Τρίτη, 14 Οκτωβρίου 2014

Legends!!! (Mostly....)

                            "It's gonna be Legen - wait for it - dary!!!"
                                
                                              They say every generation has its own heroes and legends. I should know because as a child raised in the '80s my hero was Ralph Macchio. And Tom Cruise sporting Ray-Bans. So shoot me, I love the '80s.I can see though why kids today would consider them silly. Because they are. It's ok, down the line they will be too embarrassed to show their own kids their Bieber records (or downloads, whatever.). They won't listen to them themselves at that point if you hold a gun to their face just like I can't watch a Stallone movie right now although I loved them back then (c'mon, "Adriaaaaan"). You always think fondly of your past because of them ol' rose tinted glasses called memories (I envy you, goldfish!). Some things though have no need of them memories and the allure of childhood living because, well, simply put, they have an inherent worth that doesn't need crutches. These are things we lived firsthand or things that have preceeded us but we nevertheless discovered on our own. They are, in short, True Legends.
     Today the hype machine works overtime. We deal in verbal excess so words have lost their meaning. Nothing is "good". Everything is "great". Don't get me wrong, I love me some exaggeration. I grew up after all on those old Marvel Comics from the '60s (reprints, duh) where phrases like "When Titans Clash" were emblazoned on every cover (bless  Stan "The Man" Lee). The difference is that now the tongue is not set in cheek and we're expected to take everything at face value. And that's exhausting. Not everything needs to be great after all. Sometimes just good is good enough. What the hype machine does though, is raise expectations. You read a review about how great , say, a movie is, that it can't usualy meet those impossible standards. It gets even worse when spoilers are involved. Like an adaptation of a book you've already read, a scene played out in your head is always better than on screen. So, someone decides what is legendary for you and you must go along with it - or not. There's a well tested remedy that goes by the name of "Time" (I mean the actual concept of time, not the magazine although they would love that I guess). But Time can be its own hype machine....
   Growing up we take the classics of the previous generations for granted. Not everybody has read the greek tragedies but everybody considers them classics. Most people can't sit through a Bob Dylan song but he's still considered a demi-god (he is).. How about philosophy? I don't know what Plato is all about but he has to be great - everybody says so. In fact, I might pick up Plato's writings and completly disagree with him or, more probably in this case, not understand a single thing. I'll still say he's great because God forbid I disagree with "everyone". "They" always know better. That's not to say that the classics don't deserve to be revered. Quiet the contrary.But if we are told beforehand what to like or not, how can we know what we truly like? How can we feel for ourselves what made all those things great in the first place?   
     Growing up, I was lucky to have missed out on many things that I later came to love. There were things I came to like because my parents liked them and some of that sipped through. Some of it was genuinly great, some of it wasn't but retains a sentimental value and some of it -ok, most - was pure crap. One day though something magical happened; I heard the voice of Mercury. Not the ancient god of speed but close. Better in fact. Freddie Mercury. Now, Freddie had just passed away and was all over the news but I had no idea who he was. The world was in shock but I was in the dark. All I knew, all I cared about was that Voice. It had gripped me like nothing before and wouldn't let go - not ever again. Over the next days I heard Bohemian Rhapsody at the end credits of a TV show. It took me a few seconds to realise it was the same Voice. A few decades ago that same song had taken the world by storm but I would only find about it much later. That moment all I knew was that lump in my throat. I could sense it was something Magnificent. I didn't feel that way because that notion was suggested to me by my friends, my parents or some magazine. I didn't sift through a damned Buyer's Guide to tell me what's good or not. I had found out on my own and so, 20 years after the song was written, it was still brand new to my ears. And, yes, an instant classic. It would've been for me even if in the end it had proved to be an unknown song by some unknown artist. The experience turned out to be a - much, much -  shared one though and that was down to the absolute strength of the material.
   Down the line the pattern repeated itself multiple times. I fell in love with Led Zeppelin after watching a clip of Stairway to Heaven off the "Song Remains the Same" video on a local channel. I didn't know the name of the band, let alone the song or that it was supposed to be one of the most played songs in the history of music. It took me sometime to find out and by the then I thought "well, of course it is, it's bloody marvelous". And "Hallowed Be Thy Name" is Maiden's best song you say? It was just another song I chanced upon on TV (again, radio followed soon after) and made me a fanatic for life within minutes. The same thing happened with Sabbath's 'War Pigs'. And the list doesn't end with music. Those comics I grew up with? The reprints I read had stories I fell in love with, like "The Death of Gwen Stacey", that unbeknownst to me were classics indeed decades ago half a world away. And the list grew longer and longer...
      Down the line I would be versed in the things that captivated me. I did finally buy music magazines, vigorously. I now check the Buyer's Guides to have an entry point for artists I want to get more familiar with. I check the internet for the next, much hyped, comics event, months before it is published. Sometimes the reviews influence me and sometimes they're right. Through the years I've learned to trust them much less than I used to.And, yes, the hype machine is hard to escape now. Not to mention that I have myself become the old generation preaching the classics (I've been doing that for the last few paragraphs). In the end though the classics don't need my preaching - and we mostly preach to the converted anyhow. Even if we all forget them or take them with us to the grave, all it takes is a kid somewhere to discover them again on its own somehow. And it won't be long before they once again become Legen-wait for it- dary!
                                         

