Daybreak in Crete, the almond tree, and the future of the Western World

The scene at the Santorini airport yesterday was maddening: Italian, Irish, French, Japanese, Korean tourists all trying to leave the island, as strikes and an uncertain future loomed. Somehow my handlers managed to usher me through the pandemonium on to a small propeller plane. And when I awoke with the Cretan sunrise this morning surrounded by vineyards, the stinking reality still hadn’t sunk in: as my New York Times mobile feed reports on this gorgeous Wednesday, which finds me a stone’s throw from the town where modern Greek philosopher Kazantzakis was born on the island of Crete, the future of the European Union — and perhaps the financial security of the entire Western World — rests upon Greek lawmakers’s tense negotiations and the outcome of their debate over deep-reaching austerity measures. As I slumbered last night, I dreamed of Kazantzakis’s Christ. And when I awoke with the daybreak, I wondered whether or not every Greek woman, man, and child must feel the same existential burden that Christ felt as he weighed the temporal and spiritual consequences of the mission entrusted to him by his G-d.

One man I spoke to in recent days — P the stoic — observed wryly that “the Germans are invading us once again with these imposed austerity measures,” pointing out that the northerners are essentially condemning the Greeks to indentured servitude for this and the generation to come.

Another man I spoke to — S the mystic — caressed his amber and mastic komboloi and told me of seeing water squeezed from stone, a miracle he witnessed when, as a younger man, his failed wine shop had left him with suffocating debt. His faith, he said, gave him the strength to rebuild his life and provide for his family.

Today, I wish I could write about the bitter herbs that balanced the sweetness of summer tomatoes and cucumbers in the salad prepared for me last night by Maria — the matron, who, together with her husband Yannis, looks after the estate where I spent the night. I wish I could tell you how the bones of the smoked lamb were so delicate that they crumbled easily, rewarding my palate with their marrow.

But I can’t. My thoughts and spirit are consumed with world — indeed, local — events.

I will go to Kazantzakis’s almond tree and ask her, “sister, please tell me, will the child that Tracie P are bringing into the world believe that humankind has a greater purpose on this earth beyond that of consumption?”

And hopefully she will blossom and show me G-d.

Thanks for reading…

7 thoughts on “Daybreak in Crete, the almond tree, and the future of the Western World

  1. Thanks, Jeremy, for being “our man” in Greece. I always appreciate your ability to weave wine, the world, philosophy and much sensitivity together into a beautiful and thought provoking post. Take care.

  2. Tracie P, now that Baby P is on the way, we see everything in a different light, don’t we? I know, now more than ever, that we need to make the world a better place for our children. I love you.

  3. Jeremy and Tracie, in the years to come as Baby P grows God will speak to you both through a childs words and actions. Yours and his/hers will be memories that will live with you both forever. As your child grows you will see God many times and be assured that Angels do still talk to children.

    Love y’all, all three of you,

  4. @Adrian thanks so much for the kind words. And thanks for reading. :) It was great to see you in LA.

    @Randy It’s so true what people say about having children: it makes you see the world in a whole new light. I’m experiencing that now.

    One of Kazatzakis’s most famous quotes is this: “I said to the almond tree, ‘Friend, speak to me of God,’ and the almond tree blossomed.”

    You’re so right that Baby P makes me see G-d every day… :)

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