Some 2,500 years ago a city smaller than present day Atlanta produced painting, sculpture, architecture, theater, poetry, literature and pottery, which stand as monumental foundation for the art we experience around us in the west today.
In 1982 I stood before the Acropolis in Athens. I was awed at the sophistication of a people whose technology was mightily primitive compared to what has developed since. Yet, they were able to construct an incredibly advanced civilization, which despite our tools, we merely echo. Another aspect that we mirror is a missed opportunity: instead of building a just, equitable society providing all with basic necessities and leisure to enjoy a creative, celebratory life, they constructed impressive art and implements of war and domination (I know, I know, Sparta was only a stone’s throw west).
In their invention of democracy however they laid a foundation for the possibility which we have, so far, squandered. Until our time it has been by and large a pleasant if utopian dream. With the development of nuclear weapons, and a consuming population growing exponentially, that utopia is an imperative that will emerge when we have put an end to war, domination, injustice and environmental degradation. Imperative because, if we are not successful we will perish in the uninhabitable environs of a wasted life system, well underway.
Perhaps Greek’s greatest gift was the admonition, “Know Thyself”, for that is the means by which we might yet save ourselves. What do those two words mean? If “Self” is consciousness then attending to one’s consciousness would be following that dictum. This would mean becoming the observer, noting the passing thoughts and emotions and noting also, they are not YOU… YOU are the observer. Thus released from the captivity of those thoughts, emotions… karma… one is ONESELF, the consciousness that exists in, indeed IS , the great now, the eternal moment. That moment is not one of a series but, as the eternal qualification indicates, is the core out of which the temporal world emerges and recedes. Some traditions refer to this as illusion, recognizing that what seems so physical and permanent is an insubstantial if beautiful pageant, which felt knowledge frees one to join the exhilarating dance of life.