Σάββατο, 16 Νοεμβρίου 2013

"Hey you..."

"When you read this I don't know
 what your life will be
 will you hate or will you love
 or just remember me" 

                             



I scribbled these lines on a piece of paper ten years ago, almost to the day. It was meant to be a letter to my older self. That is, myself today - and tomorrow. It was a hard time for me. My sister had a serious accident, 4 days in ER, 6 more in the hospital, out of my hometown, sleeping on floors and chairs with all the horror and agony you can imagine. I had an urge to peer into the future. Basically, I needed a reassurance that everything would be ok. So, I wondered how my older self would look upon the events of the time. Sadness? Grief? Relief? But since it was a time of further unrest and big changes were ahead, I wondered what I would think of my younger self in general.
 We go through cycles in life. Back at school, those cycles are very, very clear. Every year you are a rapidly different person than the year before. Less of a child and one step closer to the Grind. After school, those cycles are dictated by our obligations and finally our relationships or lack thereof. So, that accident was a landmark as it was coming close to the end of a cycle. It was a defining moment. After we make a step forward we tend to look back and scorn our former self. This is actually a privilege of old age and a sign of maturity. I adore the way Robert Plant makes fun of his past with Led Zeppelin for example. Where many see a Golden God, he sees a twenty something finding his feet in life. So, I've always loved that, the ability to lay back and take the piss out of your past. But that doesn't mean you're not respectful. Going back to Plant, he is mighty proud of his past with Zeppelin. He's just not stuck living in the past. That cycle has long closed.
  So, here we are, ten years gone (yes, that's pun intended. All good puns are.). Do I hate or do I love the little bugger? I think I got it right with the last one. I just remember him. Enough of him lives in me to hate him and enough of him has died in me to love him. Or vice versa. I don't know how I feel actually. I just wish I could send a letter back in time. I'd tell him all the wonderful things I've done and all the wonderful things I haven't done - and I should have. And I'd like to ask him then if he'd be proud of his future. I know at least he's glad I didn't forget him. As it is, I can't go back. I can only save this letter and pass it on to myself in 2023. Hopefully, he won't be old enough to forget me...!

Ps: I would also tell me to not be afraid. Our sister is alright. Faith wins over eveything.  It was a good future after all.

                    

Σάββατο, 7 Σεπτεμβρίου 2013

Of Locusts and Crickets.....

