Wednesday, 30 May 2018

Say "I do" - if you get half a chance...

Well, we've settled back into 'normal life' after the break on Patmos and things are trundling along much as normal. I'm doing my occasional excursions to Rhodes Town from here in the south. Last year one of the sons of the family whose business I work for got married, and this year the other one is going to do so. I read somewhere recently that the Greeks believe that for two siblings to get married in the same year is bad luck. Could that perhaps have a bearing on this family's arrangements? I wondered.

Needless to say I went Googling to see if this was so. What I've discovered is that this silly belief doesn't apparently seem to be unique to Greece. There are such 'fears' in many cultures, including Hinduism in India and Buddhism in Thailand. I also found that by and large most people don't take any notice of it these days. Thank goodness that, at least in this regard, most people let common sense triumph over irrational superstition.

In the case of the lovely family I work for, when you consider that the two brothers drive coaches virtually non-stop for six months every summer season, it makes purely logical sense that they get married off-season, this already restricting their available dates considerably. I have to say that, if they are to please their Orthodox 'shepherds' many pious Greeks also avoid...

The first two weeks of August (these are devoted to the 'Virgin' Mary, wonder if she's bothered?), Lent, the 40 days before Easter, August 29, which marks the [supposed] death of John the Baptist, September 14, which is the celebration of the Exaltation of the 'Holy' Cross and any time in the 40 days leading up to Christmas.

Now, forgive me if I'm getting it wrong here, but just WHEN exactly CAN a strict orthodox Greek get married, especially if they work seven days a week from April through to the end of October? Since the older of the two brothers to whom I refer got married in the first week of December last year, and (at least so far) he and his new wife are blissfully happy, it appears that they're not so hide-bound by tradition as the more pious.

There we are. It's a funny old world. People who seem to me to be eminently 'normal' and not too 'religious' still can't pass a shrine or a church without crossing themselves. It's not a case of being judgmental, it's more a case of not seeing the logic of it. Humans tend to be pretty good at not being logical (where's Mr. Spock when you need him?). Virtually none of the myriad 'requirements' placed upon your day-to-day Greek by their all pervasive religion are based in scripture, yet the majority of Greeks seem to accept it all without question. Mind you, methinks that a lot of it is simply to keep the papas off their backs. You can't help but see the 'normalcy' evident in the lives of Christ and his followers if you read the gospels, or the book of Acts. There's no ritual, no ceremony, just a way of life based on certain teachings. Yet today so many 'Christian' religions are buried under a mound of ritual, dogma, creed, superstition, not to mention the existence of some extremely ornate edifices, which would be totally foreign to Christ were he to walk the earth today. In fact it's well known that the Greek Church is rich to the tune of five or six times the figure of the Greek international debt. And there was Christ, with nowhere to lay his head.

Interestingly, this current government has indicated that it would love to remove the influence of the church at least from the workplace, where anyone who's visited a government office will not have failed to see the ever-present icons on the walls above the fax machines and computer terminals. They're a bit hesitant to enact the legislation though. The problem for politicians, not just here, but worldwide, is votes. It's an area where democracy is weak, really. Politicians are loathe to offend a substantial religious section of their society for fear that it will lose them votes. On the other hand, in some countries, like Putin's Russia, for example, it pays the ruler to pander to the church because the church is his lapdog. Mr. Putin, by all accounts, is dead keen on the Russian Orthodox church, not because he's the least bit religious, but because they tow his party line, and thus produce grass-roots support (as if he needed it, the way his 'elections' are allegedly run). In fact he's so willing to cultivate the Orthodox 'vote' that he's recently moved to proscribe one or two non-orthodox minorities to the point of persecution, something that Mr. Gorbachov put an end to after decades of such shameful conduct by the former Soviet system. Mr Putin's done this to keep the established church on his side. They needn't think that he'll be loyal if at some time in the future he no longer sees the need, though. Freedom of religion and conscience is fast disappearing in Putin's Russia, it seems. Plus the Russian Church would do well to remember 1917.

It's so reminiscent of the religious leaders in Christ's day. One minute they loved him, the next they wanted him killed, declaring unwavering support for their Roman overlords. Just a tad capricious, eh?

All this started with me ruminating about when a Greek couple could and couldn't get married. Sometimes my brain really 'goes off on one', as they say in Wales. Needless to say, all the foregoing is merely my opinion and I have no wish to cause offence. But, if I may just once (I won't be getting into the habit, folks, don't worry) quote the Bible book of Ecclesiastes here [well, frankly it's an amazingly wise book anyway] - chapter 7 verse 9 says: "Do not let yourself be quickly provoked [lit: offended], for anger [taking offence] resides in the lap of fools.

Here endeth today's lesson!!

Tell you what. I can be as controversial as the next man if I put my mind to it!

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