A writer ( mostly narrative poetry) of fiction and non-fiction. Self publisher of fiction and Involution-An Odyssey Reconciling Science to God (Runner-up Book of the Year (2013), One time builder ( Arts centre) Mother of four daughters: Companion of old man and old dog: One time gardener, lecturer, wannabe cellist, mostly enquirer of 'what's it all about', blogger and things as yet undiscovered.
You wake up to discover a knock at your door. A wealthy uncle you barely knew has passed and left you a fortune. It’s more than enough to live out your days in glorious splendor, but there is a condition. To be eligible to collect, you must commit your full-time working energies to the pursuit of an answer to a single question of your choosing for the next 12 months.
You are welcome to continue that pursuit after the year ends, for years or decades if it warrants, but you must remain fully focused on seeking the answer until the last minute of the 365th day. A minute shorter, the entire inheritance goes to your annoying and equally long lost cousin, Philly.
The Quest2016 (ion)?
Tempting though it might be to assume the position of the long lost cousin Philly and just wait ( since I already have her name and am probably equally annoying) I realise this is a very pointed challenge.
My first answer to the first prompt was to find an aim for an arrow, a true North for the next year. To understand and reapply that understanding creatively.
If imitation is the sincerest form of flattery to whom would I play page and study in their footsteps? (Getting out from myself, you see)
Question to be answered
Why has Shakespeare never been equalled or surpassed in four hundred years?
(He invented a language? He used the language of drama with its deep roots in Greek theatre ( Tradition) to talk to his contemporaries about everything (Invention)? He trusted himself to make poetry out of the mundane? He managed to tread a careful line between patronage and independence. He gloried in every aspect of life, and mocked its conceits. He was endlessly inventive and able to work to a deadline. He remains anonymous).
Yes I know, as role models go, very ambitious if not presumptuous. How will Shakespeare help me for a twelve month? In a guided adventure?
It brings me back to ‘The Play’s the Thing’. I have a half written play which began a dissection of failure. I am anonymous, so nearly there. Patronage I know nothing of, nor deadlines, but independence is a familiar and talking about everything comes naturally. ‘Something in particular’ is more difficult. Mocking conceit comes like breathing and gets me into trouble. In a theatre you can just drop the curtain. The poetry of the mundane must be honed so it does not end up as mundane poetry.
If playing to one’s strengths is a good idea (and at 75 makes a virtue out of a necessity) I reckon answering that question by writing a play may be no bad answer. It will cover what I know a bit about; the sound of one hand clapping.You never know, I might hear a sound of two hands clapping. It will do to be getting on with.
(I must attribute the original idea to a very good friend Brian George. I wasn’t listening when he spoke!)
( I have posted on this site which is all about the human odyssey, but derived from my small recapitulation of it.)
I have pledged to take myself to task with‘Tracking Wonder’. It has become an inflamed need to forge or find a clear path. Not long ago I had an amazing esoteric ‘reading’ ; not of my personality ( all too familiar!) but my soul’s path. William Meader is an extraordinary visionary, whose clarity is compelling. His astrology is not concerned with the surface, relationships, money etc but the driving influences that shape an individual life, and accounts for the repeated patterns within it.
Since I have always believed I have been ‘called out’ to interpret life differently I wanted to determine whether this was a egotistical afflatus that gave my life purpose, or was justified from another perspective, and I really did have a ‘job to do’. Three years ago I publishedthe book that I thought was that ‘job done’. Its conspicuous ‘failure’ is not (I believe) a reflection of its quality ( it has won accolades and prizes) but perhaps a failure of discrimination. It was originally 45 years too early for an alternative science, and now its re-written form as poetic science might have been too late for the sound-bite world of twitter.
So my search is to reconcile either a life mistaken, and misapplied, with little time left to remedy OR to see the perspective entirely differently. The exhaustion might have incubated a little precious time, or brought me to the point when giving up (on that over-long journey) is true maturity?
In answer to Susan Piver’sfirst prompt ‘What I most need to tell myself in 2016’ I can only at this point offer this ‘To stop rehearsing what once was true, in order to listen to other voices, both inner and outer’ William Meader acknowledged that I was a compulsive pioneer in everything (Aries at a zenith with Jupiter coming up fast) but the danger of Sagittarius as an influence was a tendency to point the arrows in too many directions without taking a fixed and true aim at the most important. I want to be able to see that aim for the arrow. Then I will be able to release it! That is my hope.
This totally fabulous truth sometimes finds its equal in a mind that portrays it. Jonathan Quintin has provided the means to share it. I asked a virtual question to the virtual ether: ‘How do I talk about experience without using language. This appeared as an instant answer.
Although art is a language this comes close to pure economy of means to express the wealth of harmony, muscle, bone, music, colour and all the natural world, and the mind of man.
Genius: The Challenge to Political Correctness. Opening Our Eyes.
A man of genius…is a spring in which there is always more behind than flows from it.’ James Froude.