''Then out of the smoke locusts came upon the earth. And to them was given power, as the scorpions of the earth have power. 4 They were commanded not to harm the grass of the earth, or any green thing, or any tree, but only those men who do not have the seal of God on their foreheads. And they were not given authority to kill them, but to torment them for five months. Their torment was like the torment of a scorpion when it strikes a man. In those days men will seek death and will not find it; they will desire to die, and death will flee from them.'' (Apocalypse , ch. 9)

    


  It is often tempting to take such a description literally. It is actually quiet cinematic; and we love a good disaster movie nowadays it seems (I'll have to write a blog about all the times New York has been destroyed either on film or on paper. Next time...). Most people read the Revelation that way, like an alternative comic book, full of dragons and epic battles. There is a reason though it is placed at the end of the New Testament. It should be the actual last book you read after the rest of them.
 It is not my intention to present here a full theological review of the Revelation. Wiser and holier men have done that before me over the centuries. But as I was reading the above chapter some thoughts came to my head. The image of the chapter sounds familiar  and it's definately not because of any locusts (though I could tell you a story or two about cockroaches). No, the familiarity came from the feeling of those men, a feeling I see more and more around me. " In those days men will seek death and will not find it; they will desire to die, and death will flee from them".
 Our Age has romanticised Death like seldom before. It's even evident in trivial - or seemingly trivial -  things like pop culture. Vampires and all sorts of monsters used to represent humanity's caution and apprehention of Death. For young people now it's something to fall in love with. As I noted pop culture is not really trivial. It represents our collective attitude towards life. We learn more about the past and our ancectral history from their Myths and books and overall tradition than we learn from unearthing yet another pillar from an ancient ruin. There's nothing quiet as immortal as Myth. So, returning to the previous example we notice one more detail. Vampires have been sanitized so they can be more approachable. No surprise, so has Death. People seem obsessed with Death but in truth it's a sanitized version of Death they love - harmless, painless and - ultimately - meaningless.
   The people in Revelation seek death. They ''desire" death. But it escapes them. Is it because God won't let them die? Is there a Cosmic barrier against, say, suicide or have men suddenly done a Duncan Mc Leod and become immortal? I don't think so. Men desire death but at the same time they're afraid of Her (yes, Her. Death must be a woman surely. At least Jim Starlin thinks so). They do not comprehend its true meaning if indeed they can find within it (sorry, her) any meaning at all. So they will eternally be afraid of dying. This strange infatuation with morbidity exists as long as long as it remains superficial. When the true horror of death makes its presence felt we flee away. In simpler terms, vampires become scary again.
   It is very imporetant to notice what it is that makes people so afraid that they should want to give up life. The locusts themselves are pretty harmless to humans but extremly harmful for crops. Here we see a reverse situation. They harm not the grass but Man. Perhaps that signifies that this is not a Divine Punishment but rather a consequense of our own actions. It would be easy to pin that down to, say, pollution and abuse of the Earth and it wouldn't be wrong. It wouldn't be entirely correct to limit it so in scope either. In any case Locusts (even of the hellish variety it seems) remain distinctly non-lethal. Even the time they are allowed to torment people is relatively short in Biblical terms. Just a short five months, compared to the usual 7 years and 1.000 years we usually see elsewhwere in the scriptures (all symbolic of course). Yet man reacts in an extreme way to what seems an uncomfortable yet timid punishment. The only way out is death, or rather the idea of death since, as we saw, the reality of it makes them flee...where?
  Ultimately, what happens in that chapter that is pretty resonant today is that God allows people to suffer the consequences of their own actions, either on a personal or social level (the two go hand in hand). Faced with the reality of those actions, Man hurts. Reality bites, like locusts with the power of scorpions. Yet, it is a great chance to re-evaluate your life. Paying the price is not only a punishment, it is also a lesson. The ancient greek word is the same for both. "Παιδεύω" means "punish" as well as "educate". Facing our demons, here in the form of locusts, means we can conquer them. Instead Man seeks the way out, never looking at himself but facing death without courrage. Because you can't truly face the End without having conquered your demons first. Death will flee from you, Salvation will flee from you and you will be left alone, fleeing towards nowhere in particular. The men with the seal of God on their foreheads are not some kind of Chosen Ones, they're just the people who have faced themselves, beat their demons and have found God's peace in their hearts (in other words, "His seal").
  We will face many locusts and one way to face them is if we talk to our little Cricket, our consience. Or we can blame it all on him and watch Twilight marathons instead. Now, that's more cruel punishment than any locust from hell! Oh, and I could be wrong about it all. Maybe the smoke that releases the locusts is that smoke guy from "Lost".That was actually a bigger puzzle than the Revelation...!

