The Sacred and Profane

Snapshots from Greece and a meditation on the end of a world.

December 2016. Absolute stillness in Athens on Christmas morning. After a night of garbled dreams of headlines and pundits, I walked past shuttered storefronts covered with graffiti in search of my Christmas present: a pack of cigarettes after quitting for six months. The Greeks know how to smoke. In America we stand on cold sidewalks with shamed faces; here smokers luxuriate in a grey haze like it’s 1962. Rolling cigarettes is a family activity. Starbucks has a smoking section. I savored the familiar box in my palm, the sacrament of unwinding the cellophane and peeling back the gold foil, the warm raisin smell of tobacco and the cupping of a flame. How could this dramatic act of fire, smoke, and breath ever have become a mindless routine, let alone something I wanted to quit? Beneath a heat lamp at a café, I admired the pigeons while reading about the last days of Socrates. An ashtray and a complementary pastry appeared on the table.

Notes from the end of a world. Searching for faith in the digital age.

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