In this day of ‘all must have prizes, and ‘all are equal born’ genius sits uncomfortably; a challenge to everything that the democracy of equality seeks to foster, in education, in law, in ‘human rights’ and in appropriate ‘tolerance’. Part revered, part resented genius has led the human cavalcade in science, in art and music. Yet it remains a kind of orphan of thinking, capricious, unpredictable and therefore without a general or deeper significance. The gift is believed a matter of luck.
For me genius is the single phenomenon that throws a vivid lens on the fallacies in understanding. More than half the world believes in reincarnation, and past life memory, (when dug out from the deeply buried) the gradual ascent through trials and vicissitudes of spiritual advancement. Karma is seen as a deeper democracy, the correction to unequal birth by sampling the smorgasbord of different circumstances, until exhausted by the imprisonment in matter the soul ascends to Elysium. Whatever that might be.
My recent virtual encounter with the extraordinary child that is Alma Deutscher has refocused attention on this whole question.
As an introduction this interview on Zeitgeist gives a portrait of not only the truth of the quotation from Froude (above) but should be followed by taking the time to watch this ten year old’s opera ‘Cinderella’. Not merely for the music and its orchestration, but the intuitive sense of drama, character, humour and the mind-blowing naturalness of the composer in a shift and bare feet wandering about the stage playing both violin and piano when judged necessary, and generally making sure the performance goes as it should. This is a maestro who knows exactly who she is.
This composer has absorbed the idioms of Mozart, Schubert, fragments of Brahms, moments of Beethoven and Bach and, like any new linguist, shapes familiar language to express new ideas. I am sure there will be the destructive critic who will dismiss her work as past its sell-by date ( too melodic, too structured in the past forms- rondos, variations, quartets etc) but perhaps her message lies beyond music altogether. Perhaps she has come to force us to confront the legacy of genius and what it contributes to memory. It remains intact, and those endowed with access to it are a mirror about the nature of reality itself.
Perhaps genius is the artesian well through which a field, the pressure of consciousness comes to the surface. To refresh our access to the universal memory of which we are, each, a part and far from equal in our access to it.
When I wrote Involution- An Odyssey I included what I knew would raise hackles, the supposition that not only the spiritual Bodhisattva ( who returns voluntarily to raise our collective game) but that the gifted genius arrives with his/her gifts intact. Memory. I went further and leapt for an idea that the gifted genius returns to the world in which that gift is recognised, and fostered. Here is the relevant passage from Canto the Ninth.
In the words of the serpent DNA
If I am the waxen plate, A palimpsest of lives… Impressed by narratives I’m told To match the soul with parentage—
The hybrid of arriving past I assign to future— My homespun stripes speak dialects, Kinship written on calling cards Each according to their scripture… The child is father to the man, each ensures The safeguards to their hungers… The correction of residual crimes… The denial of appetites outgrown… The shaping of their talents Offers incense to the brazier burning On the altar of mankind.
Each soul is one immortal whole (Its energy vibration) Particulate in its liberty To choose what has been chosen: The dynasties within the arts, The families treading Shakespeare’s boards, Cremona’s lines of luthiers, The homing pigeons returning home To exhaust their passions…
(Ardour is not infectious Nor art sufficiently paid To fake a false conviction. The soul, passionate intrinsically, Burns steady and sustained)
Precocious early limber child Seeks guided incarnation; Leopold Mozart, so reviled, (As Commendatore immortalized) Without both his virtues and his vices (Esteeming the gift but shaving its glitter) Would Amadeus, born instead to a putz-mädchen, Have survived? Or offered man a note? Or too many, in desperation?
I can only say that this encounter ( for which I have to thank Margo’s blog for setting my nose on the track via Amira the extraordinary singer) has revived me from a near bottomless despair. Alma refuses to be Mozart, but it is possible she once was. Given his tragic life and more tragic death I would like to think she has come to finish what he never could. In her own way.
It begs many questions about everything but I don’t intend to ask those today, just to glory in the confirmation that the collective nature of consciousness might continue its appeal. We are therefore not entirely beyond hope. One child can rescue us. That was the essence of Yeshua, was it not?
I’ve been following world news the last weeks and getting more and more depressed! Needless to say it has not inspired to write at all. I wonder when the media will wake up to bring us good happy inspiring news of which there is much also around the world. If they would include just one such happy story in their news every day, it would lift up the spirit.
Here I found this which I’d like to share with you, it’s really food for the soul, listen to this 9 year old little girl Amira singing an aria from the opera Gianni Schicchi (1918) by Giacomo Puccini ! Sit back close your eyes and listen with your soul. You can find more about her on you tube.
There are so many gifted children around the world it’s uplifting refreshing inspiring and encouraging too. This in spite of all the evil…
All the World’s a Therapist! ( and men and women good cash cows…)
My last post drew attention to the Kogi- walkers, planters, weavers in and of the spiritual. Devoid of evangelism, without ego-bound ‘creativity’ or seemingly free will, they live to nearly a hundred and leave no footprints. They are saving our world. They live to do that, by showing how it can and should be done. An embryo Eden, still extant.
