
Because even history will perish sooner or later. It’s like that quote from Bertrand Russell, that I always found beautiful/exciting/chilling…
“… No fire, no heroism, no intensity of thought and feeling, can preserve individual life beyond the grave… All the labours of the ages, all the devotion, all the inspiration, all the noonday brightness of human genius, are destined to extinction in the vast death of the solar system… The whole temple of Man's achievement must inevitably be buried beneath the debris of a universe in ruins…”
Greece has buried more history than most civilisations can dream of.
But this isn’t a call to intergenerational selfishness. It’s not about giving the finger to our ancestors and our future generations. Rather, it’s about living fully in the moment, at the exciting knife’s edge of history, and simply doing what we are called to do.
So many people are living to be remembered. Why do you care? If you are remembered at all, you will be remembered as an idiot.
You are free. Do what you want. History won’t judge.
Why do people want to be remembered?