What did Zorba the Greek know that many of us have forgotten?
The very first movie image I remember seeing, as a child, is the scene of Zorba (acted by Anthony Quinn) dancing naked down the beach into the sea, to the well known theme song. The movie was Zorba the Greek.
It was actually the last scene in the movie and it’s the only scene I remember. Somehow it encapsulated the whole movie for me. And if you were to ask, I would definitely list Zorba the Greek as one of my all time best movies.
What made such a big impression on me? In a word Pathos (passion). I was too young of course to have heard the word or understand the concept when I saw the movie, I was maybe five or six when I saw it, but somehow it touched me.
As a boy and later a young man my godfather George Farah made a big impression on me. He was a man who like Zorba understood what it means to be alive, to be a human being. In the sense that he understood that there is more to life than pursuing it as a functional challenge.
He lived a life that was filled with pathos, with love, with laughter and of course with sadness. He consumed life and his appetite was avaricious.
He became for me a living symbol of Zorba. And over the years that I knew him I strived to understand what it was he knew, what he embodied with his orientation to the world.
Now to say that I really understood him would be fake and arrogant. For how can we ever truly know the soul of another? But I do think I understood something of what he offered the world and it is this small thing that I would like to share with you.
So what is this thing, this appreciation of pathos?
It is an appreciation of beauty. The beauty of being alive, of being human. An appreciation of life in all its sensual, hedonistic, emotive, culinary, sexual, musical, pleasurable and profound being.
We live in a time when function has become our supreme ideal.
Everything we do comes with the question, why am I doing this? And by this question what is meant is ‘ where is this going, what is going to be realised (achieved) through this act?
Now I am not suggesting that such an approach is without merit. It is important, I think, to know where we are travelling to in life. It is good to have direction, purpose and goals. However if that is all our life becomes about then it can become a bit flavourless, a bit flat.
The question to ask is what gives me pleasure? What is it in my day to day life that makes me happy?
To identify these things that make our lives colourful, that add tone and feeling to our experience of life is accessing the Zorba Consciousness.
Not everything we do needs to necessarily have a value beyond itself. Some things have a value in themselves, in the doing, and that’s enough. Finding these things, these pleasures and learning to appreciate them makes the experience of life a better one.
Oh, come with old Khayyam, and leave the Wise
To talk; one thing is certain, that Life flies;
One thing is certain, and the Rest is Lies;
The Flower that once has blown for ever dies
Myself when young did eagerly frequent
Doctor and Saint, and heard great Argument
About it and about: but evermore
Came out by the same Door as in I went.
Here with a Loaf of Bread beneath the Bough,
A Flask of Wine, a Book of Verse’and Thou
Beside me singing in the Wilderness’
And Wilderness is Paradise enow.
Embrace life my friends. Taste each mouthful of food as though it were your last. Whenever you can, only eat with those whom you love and those who in turn love you. Leave your troubles behind you when you sit to eat and experience the moment with an open heart and a pure soul.
Sing praise to God as you raise a glass of wine to your mouth. Let your heart reach out to touch and be touched by the winemaker and his family, by the sun that ripened the grapes and the stony soil from which they sprung.
When you sit down, after a great meal, to drink an espresso, delight in its dark, rich and frothy taste. Place your arm around Dionysus’ shoulders and celebrate the fine art of good conversation.
And when you kiss your lover let the passion, the love, the longing, of a thousand young lovers fill you up.
To do anything less than this is to sin against the Creator. But to live your life with such a sense of the sacred, to celebrate life like this, is to be one with our Creator.
This is the wisdom of Zorba the Greek.