Here is ‘our’ Westernised version ( but only as I have encountered it!)
Hijacking the Bandwagon.
As I have spent much of life thinking on ‘Things Spiritual/ Ways of Redemption’, should I be taking a lance to the windmill? Certainly unwise, but suddenly irresistible. I am fed up with claimants to virtue by virtue of what it is they do for a (sometimes rather good) living .
Don’t get me wrong. Nobody is more concerned with the state of Humankind than I am, few have spent more time wringing their hands and wondering what might be done. My inbox is swamped with guided meditations, special offer retreats, two for one quartz obelisks, dire injuctions that if I fail to act on Mercury’s recessions or its conjunctions with my Aries Avatar I shall rue not spending $39.99 to harness its influence, as well as daily invitations to join the Company of the Saved for a modest monthly Direct Debit.
You all know what I mean, and maybe you have all ‘unsubscribed’ from this avalanche of promises.
But I intend to get up close and personal to the virtuous, and pick apart the bitter kernel that I invariably discover when I have sipped the initial nectar. I am easily tempted because susceptible. I know wherein discipline lies, I am hooked on the need for daily meditation since I do not really function well without it; and I also recognise that MUCH MORE should be done. I flirt with becoming a Trappist and reading deep books, and eating dry crusts. I recognise the insidious velvet seduction of red wine (but at the end of a day I usually succumb). I long to regain the ability to manage the lotus position. I wish I could like plunkety or synthetic ‘spatial music’ but if I’m honest I do better with infectious rhythm, and letting rip with what’s left of an old woman’s arthritic knees.
Right now my concentration has been provoked by the stream of the virtuous that have been my tenants. I sound like a jaundiced capitalist who has failed to benefit from the contact with chiffon scarves and hennaed hands. The lack of benefits is certainly true. They have tended to move in the opposite direction.
Let me set the scene. I have a rather nice cowshed that began with stalls, deep runnels and a lot of dried manure, as well as the identities of its inhabitants ‘Marigold, Clementina, Buttercup, Kicker, and Huppity’ chalked on their appointed places. I never met any of them but they seemed to have left their gentle, doe-eyed, cud–chewing resignation in their wake. The place is peace personified. You could slice peace and wrap it for Christmas.
It was not considered fit for humans ( no cavity walls, no insulation, ankle-turning death trap) so I wrapped it round with a sort of orangery made of reclaimed chapel windows, left holes for vines to inch within and drip grapes,( inviting the Mediterranean to take up occupation in Somerset and ignore the winter), paved the floor with black and white tiles ( read concrete faked to look like marble) and waited for the artists to arrive.
They never did. Even impoverished artists want ‘en suite’ with coffee making ‘facilities’.
So now , instead, I have tenants who claim to be the ‘artists of the spirit’. They are therapists, and each is dedicated to the salvation of Mankind. I have nothing against saving Mankind. I have had a shot at that myself, but only by asking Mankind to think again. Given my deficiencies ( touched on above) I am in no position to make any claims to virtue, so I stick to thinking. Thinking is seldom part of therapy; blind allegiance, abandoning inhibitions, rituals, soothing massage, reflexology, T’ai Chi, Ayurveda, Zen, Reiki, you name it, all are the Pathways to Paradise ( as are Jihad, Decapitation, and bombing the wrong kind of Muslim). Now before you get hot under the collar at the linking of these let me say that the thing they have in common is the belief that virtue accompanies all of them. When you are virtuous by default you can get away with anything.
Let me paint some portraits of the varieties of virtue that have been my lot to encounter in my peaceful cowshed ( which does have a habit of being considered ideal for therapy and move over Madam, if you please.)
There was the earnest couple, who could not manage the rent, but she was beautiful with large eyes and he had a habit of putting his hands in a prayerful attitude. They only needed it for six months recovery from stress. They were certain that somehow I could find it in my heart to waive the rent. No? How unfeeling! They worked with PEOPLE in need of COMPASSION. Yes they charged but not nearly enough to pay rent. I would accumulate good Karma instead.
(I hope to do that unassisted).
Then there was the married pair who were moving to Somerset from the ‘unspeakable’ metropolis of London, and the cowshed would be perfect for his (unfortunately necessary) commute and her massage and reflexology therapy in the spare bedroom with its own access and its view across the fields. Perfect. If they should ever find that pregnancy happened they would have to think again but that was unlikely. Four months later their unspeakable flat was sold, at double its purchase price and the five bedroom house in the unspeakable metropolis was ready to receive a nanny and the birth of the child. Ta, very much. Tootle-pip.
