When I am tired of the worldΔημοσιεύθηκε: Νοεμβρίου 23, 2014
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(cropped from source)
You know, the last thing Ikaria is known for is church life and monasticism. The people are very religious in a natural, casual way, indifferent of formalities, nevertheless always showing a sincere and full respect of higher forces which control our destinies. Whether one believes in the salvation of the soul or not, religion provides consolation because, salvation taken apart, it does speak about the soul while economics do not. And believing in the soul, the existence of a soul, whether this soul is immortal or not, is something very important in the life of the island. Religion also provides occasions for celebration and community gatherings. It also offers an explanation for natural things as well as for «luck» : God’s will. And natural things and lucky or unlucky circumstances are also important elements in the consistence of Ikarian life. To cut this short, we have churches – a lot of big and small churches. They are, so to speak, our guardians, houses of God, houses of the spirit (soul) of the community: «be good and be good to each other» (be good to God).
But what about monasteries? Thereupon we are a failure. Although there are a few monasteries, there is no monastic tradition in Ikaria, at least none as strong as in some other islands. In my opinion, besides our natural dislike for discipline and formalities, the most important reason is that the island is poor and cannot sustain monastic communities. The rocky soil produces hardly enough for the population so the Ikarians, even though devout believers, could not afford, so to speak again, professionals in prayer, experts in salvation. Like everything else in Ikaria, the tending of the soul had to be done by the poeple themselves with the occasional help of an educated priest or solitary monk.
Yet, there are exeptions. If monasteries didn’t thrive, small hermitages were abundant in the slopes of Mt Atheras. But let’s not think that these retreats were inhabited by anchorites who pursued unification with God like in Mt Athos or Sinai. Though little is known about the lives of these people, it’s obvious to me that they were more or less ordinary men and women who either by some misfortune or simply because of taste, discarded the joys of the marital bed and the comforts of village and family life. They walked away from the world, seeking solitude, entrusting their fate to their labouring hands, to good God and to Mother nature. I am all respect for them. It’s hard to believe that in am island as virgin and wild as Ikaria and in a time when most settlements were of the kind of «lost villages» (see, entry), there were people who sought even more solitude and peace! Out-of-the-worldness must be some sort of second nature to us. The outer the better, the further the better, the remotest and most inaccessible is the best, ask my friend Nana & co about it!
Anyway, this entry was not meant to be a dissertation of the religious ethics of the Aegean. I have come to Ikaria for the winter and recently my friends, the explorers of OPS Ikarias, in the course of a project to create a long-distance trail from one side of the island to the other, have been in love with a wild area under the tops of Mt Atheras where according to local legends various groups of monks lived in different periods of time from the 15th century to the 1800s. I saw the photos and I found these landscapes absolutely enthralling.
What made men and women walk out of the world and settle in places like this? What kind of experiences were they after? Were they looking for God? Did they want be gods themselves? Was it because of a practical reason such as piracy, oppression, social disorder and percecutions? Or is it something inherent to the human nature? Escapism? Some people just drop everything and go?.. Is that it? 🙄
I have always been too committed to everything I do and to everybody I love to even think about escaping. But as I am growing older, sometimes I am tired of the world and this makes me wonder. Until I sort this out, you take a good look at those rocky wildernesses. Take a good look at those vast views to the mountains above, the sea straight ahead and the skies all over. I am inviting you to find your answer.