    

Παρασκευή, 23 Αυγούστου 2013

"How do you feel, Captain...?"

It is one of those quiet moments in science fiction I like the best. Captain Kirk of the Enterprise is grim and he is asked how he feels. "Old. I feel old" replies the captain with a typical (and, yes, beloved) William Shatner deliverance. You see, the actors of the series were all in their fourties or more by the beginning of the 80's and that had to be reflected in the movies. But it was an honest moment nonetheless. One the youthful Captain Kirk of the '60s would never have experienced.
               

 I, too, used to feel like the young captain. Till a few years ago the concept of time was very abstract. I knew it existed and I lived within it but I never felt it. Then of course it all changed in a flash (a -ah, King of the impossible...er, sorry). I hate it when I repeat patterns but sure enough there it was. I hit 30 and suddenly everything changed. I became a walking cliche. All the usual "who am I?", "what am I gonna do with my life?", "why is Lady Gaga having a career?" questions knocked on my door and the fool I, open the door wide open. It was like having a period...
 Then you notice it. The first glimpses of change in your body. My metabolism changed, I took on weight, my skin changed - on the bright side though I didn't get an actual period. But I was starting to sound like Ted from "How I met Your Mother" which is the next worst thing. So, I took my chances more or less. I tried to bring on change but I only ended up with the illusion of change (much like Ted's life for the first 8 seasons...ugh, ugly!). Still, what actualy changes after 30 is that you essentialy start to see an end to the erstwhile infinite horizon. The end of the "5-year journey of the Starship Enterprise". And it's scary...
  The pressure is on. You feel the urge to cram in as much as possible before you finaly kick the bucket. But is it a real sensation or another social convention? Α bit of both actually. Everything has its time and place and many things in life can pass you by or vice versa. "There's a time to live and a time to die". But on the other hand society puts on pressure that otherwise shouldn't be there in the first place. We all have our own wants and needs, our own happy triggers, even our own fears and trepidations. We live life like Frankie - our way.
  On the other side I never subscribed to the idea that life is a journey and not a destination. What moron likes to waste about in the open sea? You have to get to the port sometime. There is a meaning and although we may find it way before the end it is only there that it is validated. Did I live a good life? Ask me after I'm gone. Much like Solon, the wise man, do not call a man fortunate before his end. It is not uncommon in the course of this journey to feel lost, no port in sight. In that case, just take a look back and enjoy the blue of the sea. And if a storm is raging round you, stay right were you are. Don't try so hard, darling.
  So, I'm still kinda lost but I enjoy the view. I'm just happy to be onboard. Though instead of a ship I prefer a spaceship. At the end of the movie, even after Kirk has lost his best friend and is at a loss himself, he is asked the same question. ''How do you feel, captain?"...."Young", replies Kirk "I feel young". And rightly so. The Enterprise had a lot more journeys ahead after all. Engage....