Then there were the 2012ers. They only needed it for two months, November and December until Planet Niburu necessitated the rescue of their coterie of elderly followers ( each had paid a few thousand) to be taken ( special delivery) off Planet Earth to seed the NEW CIVILIZATION from which would spring the hope of a better MANKIND. When Planet Niburu failed in its business they set fire to the cowshed by glueing the boiler’s safety over-ride and turning it to maximum and departing. Luckily the boiler screamed for help. I saved it with a fire blanket and an OFF. If global conflagration does not oblige I guess DIY is the only option. ( It was their final gift to the Landlady-who-did-not-believe in milking the gullible.)
Now there is the young couple who came to offer dance and movement therapy but who find it difficult to get out of bed before noon, and are horrified that there are tractors in the country. They had no idea and I should have told them that tractors start early. It disturbs their ‘lie-in’s’ which is why they came. In fact I deliberately with-held this critical information, and deceived them. I have to confess I also with-held the information that the earth circles the sun. I suppose twenty eight year olds can’t be expected to know everything.
Right now we have an Angelic Practitioner ( I thought angelic practitioners were mostly ephemeral and pretty choosy) who came to write a book on a wholly original approach to healing. She is never at home but her collection of angels, gold and silver, glass and plaster, are complemented by a litter of butterflies clinging to curtains, fluttering over lamps, and alters of stone (sacred spaces)warding off the evil eye in every doorway. The simple place of peace ( Feng Shui-ed? avec objets) looks like a Chapel of Rest in an undertaker’s office. Now I don’t know how one writes a book on an iphone, I have never tried it, but I am sure it will be a masterpiece.
Would I be contravening the discrimination laws by advertising
CONVERTED COWSHED TO LET. No therapists, healers, ‘practitioners’ (undefined) do-ers of good, people of unearned virtue need apply. The saintly are unwelcome, the enlightened will need to offer proof. Hewers of wood and drawers of water are welcome. If you work for a living even better. You are in with a chance.
P.S. Motor Bikers in leather may remove their helmets and we’ll talk. Cyclists in plastic pointy hats ride on…far too much weighty virtue to risk it?
Maybe I should go join the Kogi? Seriously tempting!
This film is an imperative to watch and to share! The last Eden ( the Sierra Nevada- the heart of the world) in the care of the Kogi, beautiful beautiful people with a message for ‘Younger Brother’ -Us! Difficult even begin to deal with the admiration or the terror of its implications. Here is active mysticism integrated with a highly sensitive society of extraordinary beauty. Perhaps others have already encountered them. I never had, until today.
This post was inspired by Shelley Sackier’spost to herself at sixteen which got me seriously thinking. I thought I would try it. It brought up some interesting points. If only I’d looked at this earlier!
Do you remember the nickname given you by your uncle? It fits you perfectly. At sixteen you bristle at everything, and in these days a spike is the forerunner of what will become a filing system: That thing on a desk on which unpaid bills, unanswered letters, unsent receipts, and reminders of possible but not immediate importance are secured. In short, notes to self. Memory stored and accessible. You never forget a thing, ever. You quote insults in the original, mimic accents with accuracy, flash back epithets, and hook out hypocrisy with dispatch. Heartless you seem but you are having fun just trying on clothes in a cupboard. Chess champion? Jive queen? Debating Society Champion? Student of the Talmud? Writer of SERIOUS criticism? Solemn political agitator? Mostly Rider-at-top-speed.
You, Spike, are becoming a rapier, preparing to do battle with the world, and sharpening a blade on any whetstone that appears. You feel that unless you prepare for the battle ahead you will succumb. To what will you succumb? Who or what is out for blood?
I have found a memory-as-metaphor amongst that ragbag of memories and it will do. Very succinct, and economical. Your life to come, already pre-determined and in rehearsal.
Do you remember that hunt when you had no mount and someone said they had a horse going spare? You mounted a thoroughbred and at the first bugle it was off making for the horizon. If you had stopped to ask about the beautiful Arab called Pomeroy you might have discovered you were on a race horse, that only knew to race once out of the gate. To bring it back you circled the whole field (going sedately at a collective canter) three times until some desperate whipper-in caught the reins and brought you back to a quivering halt in a lather and with blistered hands. The Master was Most Displeased. Very bad hunt manners!
After Pomeroy realised he was not supposed to win, but to lose to all those cumbersome shires he spooked at a river and threw you onto a rock and broke your wrist. You were led back to the meet in a splint by the doctor. What ignominy. He gave you a shiny white plaster cast to take home to your mother. That was when you were ten and you seem to have learned nothing from it at all. You know, it is okay to look a gift horse in the mouth, and to ride to hounds and not over them! You should try it. It is called the ‘field’ and it has rules.
Pity I never told you this earlier but would you have listened? Probably not, Spike. Listening was never a skill you mastered.
I could warn you. I wish I could. You will go on circling the field at a gallop and only getting thrown will stop you. Will exhilaration be enough? I hope so.
I asked Nicholas whether he would agree to be interviewed in rather a ‘personal’ and targeted way. I am less interested in the writer than in the life that lies behind writing. As it happened the philosophy he revealed ( and his final summary) made it appropriately hosted on Careless Talk- the blog of things related to Involution-An Odyssey and its universal implications. So here it is.
