Wednesday, March 4, 2015

God's Country

I like to tell people I moved from God's country to God's country.

As anyone who has met someone from the glorious state of Texas can attest, we Texans are a people fiercely proud of our heritage, and are famous (as well as infamous) for our strange combination of love for political freedom with a deep reverence before the Divine. While perhaps unknown to most people (fellow Texans included), there is a strange concurrence of spirit between the Texan and Greek outlook on life: the seemingly paradoxical combination of a deep-rooted religiosity with an equally deep-rooted resistance to every form of tyranny. This should not be surprising given that Sam Houston, one of the fathers of the Texan revolution, was known to have grown up reading and rereading Alexander Pope's  translation of Homer's Iliad.

While the city of Thessaloniki did not exist at the time of the Trojan War, I cannot help but have my imagination captured in the same way when I see the Aegean Sea in its full majesty from the street. The same rapture of spirit that comes upon any reader of Homer. The waterfront (or παραλία paralia as it is affectionately known in Greek) is certainly one of the most attractive aspects of life in this city, and in what are perhaps boyish moments, I cannot help but imagine the "black curved ships" which the Poet describes so fearfully and which must have been in the imagination of our great Texian father as well.

My own father always described (and perhaps not without a hint of irony) the state of Texas as God's country, and this sense of local pride--which has nothing to do with the nasty chauvinism of the American empire--has remained within my heart since my youth. On the other hand, like many Westerners,  I had no notion of Greece beyond its importance in Antiquity until I began to investigate the Christian religion in a more in-depth way. As it turns out, Greece and the Greek-speaking peoples have continuously contributed to the history of western civilization in a way that no other group has. Whether we speak of the birth of western literature and philosophy through Homer, Plato, Aristotle, or the shaping of the most important aspects of the Christian intellectual tradition in the middle ages, or the Greek expatriates who were largely responsible for the Renaissance, or even the new tradition of literature and poetry (now immortalized in films such as Zorba the Greek), it would only be a slight exaggeration to describe this place and these people as bearing something divine within them.

Of course, all of this having been said, no peoples on earth are without this goodness and their own proper expression of it since as persons who share the same nature whose goal is the Good with a capital G. Regardless, I'll keep saying I moved from God's country to God's country.

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