Σάββατο, 10 Αυγούστου 2013

About Judgement

"In the same way you judge, you shall be judged"
     


  People often ask "how will God judge us?". The notion is that there is a Cosmic Rulebook by which we will pass or fail the ultimate exams. Moreover, the Proffessor is like the one presented in Pink Floyd's "The Wall", a malevolent creature bent on humiliating his subjects and wallowing in their failure. God is, for most people, the ultimate expression of Authority in its strictly political sense.
  There are many factors that contribute to that notion. Historical factors, like the actual political power of the church over the centuries. The attempt to break away from that political structure led to morality as the new foundation of the protestant church. But morality is a loose concept whereas God is Eternal. By trying to create something new, we went back to the old, the Law of the Old Testament packaged with a different name. Thus, most christians became puritans, far removed from the Love of God. What Paul struggled to tear down, we built back up. It's no surprise either. We feel safer with a strict God although that sounds like an oxymoron.. A strict God we understand. But a God that is Love and Forgiveness is completly alien to us.
  It is within our human nature to be subservient but in truth Christ never demands that of us. We fail to understand the spirit of freedom to which we are called because it is in fact known in the Spirit, by experience rather than study. "Gotta serve somebody" wrote Bob Dylan as an ode to God but the truth is that although we call Him a Lord and Master it is not uncommon in the orthodox tradition to find such characterizations as ''my Life", "my sweet Lord", "my Love" - not quiet the words used to describe a figure of authority. It is said that there is no Judgement for those who love God and how could there be? Judgement is synonymous with fear and "perfect love casts away fear".
  No one seems to attain perfect love though. In the words of St. Silouanos of Athos "if there is within us even a shadow of dislike for someone, our salvation is not certain". Though that Holy and Great man had none, it is safe to assume that there is plenty of dislike within us for many people. Myself, I confess to hatred for some. Hatred breeds guilt and guilt breeds fear. Even the souls with the lowest modicum of consience feel the absence of love from their souls.People who are capable of love even more. And people who have known the Love of God and have lost it truly suffer for it. It is possible - even for the third category -  to project our fear and our despair to the Creator and resent Him and His Judgement. It is only natural, for if fear is born out of a sense of upcoming loss, what terrible fear should the loss of our soul (in essence our very identity) bring? But that is not the actual  judgement; God does not return our resentment. You could say it's just one more wound in His Body and we all know how he responded to that. He willingly gave His Body to BE wounded.
  Wheras the sense of our  fear is acceptable and can be transformed for good, there is something that is definately not. Taking God's place or, in other words, passing judgement ourselves. Like we said above, we understand a strict God but furthermore that notion allows us to be strict ourselves. Never ones to sacrifice ourselves we instead condemn every person who doesn't hold our high standards. Christians often justify this behavior referring back to Paul. But Paul was only strict with members of the newly formed - and thus very sensitive and immature - christian community and not with those outside. Even so his strictness was balanced by his tenderness to the fallen, his forgiveness and his wisdom. In the fist Corinthians he asks with harsh words that the man who bedded his stepmother be removed from their church but in the second letter he asks the Corinthians to treat him with love and accept him back so that he is not broken. We are mistaken in considering our church more mature but it is not a matter of passage of time. After 2,000 years we are mostly still infants drinking milk, not yet capable of solid food.
  "I judge no one. The Word I have spoken shall be the judge of you". Ultimately, the Word of God is not a seperate entity from the Son of God but they are one and the same. And He is not just the truth, He is the very concept of reality. To deny Him is then nothing less than to deny reality. How would that even be possible? It isn't of course. Reality, as someone said, is the thing that keeps existing even after we stop believing in it.It simply "is".The words of Revelation at the burning bush are simply "I Am". Modern age though is all about the subjectivity of truth and even Good or Bad. That would require of man to be a Creator. It even doesn't take into consideration the one universal objective truth: Death. Still, we justify everything with the term "subjective" which in turn leads to another extreme....
  The absolute absence of judgement! We said that this is what we strive to, so why is it a bad thing? Firstly, because we should avoid judging others but never judging ourselves. Secodly, the absence of judgement should be based on compassion, love and forgiveness. What is the norm today is a total lack of a notion of good and evil. If you want to do it and if you can do it, then do it.The "anything goes" mentality. I'm not implying of course that people are evil. Just that the road we take is an extremly dangerous, like getting ourselves used to little doses of poison every day and finally our system is full of it. But the distinction between a moral man and a christian is a discussion for another day...
  The end of the movie "Stalker" finds the protagonist pondering to himself about human nature. "That which is hard breaks easily. Only tender things can bend and adjust and thus survive". A gentle soul seems fragile but it's the hardend, rigid souls that break easily. We have been given the ultimate way to test ouresves - and never others - before the eyes of God. The love we have for our enemies. No moral code, no subjectivity, no philosophy is greater than that. Pray for me, the least, so I can love my enemies too.
  