Interview with Nicholas Rossis.
Nicholas, because I do not interview writers on any kind of regular basis, I hope you don’t mind me framing questions that arise from impressions you give me and my fascination with what underpins the individual writer, their past, their passions, their acute dislikes. Feel free to answer ‘Pass’ at any point. You have a charming on-line persona, and make many faithful friends. I would like to introduce the individual alone with yourself.
A Greek who has lived in Edinburgh and writes in English has some explaining to do.
Lol – fair enough. Framing questions from impressions is as valid a way to go as any. After all, what does any of us know about each other – even if said other is standing right next to them?
As part of my military service (compulsory in Greece), I served a year in a navy base. I met there a sailor who turned out to be a serial killer. MPs arrested him on my watch. You can imagine how shocked we all were when we found out – none of us had any idea.
Can you give a sketch of your origins; family, growing up, where? Please include an impression of the atmosphere of your childhood home.
Oh dear, this is going to be a long interview. Hope you have time!
Well, I was born in Athens, Greece. I’m an only child, although I’m told it doesn’t show. I grew up in Dionysus – a mountainous region outside of Athens. My parents moved us there because the land was inexpensive. Then, they slowly built a huge house. We lived on the top floor at first, while the rest of the house was still being built. Took them almost ten years to finish.
We moved there in 1981. A year to remember, for sure. At first, we had no power, phone lines or – worst of all – running water. We collected rain water in a giant tank, with a plastic pipe running into the house. Everything was done with buckets filled through that. Showering meant warming water on a gas-powered stove, then pouring it on us. We collected drinking water in gallon-sized jugs from a fresh-water spring (best water I’ve ever tasted outside of Scotland). Very wild west.
Our closest neighbour was half a mile away, which is also the distance I had to walk each day to reach the school bus. I was literally growing up in a forest. A regular Mowgli.
For power, we used a surplus US Army generator that used to be in Korea. My dad somehow found the behemoth in his engineering company and brought it home, so that we could have 2 hours of electricity each day – barely enough to warm the heaters, in a year that had us snowed in no less than 6 times. I studied with normal lamps for a couple of hours, while the generator was running, then used a gas lamp.
That summer, I saw my first forest fire. It reached less than 500 yards from our home. Oh, we had also been hit by an earthquake during that time, so the whole family (an additional 8 people) moved in with us for a week.
After a year, the water pipes finally reached our place. A few months later, power.
Phone lines were next. The road was the last to be built – we only had a dirt track running up to our place until then.
In case you’re wondering, no, the rest of Greece was firmly situated in the 20th century. It was just my crazy parents who did that. Adding insult to injury, they sent me to Greece’s poshest school. I felt like a caveman, patting snow down my fur coat while the rest of classmates gawked at me through their sunglasses (our area is some 20 degrees F colder than downtown Athens). Everyone was dressed in cool, cotton shirts, while I wore military khakis and woollen shirts. Sigh…
I still hate camping. Whenever someone suggests we rough it for a week, I always growl, “Been there, done that, got the tee-shirt, mass produced it in a sweat shop.”
Growing up in Dionysus with no siblings is definitely part of why I write. Or at least, why I love books. Every weekend, I’d borrow a dozen books from the school library and return them on Monday. Not much else to do, with no one around.
Looking back, what would you say were the repeating patterns, or passions that drove you? What or who influenced you to follow or reject?
As I explained, I was a pretty lonely child. And yet, I was reasonably popular at school – I even was class president a couple of times. It’s just that distance didn’t make it easy to hang out with a “gang.” So, loneliness is a sore point for me. I have learnt to be quite all right with it by now, and even enjoy it at times, but it’s still my greatest fear.
I believe that is why I was so keen to form romantic relationships from a relatively early age. And why we’ve stayed with Electra for so long. It is also why I took to social media and the Internet. I was one of the first people to go online in Greece, back when modems took a minute to download a small image. To me, the computer opened up an amazing way of connecting with people. My blog and my books are an extension of that need to connect; to share my world with others.
Was yours a straight path with clear markers to a manageable climb or a crooked hike through woods with a limited view ahead? Identify the signs you followed, or the boulders you circumnavigated?
I would describe my path as anything but straight. It has more turns, twists and dead ends than a David Lynch movie.
Still, I’ve come to realize lately that things happen in their own time. No matter how much I want something, if it’s meant to happen, it will, no effort needed on my part. Other times, I might desperately want something, but no matter how much effort I put into it, it just doesn’t happen – and trust me; this has happened a lot. Then again, something that I completely ignore might just flourish in front of my eyes, unexpectedly and effortlessly.
