By myself I ran, scrambled, trekked and hiked to the top of Mount Ithome this morning and took this picture. At just under half a mile tall, it's hardly the most difficult climb in the world, or even here in Greece. Nonetheless, it is the real deal untamed trail, so much so that it thwarted the Spartans from a siege in antiquity. The beauty, majesty, and solitude more importantly brought about a lot of thoughts about how to live "with an empty glass."
You see, everyone told me not to go. Yesterday, at least five others planned to climb to the Byzantine monastery on the peak where a temple to Zeus once stood some 2500-4000 years ago. So today I leapt out of bed before dawn to ensure I saw the sun rise at 6:20am from the summit. When I arrived at the foot of the mountain where my wife's family's house stands, I was subjected to naysaying and gloom and doom prophecies for the next 90 minutes, first in Greek, then a Greeklish mix, waylaying me from what I had said I was going to do. It was a little rainy and somewhat overcast, so to everyone else this was a valid excuse to turn their backs on the word they had given to themselves and their peers but a few hours prior.
To me, I had said I'm going to do it, so as far as I'm concerned it's already a historical fact. I soon realized that sitting around any longer was only going to surround me with more negative speak. So I sprinted up the foothill, in the wrong direction. Realizing my mistake, I turned around, and then found the right path up as the distant church clock chimed. Getting lost happened about four more times, since my impetuousness left me without an experienced guide or any companion for that matter.
In solace I plied through the rocks, fallen shale, slicked stone faces, billy goat crap, giant spiders and a handful of snakes. There were no toughmudder judges, Gatorade stands, paramedics or guides of any sort. I didn't know where to go, except up, through some of the most thickened terrain on earth. If you get on a side track and fall and break something, that's it. You're done. The search area would be several square miles in totally cloaked craggy brush country. Maybe the locals have some hunting dogs that could sniff you out. But the fastest road from Athens is almost three hours in a speeding car.
Somehow though, it seemed safe and easy. And as I approached the top, a lot of philosophy flooded my head. After all, this is the birthplace of Plato. Particularly striking to me was the petrification that comes by over-analyzing a plan to which you've already committed. I thought of the readiness the human mind has to entertain worst case scenarios, instead of victorious achievements. And I thought of the age old question to determine whether you are an optimist or a pessimist: is the glass half empty or half full?
Many people have come up with all kinds of cutesy answers to thwart this very simple question: there is no glass; a half glass is all full; a full glass is filled with a full half glass, etc. But on the way down from the mountain something more profound dawned on me. That is, I'm a realist. I realize the glass is half empty. But because of that I have room to fill it more or to enjoy drinking it down, emptying it to be filled anew. As such, I am a supreme optimist, enjoying any of an array of possibilities from my accurate assessment of the state of things.
Conversely, I know a great many people who see the glass half full. But because of that they dare not fill it any more, nor dare they enjoy imbibing any of its contents so as to preserve what little is left. Why unsettle such perfection after all? As such, they would suppose themselves to be optimists, but are in point of fact supreme pessimists frozen so often in a state of inaction.
Half empty I saw the mountaintop and drank deep the last contents of the cup in a fulfilling way. Half full they sat in its shadow hoping to preserve drops which they would only lament later. Peering out on this scene, I could, and you can, see the village of Mavrommati below, Ancient Messene beside, Arsinoi ahead and over fifty miles all they way down to the seashores of Kalamata and beyond. Standing at its foot, you can see only the long path up.
So today you have your own Mount Ithome in front of you. You can call yourself an optimist and stand in awe of the beauty in front of you. You can call yourself a pessimist and not even enjoy the view. Or you can climb and clink a toast at the top with whatever glass you prefer. Empty just means I liked the drink. Empty just means possibilities.
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