Sample Chapter

“The Crisis of Our Time” 

“Viva Greece!  Viva Papandreou!”

The hotel guests, most of who were Greek tourists from the outskirts of the city or other Western Europeans, were clearly bewildered by the commotions outside.  We all huddled together in this hotel, this sanctuary, from the noises and jamboree while youths screamed away and waved large flags as their cars rushed by, one-by-one, and they threw confetti out the windows.

“Viva Greece!  Viva Papandreou!”  They chanted raucously.

Indeed, it was as if the hotel protected us from any possible riots between the supporters and adversaries of the new President.  As I journeyed up the long flight of stairs to my room, I could hear the faint revelry from the streets.  I suddenly met an elderly man and his wife, both Italian, wearing their dinner best.  They smiled at me and then shook their heads to confirm that they sympathized with the foreign tourists who had their “vacations” or “business trips” tarnished by the surprise elections.

“Buona sera!”

“Do you know where this room is?” I asked, showing them my lobby registration paperwork.

The elderly gentleman laughed and raised his finger.  “Up! Up! Up!”

I grimaced back, then departed the couple and continued ascending.  Once arriving to my room, I perspired badly because of the long hike to my assigned floor.

After unpacking my suitcases, I showered, combed my hair, put on my suit and tie, and then grabbed Plato’s Republic, thinking that I should do a little reading over dinner.  Subsequently, I climbed the hotel stairs and I finally reached the elegant, penthouse restaurant.  When I entered, I immediately noticed that everyone was impeccably dressed.  Ladies and their husbands, sitting at the dinner tables, conversed pleasantly while drinking wine and champagne.  Businessmen chatted away about their projects as they munched their salads and entrees.  The grand buffet was set up so those guests who desired it could indulge themselves rather than order from the menu.  Waiters crisscrossed the room, ensuring that their guests enjoyed the evening in spite of the circus below on the streets of Athens.  A diplomat must have entered shortly thereafter because a few guests suggested such when they rose from their seats to honor him and his entourage, one of whom wore a uniform.  “I think that’s the Ambassador or Consulate,” I heard a lady whisper to her dinner mate.

“Signore?” said a tuxedo-dressed man who suspected I had arrived with the party from Rome.  He approached me and extended his hand to reveal an open table in front of a large, glass window that presented a panoramic, city view.


I followed him to the table, sat down, ordered a Chardonnay, and then glanced over the menu.  My reading glasses were dusty, so I took them off and cleaned them using my handkerchief.  As I looked out the window, I saw my reflection, but it was blurred because of my poor eyesight.

“Here you are Sir,” said the waiter, a few moments later, as he placed a wine glass on my table.  I smiled back, gratified.

After ordering, I shifted my view to the window again to see if the more important image had come into focus.  Nothing.  But then I saw my clarified reflection, and then I thought the unthinkable: this was paradise.  The view was nothing short of spectacular—a true utopia.  All the Acropolis was lit up.  It towered above the entire city and my hotel, displaying all its glory.  The many centuries had done little to diminish its presence this evening.  Indeed, the various temples seemed invincible to the elements of time and weather, immutable to various governing regimes, and unsusceptible to philosophical and political whims, no matter how conservative or revolutionary.  And yet, in all of this ancient grandeur, it also appeared to be totally evolving, totally new, becoming something more, something slightly different and yet awesome, something understandable and yet enigmatic, something changing and yet unchangeable simultaneously.  It was as if the Acropolis had conserved its perennial, foundational attributes, its core identification, while it journeyed through its own process of becoming through history.  As each inquisitive person walked its steps, toured its sites, and learned its presence and meaning, and as each scholar observed its stones and architecture and wrote more about them, the Acropolis would gain even more definition.  This monument of Greek culture and history was forever coming into greater focus.  Consequently, as myself and the other guests witnessed its magnificence tonight, it had reached its pinnacle in that one, singular, most present moment.

“Wow!” I exclaimed, recognizing that by tomorrow morning its splendor would increase again, and theologizing that we all die into becoming, whatever that may entail.

Of course, the entire scene contrasted with the teenagers and young adults down below on the city streets.  They littered away and celebrated.  Automobiles still resonated their “honking” sounds.  The next morning, garbage would completely cover the sidewalks.  Papers and flags and all kinds of “stuff” would decimate Athens’ streets even further than what its inhabitants contended with during a typical, business day.  Some civilians were outraged.  “Do you see how they have trashed the city?” one old woman complained.  “It will take hours to clean this mess up!”

The decorated, military sentries guarding the Parliament Building in Syntagma Square were sloshed from the night before.  As they tried to hold themselves steady during the “changing of the guard,” we captivated tourists snapped our cameras.  Realizing their intoxication, the guards smirked noticeably.  One almost fell over as he raised his boot real high in the customary, overly exaggerated manner to signify the patriotic and elegant dance that they normally performed during their ceremony.  He damn near fell over while his comrade tried desperately hard not to laugh.  Finally, a commanding officer relieved them both.

“Oh that would never happen in England,” a lady tourist snickered to her husband.  The guard’s face reddened, indicating that he had heard her comment.

It was hard not to be excited for these soldiers and their civilian counterparts, though, at that time, I understood little of the specific details behind Papandreou’s political ascension.  I was more concerned then with that other pastime of an active intellect: philosophy.

Whenever the young are happy, one must always take notice and understand why.  They can teach us and we can teach them.  I would understand this more profoundly many years later.

“It is time to make Greece a better nation!” I would hear their youthful, inspiring voices breath through the Athens air in the following weeks during my trips to the Placa, the ruins, the museums, and the restaurants.

But, for now, there I sat, in the hotel’s penthouse restaurant, viewing the Acropolis, drinking white wine, enmeshed simultaneously in a bygone age and the modern, revolutionary present.

“I think that I will walk to the Peiraeus with Glaucon tomorrow,” I joked.  “It would be nice to be good to myself after such a long trip.  Then I’ll make my way towards the rest of the city.”

As my eyes shot across the room, I realized a faculty member noticed me sitting at my table.  I gestured to recognize him.  He smiled back and waved.  In the following days, towing the Dialogues with us, both he and I would investigate Socrates’ tomb.