Experiences of the past year point to the possibility of another way of life

The Greek face of 2004 can be summed up in one plural: Us. It is the crowds of so many different faces that chattered, gibbered and made merry, from the very first Euro 2004 soccer game in Portugal up to the closing ceremony of the Athens Olympics – right through the longest Greek summer we can ever remember. The entire year became concentrated in the unquenchable warmth of the Mediterranean, the hard core of our collective national self-mythologizing and then, with our holidays on hold, without vacations, up to our ears in debt and in the midst of uneasy anticipation, a nation so used to underestimating itself spilled out into the streets and rejoiced. It rejoiced in itself and its underrated potential that not only emerged but shone. It sucked the marrow out of triumphs of which it had only dreamed and out of the hard-earned praise of foreign visitors to the country. It gazed tenderly over a transformed Athens and, for a moment, believed in itself. The opening ceremony of the Games – which until then drifted in an air of ersatz correct kitsch – symbolically condensed all the elements of a Greece we all yearn for: old and wise, hip and youthful, poetic and elegant, open and modern, a shining beacon in time. Everything that succeeded this summer is summed up in this intoxication of sated senses, achievement, a rejuvenated self-esteem and the sweet hocus-pocus. What’s left? The end of the party leaves empty glasses, confetti, and the ashes of fireworks. But also experience, at least as much as we can stomach; self-knowledge, at least as much as our thick skin of vanity can absorb; a sharper (annoying, almost unbearable) sense of history, of momentum; the now-revealed possibility of another way of life, another course through time. As the shadow of the exhilarating summer of 2004 lengthens with time, this unprecedented sense of joy will fade because it is feelings that die out first; now it is the time of accumulating consent, understanding, maturation. The miracle will take effect only when we gain experience and with it, knowledge. Below are selections from Kathimerini’s cultural overview of 2004.

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