I studied civil engineering (my dad’s idea of a secure job) and in 1995 I went on to do a PhD in Digital Architecture (the only way for me to link my degree with two of my passions, design and computers). I had agreed with my supervisor on a subject about symbolism in architecture, then he, poor guy, dropped dead a week prior to my arrival. My new advisor professor not only changed my subject, but also asked me to make a website for the department, from scratch. He gave me three days to do it; days I spent reading a lot, experimented quite a bit and pulling hair, until I did it, and my first website went live at the end of the 3-day period.
I’ve been working as a web developer for almost 20 years now. I still do, partly because I have to earn a living and partly because I’ve worked so hard to create Istomedia, my company, that I feel like it’s kind of a family member. Then, a couple of years ago, I realized that I had started losing patience: with clients, projects, designs, programming, the constant need for updating and upgrading and the 6-month life cycle of everything technological. I turned to writing as a relief, and realized, startled, that it was all I wanted to do.
Every now and again, I wonder whether my studies and everything I have worked for is going to waste. But I think not: my degree has helped me to study and organize my thoughts. My PhD taught how to properly research topics, question everything, look for new and different ways to achieve a result. My work has taught me how to market my book, design its cover, create the ebook file. Indie publishing requires the same skills: presenting myself and my work to potential clients, networking, promoting my creations, finishing a project within a deadline and a budget etc.
So, at 45, life has brought me where I am. All the things I’ve done, have arguably happened because I need them today. Which is why I try to practice nowadays what Tao Te Ching calls Wei Wu Wei – actionless action: the art of setting your destination and letting life take you there. It’s a nice concept, isn’t it?
As a boy what did you want or imagine your life would entail?
Oh, wow. I haven’t thought about that in a while. As a kid, all I could think about was becoming an astronaut. Now, I dream and write about the stars and the adventures to be had among them. I guess I’m not so far off my childhood dream, after all.
You obviously make loyal on-line friends easily. What would be the qualities most important to you in close friends (men or women)?
Thanks for that – it’s kind of you to say, and I hope it’s true. I believe that people respond to my openness and honesty. More than anything, I struggle to be honest with myself; to know and accept myself, warts and all.
I also struggle to remain aligned to my nature, turning my disadvantages to advantages. For example, I do enjoy being helpful. One might wonder, “so how does help you sell your books?” The short answer is, it doesn’t. It does help make friends, though, and then they do buy my books more often than not. That’s a fringe benefit, though; not the goal.
Another thing is my belief that one has to give first, before asking for something. It’s my nature to give without expecting something in return. And I think that people respond to that. As being helpful makes me happy, I think I get the better end of the deal.
Most people fight against their nature, one way or another. They go against the grain of their personality, and occasionally end up breaking in pieces because of it. For some reason, I find it easy to pick up when people do that, and I find it tiresome. I have noticed that I am unconsciously drawn to people who are at peace with themselves. Then again, aren’t we all?
Do you ever ‘lose it’? What would occasion you to do so?
Mercifully, I haven’t “lost it” in years. In 23 years of work, I have only yelled at a client once, some five years ago. He didn’t want to pay for a job I believed was well-done, and accused me of being terrible at my work. That hurt my professional pride more than I care to admit, and I told him, in no uncertain terms, that I never want to work with him again.
So, pride. And ingratitude. Not towards me, but towards God. When I hear people who have everything curse God because He doesn’t give them everything they want, it really bugs me.
What took you to Edinburgh? Can you paint a picture of your first impressions of Britain? Have they modified and if so in what ways?
This is a funny story, actually. I met Electra when she was but 16 and I, 23. Three months later, I told my best friend that I’d marry her one day. A few months later, we walked to her parents, who were still struggling to accept me, and told them that, as soon as she finished High School, we would study together in the UK. Naturally, they shrugged it off, and just nodded, trying to hide their amusement. You could practically see them thinking, “sure, whatever.”
When we started sending out applications to various UK universities, her parents were alarmed, but said nothing. Two universities – Cardiff and Edinburgh – accepted us both. Cardiff sounded lovely, but they had accepted me as an engineer – and I preferred architecture as my PhD subject. So, Edinburgh it was.
Electra’s parents couldn’t argue – we had already given them over a year’s warning after all; hadn’t we? So, Edinburgh it was.
We arrived on what the Scots call a dreich night: wet, windy, cold and miserable. That very first night, we walked into a fish & chips to grab something to eat. The girl behind the counter asked us something. I thought I knew English, but couldn’t understand a single word. I asked her to repeat what she had said, and she did. The bulb over my head was still dim. So, I just said, “Yes.” And she poured a dark sludge over my fries, which turned out to be a vinegar-based sauce. Much later, I realized she was merely asking us, “salt and vinegar?”
We spent the first month getting acclimatized and finding a place to stay. The first thing that struck me was how polite everyone was. We were trying to find a flat once, and were walking in circles, map in hand. The number of people who stopped, unprompted, to ask if we needed assistance was jaw-slackening. I just love that kind of politeness, and miss it terribly.
On the other hand, I was shocked by the number of homeless in the streets. We practically had no homeless in the streets of Athens back then, so it was a cultural shock. Related to that is the amount of drinking. Getting drunk was socially unacceptable in Greece at the time, so that, too, was a shock.
