Friday, May 16, 2014

Apocalyptic Ambiance

Day Two on Patmos:
My 10 Mile Hike to the Beach 

I'm told that psychologists point to a "Jerusalem Syndrome"--a kind of spiritual grandiosity that grows sometimes on pilgrims in the Holy City.  A couple days into my Patmos retreat, and I can imagine a similar (and equally dangerous) syndrome here.  A Patmos Syndrome.  Name the world's ills.  See the world's beasts.  Hail the conquering spirits.  Imagine the fun!
Icon of John on Patmos
I'm enjoying two books on Revelation: but that's as far as I'm going for now.  It's a bewilderingly beautiful island--hills in every direction, bewitching beaches, stony paths and hidden caves.  Today, I set out for Lampi Beach on the far northern coast, a 6 km hike from the guesthouse.  It was a wild and demanding hike, all roads, but steep and winding hills all the way.  Patmos is certainly not the end of the world--and John didn't see it that way either.  But it is on the far edge of some dimension.  I felt light years from home, eons from North America, a long haul from my ordinary digs.
Lampi Beach, North Coast of Patmos
The beach was lovely, and only three or four others were there.  I took some pictures of the crystal clear sea, ducked out of my hat and shirt, and leaped with glee into the Aegean.  What sweet, salty life there is--in me, in thee, in sea!
Rocks and Pebbles, Underwater

Round trip, I did about a 10 or 11 mile day today!  I stopped along the way, to do some reading, take some pictures, enjoy the unhurried logic of my days.  After taking a blessed shower, I rambled into Skala (Patmos' largest town) for tea and supper.  And more reading.  I've discovered a most amazing cafe here--which mixes arts & crafts by day with wine & beer by night.  All kinds of color, all kinds of artwork, all kinds of ambiance this afternoon.
John the Baptist and Jesus, 12th c. icon on Patmos

I'm reminded, in all this reading, that "apocalypse" (the original Greek word for it) literally means the "un-veiling."  John had a very specific set of reasons for his; the more I learn, the more compelling he becomes.  But today, for today, I'm satisfied with some "un-veiling" in my own little world.  There's the sense of beauty, simple color, ocean wonder, iconography--all around me.  Somehow, on this extended retreat, the veil is lifted on the ordinary, revealing so much holiness, so much grace, so much mystery.

Then there's the sound of language.  I have no hope of keeping track--not of modern Greek.  And maybe that's why I'm free here to simply enjoy the sound of it, the gestures folks make as they speak to one another, the urgency of it all, the music of language.  They might as well be speaking in tongues--and that's just fine with me.  The veil is lifted on humanness and the weird and lovely ways we carry on.

Is this "a new heaven and a new earth"?  Not exactly what John had in mind: he had so much theology packed away, and so much concern for empire and church, resistance and eschatology.  But I'll settle for my little 'un-veilings' today.  And see if it leads somewhere else tomorrow.
Koukoumavla Cafe, Skala