No More Heroes
It`s a kind of Romance, to believe the slogans, however neatly they tap into the times. Like having a mind filled with graffito, it`s just paint spread hastily onto walls; cognitive cul-de-sacs. That`s what I think, standing here, high up above the Aegean, sandwiched between columns of the Acropolis at Lindos. Not that there`s any graffiti; my head carries England with it at all times, and I am generally mindfully employed with words read or heard, sentences that resonate like, or once were what may be quaintly described as, pop refrains; trying to scrub them off, out, or up. The Acropolis is almost deserted; it`s 7pm. A few German tourists gleaning what they can, and me, mooching in an unlearned fashion, stuck partially in the late `70`s, unimpressed.
Words get in the way of most things; here their perpetual noisy insistence could be considered a plus, if only because I have to experience Lindos with the senses. Lightheadedness; the intensity of blue; an irridescent flicker of metallic green as a gecko darts over a stump of fluted stone. The sound of the heat. I don`t believe all the heroes are dead. This is what I am thinking, stirring up dust with my grubby, be-Scholled toes. Athene`s temple is photogenically-challenged, marred by scaffolding; a miniature railway scrolls down the rocky hill a-ways, and comes to rest in a small building site of pale stone blocks. I dont feel anything profound for this history, and spray the word PHILISTINE on a chocka wall in my head. I search for signs; find underwritten black and white photographs that explain the re-instatement of the temple, it`s unsympathetic concrete rebuilding during the `30`s, and plans for the current renovations. Names and dates. Lots of words. I sit on a convenient rock which may or may not have once been part of the original structure, and smoke a roll-up. Can`t throw off ignorance with a few translated paragraphs from the Greek governmental department in charge of antiquities. Not with any sense of authenticity.
Athene speaks, I imagine, like an enormous multi-dimensional bat, in a voice so high up the register humans have little chance of getting it, especially in this century, and especially if they aren`t Greek. I think about what she represents; wisdom, achievement in learning, patronage of arts and crafts, victory in war, protection of high places. Meaning? I could interpret most of that as special favours for the already powerful; a goddess for presidents or generals. I could interpret Athene as the goddess of students, teachers, hermits, or arts councils. But I dont. Instead, I take a slug from a bottle of sun-warmed water, and stare at the reconstructed, wind-gnawed creamy columns; the row at the foot of the wide, wide flight of stairs which leads to the plateau of scaffolding and unimaginable pasts. I want to believe in her presence, but a preoccupation with an idea of Englishness obscures any deeper daydream. I would have to stand here naked and peculiarly innocent of identity, to hope for a genuine connection, perhaps. I would have to be a Greek fool, in the simplest sense, to understand any of it.
In my head, a history; an education by way of affecting stories and events in my brief lifetime so far; a smattering of 1st and 2nd world war sorrows and rages handed down by my parents, plus a small second-hand version of the birth of youth culture via my siblings, and an attitude polished off by punk negation. I am ... here, in Lindos, on top of the Ancient World. I dont get it. And I cant help it. I have come here, to find myself wondering about the validity of quarter century old ( give or take a few years; it seems unimportant in the light of antiquity) sloganeering, and what I believe the truth to be now, regarding sentiments expressed as a representation of a minority I thought I was in at the time ... and I can`t squeeze the sense of those years to fit where I am. Only a fool would try.
Wending my way down from the Acropolis, aware of a quiet cool as dusk approaches, I finger souvenir tee-shirts on display along the zig-zag pathway back to the hugger-mugger town, as if after a huge, stadium concert, ("ATHENE TOUR 2001" ; yeah, I saw her live, if at a muzzy distance), and I am unmoved. What I am is convinced that heroes are impossible to see, close-up as it were, in time. I mean `hero` as in the Ancient definition; someone who performs marvellous feats, and impossible tasks. I think about my grandfather in the 1st world war; enduring for faith at best, for the thought of an end at least, and I think of my father, and the Japanese idea of ultimate disgrace in capture, and his whole war in the jungle camps, and the immense, mysterious burden of survival. I think about my generation`s disgust and disappointment, printed on tee-shirts as a means to take sides in a war that just couldnt happen, and I think about the freedom to say those things; to nick a spray-can and fire off at some bastard property , as if at the living enemy ... So what did happen to all the `Shakespeare-oes`? I reckon we stopped speaking their language. And anyway, in the end it`s a matter that outlives us; simply choosing a hero doesn`t turn that person into one. You can`t manufacture time, and real heroes need lots of it. And the idea of a hero being passive, something made or singled out by, well, non-heroes, doesn`t add up.
Heroes dont make history, or a difference to what is, however their achievements might be leaned upon; time seems to accept human judgement regarding the exceptional, and then says, punk fashion, fuck it. Heroes become unfashionable but, like idiots, they never go away. If they prove anything, by being invisible (and unintelligible) in the here-and-now, it`s how spoiled and wilful we are. Somewhere, between punk nihilisms and the spineless excesses of New Age dreaming, the heroes are waiting to be heard. Sadly, I just dont have the time.
O Great Goddess Athene, I went to the place designated for your worship, and I saw only sea, sky, rocks, and the evidence of our weakness. Dont mind me; I`m not chosen or anything. I want only to write down this: I AM A PHILISTINE, FOR WHICH I BEG FORGIVENESS.
I do this in my head, and here on paper. Graffiti to scrub.
© Sandra Tappenden 2001