Thursday, March 16, 2017

Zorba and the New School of Greek Philosophy

When I was an undergrad (Truman State University), I was obliged to take a basic, liberal science philosophy class.  I was skeptical - that I'd enjoy it, that it would be interesting, or even worthwhile.  I ended up not only loving the class, but having some thought-provoking and even paradigm-shifting moments that changed the way I conceived of the world from then on.
Even in Lego form, Zorba has style.
The textbook we used was a huge part of the appeal.  I still recall the title: Looking At Philosophy: The Unbearable Heaviness of Philosophy Made Lighter - it was tongue-in-cheek, to be sure, but the history and translation of the basic - and sometimes very esoteric - philosophical concepts - was solid.  We also learned about the great philosophers themselves - Plato, Aristotle, Socrates, many of ancient Greece, and their concepts and thought strategies, through illustration.  Perhaps that seems a little babyish for a college class, but there was a great power to using illustrations and imagery to communicate these ideas.  

Zorba, for me, and for the writer who conceived of him, knows this power of illustrating these philosophical concepts, too. Zorba the character could be called a hedonist, or a pleasure-seeker, a philosopher who can see the finite nature of life (and all its pain) and believes in grabbing hold of it how he chooses, when he chooses.  We see throughout the story that Nikos definitely goes through changes, but it cannot be said that Zorba doesn't also change a little bit, through his love for and attachment to Nikos (Zorba tries not to get too attached to anything, although it is clear he's very affectionate and strives for trying to do individual good). 
Don't do it, Socrates!
So what can Zorba's new Greek philosophy teach us?
  • Be kind. Approach everyone with a smile and a zest for life. Bring out something in THEM.
  •  Don't put too much stock in any one thing, whether it be your future, dependence on another, or a job.
  • The present is what matters.  The future is a 'pig's behind.' Logic, however, is 'a woman's backside.' Zorba's an ass man, what can I say?
  • Death is natural and inevitable.  Live each day as though you were going to die any minute.
  •  There is an inner and an outer you. The inner you is whatever you make it.  Maybe he is slender as a reed and wears a red carnation behind his ear.
  • If a person you like expresses interest in you romantically, call their bluff IMMEDIATELY.  Go after them.
  •  Good stuff happens; bad stuff happens, too.  God and the Devil always travel together.  Good and bad karma?
  • Old birds make the best stew.  
  • Finally, never wear another man's ring.  It is not manly.   
I'm going to miss Zorba and his zest for life.  In theatre, a lot of my friends have bucket lists - dream roles they'd love to do.  I love to hear about them, and cheer them on, but I don't really have any for myself.  I have always felt that since I'm still a newbie to the scene, I'm lucky to take much of whatever comes along - I kind of "hope for nothing" in that sense, and that IS a little freeing, as Zorba says.  Here's to Zorba, and to two more excellent weekends of theatre and philosophy...washed down with raki and ouzo, of course.

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