As the world seems to be reeling from one political upset to another and many people are standing around pointing fingers of blame at each other, it might be time to get involved.
Imagine if we treated our democracy as the citizens of Ancient Athens did? This might be the turning point in history, we all seem to be looking for. Get up off the sofa and down from the high horse and lend a hand. Strive to improve the situation through cooperation with others, instead of tweeting about various problems from the sidelines.
As was the customs in ancient Athens, when it came to civic responsibilities:
“The man who took no interest in the affairs of state was not a man who minded his own business,” wrote the ancient historian Thucydides, “but a man who had no business being in Athens at all.”
I find this somewhat interesting in an age where citizens of established democracies, like the US and Canada do not even take the time to exercise their right to vote! What would Thucydides think of that state of affairs?
Maybe this ancient call to duty in Athens was one of the ways in which life had more meaning? What is also known about life in ancient Athens is, there was no separation between body and mind. The Greeks viewed body and mind as two inseparable parts of a whole: A fit mind not attached to a fit body rendered both incomplete. In keeping with this philosophy, much of life was spent outside of the home, being social with one another and undertaking physical activities of all kinds. Even Plato’s famous Academy, the progenitor of the modern university, was as much an athletic facility as an intellectual one.
It is hard to imagine what our formal schooling would be like now, if we had more of this philosophy leftover. Fitness experts espouse the importance of exercise and diet plans insist the greater benefit to life is calorie watching. Therapists might advocate for mindfulness. Maybe what we need is a more holistic and even ancient view of how life is best experienced?
What I hope to discover in the coming days, are the conditions which gave rise to our modern democracy. The integral pieces of life in Athens which inspired the greatest number of thinkers to gather in one place, over a brief period of years and collectively inspire the world forever more.
What we know enhanced their creativity and when they lost sight of these things, led to “a creeping vanity” and their eventual demise was:
- An open door policy, letting foreigners into the city to expand their world view
- Small simple homes for everyone and most waking hours spent outside or in public spaces
- Narrow, intimate streets which forced people together and to interact with each other
- Small portions of basic, good food and drink – a catalyst for gathering, not the reason for it
- Equality amongst all people – the very fabric of democracy in my mind
- Academics in pursuit of truth, understanding and discourse
- A vibrant urban life
As I have long suspected, the path forward is often found by taking a look at the past. Understanding what happened before and learning from mistakes. Reshaping in a new and modern way which best applies to the situation at hand. Involving everyone, again.
We each need to feel that the democracy represents us, in some way. The more people who feel alienated or that the political power elite are on a completely different path, the more we struggle. Maybe we each have to start fresh, get involved and lend a hand.
Just like anything radically new and different, how the average person goes about doing this will be unique. I think the first thing to do is, get to know the most local elected officials. Find out which projects align with your values and lend support. Start there. Find a way to build a relationship with the institution of democracy, one which brings a sense of harmony.
The world needs our collective efforts put towards finding creative solutions for the myriad of problems. If we take a page from the playbook of Ancient Athens, we might find our shared interests, solve many problems. Just like, “many hands make light work”, and “a rising tide lifts all boats”.
#creaspatreat – Join me in this creative journey. I am on a mission to start a global movement, focusing on the importance of creativity in our daily lives. Together, let us see where we can take this. I look forward to hearing from you! Please share your thoughts. Feel free to send an email to: Christine@dailycreatives.com
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