photo by Stratos Kalafatis
«φύσις κρύπτεσθαι φιλεί»
Heraclitus, Fragmentum 123
The last night I stayed awake late. I was staying in a hospitable little house on the beach at Tinos, exactly opposite Dilos and Mykonos. The holiday studios had eroded the soft hillside, even more than the wind which all year long whipped itself into a fury as it passed through the straits. But just at that moment in time everything was quiet in Skylandar, people, studios, cars, winds. It was just you and Id.
It was full moon, and, everything suspended in its light, Dilos was floating uncertainly, birthplace of Apollo and Artemis, the brightest cluster of rocks in the Mediterranean, revealed and hidden, as Heidegger describes it: ‘Dilos, the sacred isle, the centre of the land of the Greek people, centre of the beaches, of the seas, is revealed as long as it hides. What is it, then, that it reveals to itself? What is the hidden meaning of Dilos? That which the poets and intellectuals of the Greeks, tried, because they had foreseen long before that which for them was already the past, and which they called the truth, that is, the inseparability of the manifest (the revealed) from the hidden (the unrevealed) .
Dilos hid while revealing, holding the balance in the centre of the Cylclades: next to it, brightly illuminated, intense, like a firework, Mykonos stood, the modern worldly side of ancient Dilos, brightly lit until morning. Facing it, fragrant with incense, stood Tinos, the modern sacred side of Dilos. After centuries, the aura of the island was shared with its neighbours, its pilasters; and the grace still remained there, in the hidden-revealed heart of the Aegean, the navel of the Mediterranean.
Worldly, sacred; action, meditation; closed, open; abundance, frugality – and everywhere light, the light which leads to accomplishment, to wealth; but at the same time to a clearing away, to an emptying out of superfluity, of the excess of luxuries, the self-sufficiency of the sparse. That is the meaning of the islands, a meteoric trajectory between everything and nothing, the unbearable possibility of choice. That is the Greek spirit: a folding of what is inside towards the outside.
We drew away. The full moon bathed the weary tourist resorts and cleansed them ; as the moonlight and the Meltemi daily washed away the traces of the crowds of tourists (‘the solitude of an endless travel activity’, as Heidegger puts it). Yes, this place offers a brightly lit stay, it is the blessing of as many gods as have lived here towards the people who pass for a little while over its surface. Even the terrible solitude of the crowd hears these tremors, half opens its soul, swims in the velvet waters at night, delights and shivers together: what is this? what is such beauty, this so little and so much? what is happening to me?
One moment in a whole summer, amid the noise of the crowd, is sufficient. The grace of the place, the grace of the light given so generously, so democratically, to holidaymakers, to stress-ridden townsfolk, people who have forgotten about frugality, the slow measure of time, to people who forget about death.
That place, that stay was given to us. I will not ask ‘what did we do in return?’ – because, quite simply, the place, wounded, overloaded, will exist after us, after it has contained us. Now people are the place — our ancestor told us that too. I just remember Camus: ‘The man who works hard, between a joyless earth, and a dark sky, can dream of another earth, where sky and bread would be light and airy. He hopes. But those men whose every hour is filled with light and green hills, no longer hope. They can do no more than dream another fantasy place. So the people of the North escape to Mediterranean seaside, to deserts of light. But where can the people from the light escape to if not to the invisible?’
As the first cockerels pushed the night into dawn, I thought of Papadiamantis. We learnt to see the Greek landscape of frugality through his eyes; and those people of older times who rarely now appear, yet still exist. He wrote for the dying pre-modern world, now we surf on the foam of the meta-postmodern. But the place remains here, blessing and grace.
All night long the ships glided between nowhere and infinity.