The Sanctum

15, October 2012 § Leave a comment

At the core of the Aegean Center, lies the philosophy of the Sanctum, the Center’s special space for students in the hill village of Lefkes.  If the Center is an oasis for the Classical arts in a wasteland of post-modernism, then the Sanctum is an island refuge from the din of the over-connected, banal networks found in the supposed modern world.  In my own experience I have found the Sanctum to be a place of healing, a fountain of renewal after I had been drained dry by societies pressures and the indecision of identity and character.

In 2010 I was still connected to old rhythms, still dancing a tired, limping waltz leftover from an exhausting home-care commitment in which I had willingly labored since 2004 and human aid work in Bosnia in 2007 and 2008.  That fresh spring day I had not intended to come to sit in the clear light of that quiet room.  I had wandered around Lefkes hoping to take some interesting photos in the streets and the surrounding area, but found myself, quite by accident, at the Sanctum’s door.  The students had visited the place a few weeks before with John Pack.  He had told us something about himself that day and opened up his heart in both joy and sadness.  I inserted my shiny, new key, turned the lock and walked in.  I put down my day-pack.  It suddenly felt too heavy to bear.  The muted April light shining through the windows illuminated the soft pillows, colorful rugs and a small wooden writing desk on the floor.  There were only earth tones, nothing jarring to the senses. There was a painting on the wall, some wooden tables, a few simple caned chairs. The air was cool, scented with oregano growing in small pots.  In comparison I felt heavy, ungainly, somewhat unbalanced.  My mind was buzzing with a dull grey drone and I found myself asking questions as old as Paros:  “Why am I here? Who am I? What is my reason? Where am I going? What will I find when I get there?”  I sat down roughly into the pillows, grateful for their softness, kicked off my shoes and fell into oblivion.

I awoke an hour later feeling more calm, but still pensive.  I had dreamed.  I understood that it was acceptable to feel uncertain, to ask these questions of myself.  I didn’t need the answers today.  Perhaps they would never be satisfied.  To keep searching would be better than ending the quest with a quick, efficient, modern answer.  I had discovered this vital truth, a truth I knew in my heart, in a little room in Greece, surrounded by silence and light.  I returned to Paroikia that afternoon, transformed.

So what is the philosophy of the Sanctum?  To be honest I am not entirely sure, but I know that there is one important rule:  No electronic interference or devices: no mobile phones, no internet, no recorded music, no games.  Nothing that would distract the mind from the important experience of ‘being’, as opposed to ‘doing’.  We come to the Sanctum to learn who we are, just as we come to the Aegean Center to experience something we do not have in America, or wherever we are from.  With any luck we leave that behind when we step off the boat from Athens.  We search for something more meaningful in a world measured by ‘things’ and a vertical technology.  We disengage from the cacophony of an incorrectly defined progressive era, step over the marble threshold and into a clear and quiet room.  We put down what we carry.

– John D.C. Masters, Paros, 15 October, 2012

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