Greetings rogues. I know I need to catch up on all the wonderful comments you left about barefoot hiking. These last couple days in Thailand have been a whirlwind, so today I just want to leave you with this short thought.
During my stay here I read Zorba the Greek.
This is the most misogynist book I’ve ever read. Plus it’s a chore to read. How did it ever become a literary classic? Perhaps a generation of professors in the pined to live the heroic life but, like the narrator of the book, didn’t have the courage.
Fiction seemed safer.
But Zorba has some insightful passages. In one, the narrator explains to his Greek friend what he means by Sacred Awe:
‘We are all little grubs, Zorba, minute grubs on the small leaf of a tremendous tree. This small leaf is the earth. The other leaves are the stars you see moving at night. We make our way on this little leaf examining it anxiously and carefully. We smell it; it smells good or bad to us. We taste it and find it eatable. We beat on it and it cries out like a living thing.
‘Some men—the more intrepid ones—reach the edge of the leaf. From there we stretch out, gazing into chaos. We tremble. We guess what a frightening abyss lies beneath us. In the distance we can hear the noise of the other leaves of the tremendous tree, we feel the sap rising from the roots to our leaf and our hearts swell. Bent thus over the awe-inspiring abyss, with all our bodies and all our souls, we tremble. From that moment begins…’
I stopped. I wanted to say, ‘from that moment begins poetry,’ but Zorba would not have understood. I stopped.
‘What begins?’ asked Zorba’s anxious voice. ‘Why did you stop?’
‘…begins the great danger, Zorba. Some grow dizzy and delirious, others are afraid; they try to find an answer to strengthen their hearts, and they say: “God!” Others again, from the edge of the leaf, look over the precipice calmly and bravely and say: “I like it.”‘
This Sacred Awe is, I think, quite important to whoever tries to live the heroic life.
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Update: Sacred awe also at the core of my open letter to the Allergic Pagan about leaving paganism.