Παρασκευή, 9 Αυγούστου 2013

Happy Times

"Sometimes I get to feeling, I was back in the old days, long ago..."
  This line is, of course, from Queen's tearjerker "These Are The Days of Our Lives" (Thank you Roger, piss off Roger). For reasons unknown, whenever I pass outside an old friend's house at my mother's home town this song plays in my mind by default. You see, my friend is no longer with us, he passed away more than 15 years ago. The song is about the passage of time but on the other hand I don't remeber ever listening to it together with my friend. It's just that the feeling it conveys is in sync with what I feel. Ever since I was a child, time has been racing me and I keep running, and I feel its breath on my neck and I keep running. When I finally look back,  I see "happy times". Always ''happy times".
   I loved my friend. We weren't close, I only saw him on holidays and especially the long summer ones but there is still not one day that I won't think of him. I guess those summer friends are always precious. But the truth of the matter is we didn't always have fun . He used to pick on me so much that by the end I'd decided I'd had enough and backed away. But still those times are "happy". Wether they actually are or because I choose to remember them so.
  Likewise, I catch myself wishing I could turn back the clock. But I know there never were happy times. Only happy moments. I remember coming back from a Robert Plant concert, literally flying with his autograph in my hands. It's a moment that still remains so vivid I can almost touch it. But the reality of my life back then was rather bleak and quite indifferent to my happiness. Would I really want to visit my life back then? No. No way. But I still long to come back home flying.
  For all the times my friend picked on me I can only remember but a few. On the contrary, I still remeber playing Trivial at his front yard with his mother and sister and in my mind I'm still answering "what was the name of Cousteau's ship" in a loop, we read the fist Punisher mini-series in the black and white edition from Cobra Press, we watch Fantastic Four cartoons, go for long walks, ride our bikes, play at the arcades for hours, watch Fred Savage movies and so forth and so forth. Good times is all I really remember...
  Were they wonder years if I know he'd die shortly after? Do I have the right to call them that? I don't really know. But in the end I can't turn back the tide (ain't that a shame?) and I don't have to. All I have to do is remember the past.and suddenly it's alive. In these dark days we're living, I'm making happy moments to save for the future. And wherever I may be then, I'll turn them into happy times...!



   .

Intro

Hello! That's my very own blog. I thought I should have one and why not? Well, the real question is "why yes?". Why should you bother to read it? You shouldn't. So if you're looking for somewhere to blow off some steam from that time you were beat at school, turn elsewhere and have a nice day, thank you.
 Why did I bother to write it though? I just love a blank paper (or screen). I feel the urge to fill it.With myself. Writing is an extremly egotistical habbit. You never write for others, you write for yourself. " Myself" is a normal fellow with normal tastes and a normal life. The only extreme about me is my mood swings. Then again, I was never considered normal so either me or society have got that word wrong.
 What's this blog about then? About stuff from ends so extreme as those mood swings. Religion and politics, pet peeves and things I adore, real stories, fictional stories (sometimes they are more "real"), movies and comics (yessir), music and Iron Maiden (a lot. You are warned). It might get messy in here...
I apologise to those who came here for cricket, the sport. Sports is something you most likely won't find here at all, let alone cricket which is virtually non-existent in Greece. Rather, the name is about the cricket from Pinocchio, the personification of the boy's conscience and conscience is responsible for the great and sometimes the terrible things we do.
 So, until next time, live long and prosper, up the Irons and God bless. Hey, I told you it might get messy...