And a pleasant surprise was how easy it was to make friends. People were really friendly and accepting, which put to bed any myths about the British (or at least the Scots) being stand-offish. Even now, our best friend is a Scot.
Of course, I’m now much more aware of the social situation in Britain – good and bad. Indeed, I consider it my second home, so I follow events there almost as closely as those in Greece.
I think you have travelled quite a lot. In an ideal situation ( enough money and no specific ties), where, apart from Greece, might you choose to live and why?
It’s so funny that you say that. Until we moved to Edinburgh, I had never been out of Greece. I consoled myself by reminding me of Socrates, who had only ventured out of Athens once – and that was to fight in a war. As a student, I was able to visit most of Europe, Mexico and Cuba. I still haven’t travelled to the Far East, but would love to do so.
I might consider living there for a few years, as I find it terribly fascinating. Plus, I’m convinced I was Chinese in a former life, as I seem to have a lot of Chinese idiosyncrasies.
I have a strong preference for cooked rather than raw vegetables. I’ve kept a jar of coins on my desk long before I found out that to the Chinese that brings luck. And according to my Chinese friend I exemplify the characteristics of my sign ( the dog). I don’t have a waving red cat- the one thing that’s missing!
How does the current gloom about Greece, its economy, its political structures impinge on you (if it does)?
I was reading the other day a comment on a business forum. A business owner was saying that in 2014, he had bid for projects worth some 1.5 million euros. He had got almost half of that – some 700,000.In 2015, his company has only bid on projects worth 25,000. They have got 15,000 of that.
We have had a succession of anti-business governments, but this last one really put the last nail in the coffin. So, it has come to the point that I’m exploring other options, including leaving again. Which is a shame, as we have quite the nice life here. Still, I already have a pretty good offer that I’m considering, so I may not be in Greece for long.
As a Greek it must be difficult to forget the glories of ancient Greece with the Acropolis surmounting your city, and its authority being increasingly revived. How omnipresent is it, and how does or did it shape your writing of the Pearseus series?
Well, Pearseus does directly reference ancient Greece. Its concept came to me after reading Martin’s Song of Fire and Ice series, followed by Jim Lacey’s The First Clash and Herodotus’ Cyrus the Great and Rise of Persia, which describe the fatal battle on Marathon between Greece and Persia in the 5th century BC.
Marathon Bay is a 20’ drive from my home, and I’d often visited the tomb where the ancient Athenians buried their dead, so I thought at the time, “wouldn’t it be great if someone did what Martin did for medieval England, only with the story of Greece vs. Persia? And in space? How cool would that be?” Then it occurred to me: so, what’s stopping me from writing it?
I had originally chosen the title Perseus for the series, but the Scottish friend I mentioned earlier asked me if I had considered how many other books are titled Perseus on Amazon. A quick search revealed over 10,000 books with that name. Obviously, something had to change, and it occurred to me to make it Pearseus instead, using a pun about the pear-shaped spaceship to justify the change.
To return to your question, Greek history is to Greeks what oil is to some countries: a gift and a curse. It makes some Greeks act in an entitled way that drives me crazy; as if the rest of the world owes us something, just because our ancestors lived here. Like an overdue rent or something. Pure nonsense, of course.
When I stop myself from fretting over that, though, I admit it’s truly amazing to live in a place where history is never too far from the surface. And I mean that literally. During a recent fire close to my place (the price of living at a forest’s edge), a friend was helping the firefighters through the woods when he stumbled into a hole. It turned out to be a classical-age grave, rich with statuettes, pots and offerings.
Turning to your life as a writer, what, above all (apart from readers) do you want your Pearseus books to achieve, or change, or bequeath?
Schism is very political in nature. Rise of the Prince is basically a philosophical/religious essay masquerading as fantasy/science fiction. Mad Water and Vigil are more straight-forward adventure, where Endgame, currently penned, has a religious leader as the antagonist, which allows me to comment on the perils of following one’s religion to the extreme.
I was afraid that people would be put off by all these aspects. Some have, but many more have taken to them, even asking why later books have less introspection.
I would love it if reading Pearseus made people think about their assumptions and become more critical towards populists (Schism) and leaders (Rise). I do believe that good and evil struggle constantly all around and within us, and I wish people realized that every single one of their actions involves a choice. Even non-action is a choice. So, I hope that Pearseus reminds people to make conscious choices.
The rise of populism – both religious and political – scares me. To quote Bertolt Brecht’s prophetic “Parade of the Old New” (1939):
“I stood on the hill, where I saw the Old approaching, but it came as the New. It hobbled on new crutches that no one had ever seen before and stank of the new smell of decay that no one had ever smelled before.”
Watching the news, I find it scary just how well his words describe our current situation.
You have a fluent and extraordinary command of English, and from your posts a delight in its idiosyncrasies. Expand on that. It grabs you, tell us why.
