I entered the city of dreams and knowledge early in the morning when the entire city was sleeping in the lap of Acropolis — with the golden lights of ancient landmark spreading like flood of love on the rooftops of peaceful Athens. The silence at dawn is the best time to wake up the worldly and materialistic mind of a person like me.
Athens — the land of prophets, unknown to mankind, the cradle turned to heaven of light is all around me. The city of Athens with its mystic existence opened like a title of a majestic film.
All the signs of modern world was around — the roads, the signals, even the bus I was travelling in to reach the place of my residence. Every gadget of modern world could be found there, from ticket machines to Google maps. But I was not interested in the modern world; I was lost somewhere in the era before Christ. And if you are not lost in the streets of Athens with all those glorious philosophers, mathematicians, physicists and the astronomers, may be you shouldn’t be there.
The bus, it seemed, was going nowhere and yet it was moving. As it stopped, I stepped out of the bus and felt the stars walk along with me towards the flat I was staying in, in the vicinity of Acropolis. The footpaths were broad and clean. A light early morning breeze had started touching the pores of leaves.
Streets around Acropolis went up and downhill. The sun was on its way to illuminate the earth and a few of its rays had already broken the web of darkness when I unlocked the door of my flat and rushed to the terrace. What a beautiful place to live and ponder on the meanings of life! The lights of Acropolis reaching the terrace of the flat.
It was almost dawn. My own existence seemed forgettable in the face of my excitement to reach the land of Socrates and Plato. My swinging mind reminded me of my physical and mental compulsion to sleep. I’m not sure if that huge portrait of Socrates and Plato is still mounted in the Philosophy department of the University of Punjab, which remained an inspiration for me since my very first day at the University. I felt my love for the subject rejuvenated after stepping in this haven of philosophers.
The freedom of thought and expression of self is something that mankind is striving to achieve since long. The historical sacrifice of many learned people for freedom of expression has strengthened the movement for freedom, and Socrates was the most prime example — the majestic martyr of freedom. The same aura of freedom I could also feel in Athens.
As a humble businessman, I feel that philosophy has kept me safe from animalistic materialism. However, the business makes me ponder upon the economics and consumerism of the 21st century. Next morning, in the streets of Athens, I started thinking about how the consumer is willing to buy and a seller equipped to sell. This is what I felt about the economy of Greece; the economies of the world can go up and down, markets may have recessions but an alive market is an inevitable indication of prosperity, to come soon.
All across the globe, wherever we go people are selling and buying, the banks, the ATMs, the grocery stores, the cafes, the fruit shops, clothing, and Athens was no different. The world itself seems to be a huge market where everyone is selling or buying something. When we are tired of selling goods and commodities, we start selling ourselves to others. Sometimes our personalities are sold at a higher price and sometimes the valued selves are sold at so low a cost.
It’s a market, what we call earth — from paradise to fortune and dogmas to beliefs, everything is on sale and there is always a buyer of everything.
These philosophical, conservative and idealistic views about a marketplace apart, the city of Athens was full of life — young and old, rich and poor, tourists and natives, representing glorified energy.
I saw a madman on the street talking on his toy phone. He was telling everyone about some woman — he kept asking her to wake up as they were late for court. He was telling her that grass is shining with dew and each ray of sunlight is making the petals glitter like gold. He was telling her in Greek and I keenly listened on while my host translated the whole story of the madman’s sermon to me. Later, he made some gestures of anger and abused the whole world of technology in his own dialect — hanging up that call as if he was angry with his lady on the other side of the phone.
He looked like a time traveller, someone who was living in these streets of Athens since thousands of years. I imagined that he must have been roaming the streets in those times too — asking people about the meaning of this life. I imagined him asking about justice and wisdom, about rules of life and the values of this society. Maybe the madman made all these rules we follow and narrated all the conventions — chalking down all the traditions for the mankind to follow — from time to time. I imagined him to have had intuitions or revelations about what we should and should not do.
The markets of Athens were full of people and full of aesthetically made goods to excite the travellers. The culture and civilisation beamed out of everything — from the architecture of the city to the crafts and dresses and faces of the natives. The culture has its roots which stem out like bushes and flowers, and can be seen only by vigilant eyes. Even if we don’t see it in flowers, we can’t ignore or suppress its fragrance.