Lessons from Zorba

I was tired. Bringing in all the groceries and putting half of them away, I hit the “wall” that marathoners speak about. It was the longest I had been out and about since surgery; I retreated to the spare bedroom, the one with the cheap soundbar connected to a television which produces a cleaner sound than the more expensive soundbar used in the living room.  I flopped on the bed and began channel surfing.

“Zorba the Greek” was on TCM – no commercials – pure movie. I was 11 years old when the movie was released. Even then I liked the soundtrack, but I had never watched the movie. I can’t say that any longer and my timing was perfect- the evening before the winter solstice, the darkest day of the year and perhaps the quietest too – which allows one to think. The movie is a tragedy, the movie is a comedy. In other words the movie is about life. Zorba provides his “boss” in the movie (and the book) with quite a few lessons. I was listening too.

“When everything goes wrong, what a joy to test your soul and see if it has endurance and courage! An invisible and all-powerful enemy—some call him God, others the Devil, seem to rush upon us to destroy us; but we are not destroyed.”
― Nikos Kazantzakis, Zorba the Greek

Three years ago my father died from complications of Parkinson’s Disease. I wasn’t prepared for that. I thought his physical decline would be on a more predictable downward slope. Instead it was more of a tipping point kind of thing. Two years ago our house burned down with 14,000 other homes in Paradise, California. I wasn’t prepared for that either. And, on the one year anniversary of the fire, I went into the hospital for emergency intestinal surgery. Again, I wasn’t prepared.

“Life is trouble. Only death is not. To be alive is to undo your belt and *look* for trouble.”
― Nikos Kazantzakis, Zorba the Greek

In between all of that, I have had a lot of laughs, wonderful moments – but often I was nearly unconscious of the pure joy available to me in those moments. My habitual thinking seems to know no limits.

“I was happy, I knew that. While experiencing happiness, we have difficulty in being conscious of it. Only when the happiness is past and we look back on it do we suddenly realize – sometimes with astonishment – how happy we had been.”
― Nikos Kazantzakis, Zorba the Greek

Through all this I have come to realize how perfectly imperfect I am. I spent much of my life trying to ignore my imperfections while concentrating a great deal of energy on the imperfections of others. Now I’ve come to believe that there is an incredible story available to us as we confront our imperfectness. It usually comes out in the form of a great love story.

“Every man has his folly, but the greatest folly of all … is not to have one.”
― Nikos Kazantzakis, Zorba the Greek

And, the mystery of God that, for me, seems  woven through the tragedies and the comedies of our life, is never to be confidently comprehended. Beware of those who have all the answers. Do you have family or friends who you know for a fact they are the most screwed up people on this earth yet they constantly portray themselves on social media as enlightened and just incredibly  happy – usually with the help of a meme or a gif? All the answers to your pain and problems are neatly presented in a phrase. Is the mystery really that easy? I think not.

“God changes his appearance every second. Blessed is the man who can recognize him in all his disguises.”
― Nikos Kazantzakis, Zorba the Greek

Finally, I have come to realize that I really should dance more often. Who cares what it looks like? Especially dance when we fail. It helps us laugh at it all.

“You have everything but one thing: madness. A man needs a little madness or else – he never dares cut the rope and be free.”
― Nikos Kazantzakis, Zorba the Greek