Distance: 23.75 miles (Total: 501.1 miles) Steps 47,808 (Total: 941,831)
“Love of beauty is Taste. The creation of beauty is Art.” Ralph Waldo Emmerson
After a very tiring and occasionally very depressing few days, it was a joy to check in to a beautiful family-run hotel overlooking the lake outside of Ioannina, called Hotel Amfithea (www.hotel-amfithea.gr) and to enjoy a warm welcome—even a complimentary Diet Coke. The owners of the hotel, the Gkogkos family (pictured with Panagiotis Gkogos) are also silversmiths and their amazing collection of works are on display. We live in an age of functionality and efficiency, in which we often see beautiful objects as excess rather than extravagant expressions of what it means to be human.
On retiring to my room I found that the TV actually had an English speaking channel—National geographic– and I watched back-to-back episodes of the BBC and Sir David Attenborough’s masterful documentary series ‘Life on Earth’. In one episode we were introduced to Grass-cutting ants— who organised themselves in colonies by carefully delineated roles of: grass-cutters—with large jaws who cut the grass, carriers—who carry grass stems weighing up to 20 times their own body weight back to the nest; cultivators—who cover the stems in an excretion which enables a fungus to grow, and centurions—who guard the nest and police the population of up to five million ants. It is both awesome and incredible to see other animals being as efficient farmers as humans. But there is a staggering difference in which we discover what it means to be truly human—there are no paintings on the walls of the ants nest, there are no items of jewellery/bling around their necks, there is no music being piped through the network of tunnels, there are no poets, no cathedrals, no history or monuments to great ants of the past, just instinct. That innate spirit of creativity combined with perfected skill in us, that might cause Panagiotos to create an intricate silver broach or which caused William Blake to pen the words of Auguries of Innocence:
To see a world in a grain of sand
And a heaven in a wild flower,
Hold infinity in the palm of your hand
And eternity in an hour.
These are all an extravagant celebration of what separates us from the ants and we should celebrate it and leave room to cultivate it. Moreover, just as design and composition are expressions of creativity of the hands and the mind, so love and compassion are artistic expressions of the heart and the soul: This is the reason why we must resist the temptation to invoke ant-like tendencies of targets, league tables and exam factories into caring professions such as healthcare, social-services and education. It is the extravagance of personal care and the capacity for inspiration, which give us all the capacity to rise above and express what it means to be fully human.
I would like to pay tribute to the brothers at the Holy Monastery of Agia Triada of Jagarolon on the Island of Crete for their help in writing this diary entry through the creation of a fine Merlot back in 2008—slightly heavy on the oaky flavours but a fine efforts boys, keep creating.