Sunday, 22 December 2013

December 17: The Club of Love

(A divine landscape on Lesvos)

In ancient times, when the gods on Olympos still reigned over the Hellenic people, there was a god for everything: for love, commerce, war, the harvest, the army, wine, weather or whatever there was. Each god jealously guarded his own department, defending it against the trespass of any other god, leading to quarrels and even wars. The gods were then anything but nice to either their fellow gods or to human beings.

The Gods ruled with rods of iron and there was no place for charity. Although sometimes there was the odd god or one of his offspring who would take pity on humans. Prometheus, a son of Titan Iapetos (god of immortality) gave humans fire in order to defend them against the many violations of Zeus. He was soundly punished for that by being tethered to a mountain where an eagle ate his liver. Even worse, the liver regrew each night and so the eagle came each day.

The Greek poet Aeschylus visited this myth in one of his plays: Prometheus Bound. In this play the fettered Prometheus refused all help, because he knew something with which he could blackmail Zeus. Hermes, God of commerce and messenger of the Gods also tried to mediate on his behalf, but Prometheus did not want to tell the secret. The enraged Zeus gathered together all the Gods of the weather who caused such bad weather and natural disasters that Prometheus perished by falling into an abyss. 

But let us go back to the beginning of this play, when humans still lived in dark holes, always afraid of the fury of Zeus and his threats to destroy them. Prometheus was apparently a nice guy because he decided to help the people. He stole fire from the gods of Olympos and when presented with this phenomenon humans could better defend themselves and developed hope for the future. In the play this kind character of Prometheus was, for the first time, given the name philantropos, from which the word philantrophy comes. Charity in Greek is philantrophia (love [philos] and humanity [anthropos]), and so I suppose we could say that Prometheus is the God of charity and Greece the homeland of charity.

Greece is no longer a country awash with charity. Lots of inhabitants depend on charity but you cannot call the government a philantrophic one: most victims of this on-going crisis are the poor.

Poverty at Christmas is not funny. In December money is spent like water, lots of people are shopping for sweets and presents and others spend money on holidays or to visit family. But when you don’t have the money to do these things the festivity days are less joyfull.

Christmas is the celebration of the birth of Jesus, some celebrate it as a celebration of light, but Christmas also means days of forgiveness and charity. Look at all those big tearjerker Christmas movies where poor or unhappy people are presented with some hope for the future, just like when Prometheus gave the people a new future with the gift of fire.

There are hundreds of charity organisations to which you can give money. But I always say: Change the world, start with yourself and your own environment. In Molyvos there is a charity organisation called the syllogo i agape. It was set up in 1920 and started with helping the wounded soldiers in the Greek – Turkish war of 1919 – 1922. Since then its members, mostly village women, take care of the poor. In present day Molyvos some people still have no money for food or heating. And that is what they really need, because the cold has settled on the island and even though the sun shines a lot, causing beautiful clear days, they remain cold. And even though the moons milky-bright light illuminates the landscape there still are dark days around Christmas.

Let this Christmas bring lots of beautiful stories.

I wish everybody a Merry Christmas and a Happy 2014

(with thanks to Mary Staples)

© Smitaki 2013

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