I’m sure that Mrs. Galani, who predicted, (back in fourth grade) that I’d never learn to speak English properly, will be thrilled to hear it 😀
Seriously though, I just love the English language. I speak a bit of German, French, Russian and, of course, Greek, but English has a fluidity and openness that I find refreshing and liberating. I love playing with it in my head and on paper; exploring it; pushing it to its limits. I know that many complain about its ever-changing nature; how there are always new words, expressions and neologisms popping up. To me, that only makes it all even more precious.
I think of English as a teenager that still has years of exciting discoveries about himself ahead of him. Greece is more middle-aged in that respect. Having said that, I do google idioms on occasion, to make sure that I use them properly!
It seems that with Runaway Smile you join a number of famous men who write for children they do not (yet?) have. It has an underlying moral about the world of adults encountered by a child. What prompted it?
The book started out as a silly poem that I was playing with in my head (you can read the final version of it at the end of the book). One day, back in 2012, I was having my childhood friend, Dimitris Fousekis, over for lunch. Dimitris is a professional children’s books illustrator and liked the poem so much, that he suggested we turn it into a book. This was before I decided to become an author, and Pearseus had not even been conceived, mind you.
As for the moral, Smile has been described as “a humorous book with a serious moral.” Many have made similar comments, and I always wonder which moral they’re talking about. An author sits down and writes, and only later do they analyse what they have written. Or at least that’s the case with me. So, I’d be happy to share my personal take on the story, but that assumes I have got the same thing out of it as everyone else.
What prompted this caveat is a strange call from a psychologist family friend the other day. She said she loved the book, because it said exactly what she had been struggling to convey through her own unfinished book: that all men would turn into criminals if not for the mother’s love.
When I indicated that this was not my personal understanding of the story (indeed, I was rather shocked by her interpretation), she refuted me, explaining that I obviously did not understand what I had written.
For me, it’s the story of how we wake up one morning and realize that we’ve forgotten how to be happy. We seek happiness in our work, in money, in power, in humour, in knowledge… All these can offer us fun, symbolized by the false smiles worn by everyone (I’m not sure that people have noticed this, but everyone except for the boy and the mother are wearing strapped-on smiles). However, true happiness lies with sharing. With love. And sometimes we forget that, and we need someone to reach out to us and help us through this dark time of the soul.
As to what prompted it, I guess that I’ve been struggling with my own version of a mid-life crisis, where I find myself giving up a twenty year-long career to become an author. This is because my previous career no longer made me smile. Sharing my stories, however, has put the smile right back on my face!
If you were to identify the ‘essence’ of your short stories ( if you are able to ‘ see’ them from a distance) what would you say they were reaching towards, or have in common?
What is the nature of reality? Is there more to the world than we can see? Many of my stories deal with Descartes age-old question: how far can we trust our senses? With technology progressing rapidly, the time when it will be practically impossible to tell apart sensory fact from simulation can’t be far off. How will we be able to tell fantasy and reality apart? How do we know something like this hasn’t already happened, and we live in a sort of simulation?
I guess most of my stories stem from a rather Platonic view of the world; that the real world is a world of ideas somewhere out there, and this one is but its long shadow. There are so many alternative explanations to life and to the world, but we’re blind to them. Still, if someone felt the need to lift the veil of reality and take a peek behind the scenes, what would they find?
That’s why I like to start my stories with a fairly common, everyday situation, then turn it on its head. I would really love it if someone started questioning everything around them as a result of reading my stories.
In a nutshell, (or a conch) how would you summarize your personal philosophy; as in what do you believe is the reason or the purpose of the human journey?
Theosis; unification with the divine.
How he Now Lives
Nicholas Rossis lives to write and does so from his cottage on the edge of a magical forest in Athens, Greece. When not composing epic fantasies or short sci-fi stories, he chats with fans and colleagues, writes blog posts, walks his dog, and enjoys the antics of two silly cats, one of whom claims his lap as home. His children’s book, Runaway Smile, earned a finalist slot in the 2015 International Book Awards and in the 2015 IAN Book of the Year Awards. You can read it for free on his blog.
He has also written the epic fantasy series,Pearseus. The final book in the series is currently penned and expected in fall 2015.
Many of his short stories have appeared on various collections and anthologies. He has published The Power ofSix, a collection of short sci-fi stories that includes his award-winning short story, I Come in Peace, and Infinite Waters, a collection of short speculative fiction stories.
Philippa this is a post to be savoured; I will listen when time permits. For the moment to say that this is ‘good’ that there is more behind the spring in you, even when in despair.
The words of the serpent DNA, are very powerful.
Strangely, I’m putting up a post tomorrow : An excerpt from The Diary of Anne Frank … again, from the soul of a child …
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It is a pleasure to offer you an overwhelming gift. Just listening to, and watching her restores faith in the innate capacity of humanity, and its possible purpose. From here the Universe might have had man ‘in mind’. Not often does one have reason to think that!
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