Saturday, 23 September 2017

On Track

Yes indeed. Back on track after a fab week on the sunny island of Kos; not a cloud to be seen and temperatures in the mid-30s Celsius - not bad for September. I'd never visited Kos before but I'm not surprised it's the fourth most popular destination in Greece after Crete, Rhodes and Corfu.

Situated in the Dodecanese and within touching distance of Turkey - which is why this year's earthquake, centred on the Turkish city of Bodrum, caused such damage across the strait in Kos Town - the island has a lovely relaxed feel to it, and more bicycles per head of population than Beijing. There are thousands of bikes for hire and miles of cycle-tracks in the towns and around the coast. Because Kos is relatively small (30 miles long and six wide) and relatively flat, cycling is a popular way to get around, making the island a bit like the Netherlands only with palm trees and permanent sunshine. Most squares and beaches and many tavernas are equipped with cycle-racks - all very eco-friendly.

Add to that the stunning scenery (example below) and the unfailing friendliness and hospitality of the locals, and I can understand why Kos has one of the highest revisiting rates. I certainly hope to go there again (though perhaps not sixteen years in a row, like one couple we met).

Aghios Stefanos beach (from this happy snapper's holiday portfolio)

Such friendliness has its basis in filotimo (φιλότιμο) considered to be the highest of Greek virtues, essentially a way of life. It literally means 'doing good' but really encompasses walking in right paths (on track!) and showing kindness and respect to all.

The island's most famous son, one Hippocrates (460 - 370 BC), who is often cited (with justification) as the father of modern Western medicine, exemplified filotimo and he and his students favoured an informed and holistic approach to their profession. He is credited with inspiring (if not coining) the Hippocratic Oath, the code of ethics that still binds doctors today with a duty to preserve life. Among the many aphorisms attributed to Hippocrates are these:

"Make a habit of two things - to help, or at least to do no harm."
"If we can find the cause, we can find the cure."
"Bad digestion is the root of all evil."
"Let your food be your medicine and your medicine your food."
"Wherever the art of medicine is practised, there is also the demonstration of humanity."
"Everything in excess is opposed to nature."
"Walking is man's best medicine."
"Health is not merely the absence of disease, it is the balance of mind, body and soul."

all clearly advocating the benefits of self-awareness, getting on track and walking in right paths.

Koan badge of honour (from this happy snapper's holiday portfolio)
Natives of Kos are known as Koans and the students and successors of Hippocrates were sometimes known as the Koan school. As I lazed on one of the island's beautiful beaches it occurred to me that Koan is a homonym and I started thinking about koans, those cryptic sayings beloved of Zen Buddhists, like "Imagine the sound of one hand clapping" that are used to provoke thought or contemplation and designed to lead the student to greater awareness and a realisation of the interconnectedness of all things.

Inspired by the sound of one wave lapping, I decided on today's poetic challenge - an effort which takes as its point of departure some of Hippocrates' most famed quotes and recasts them in koan-like form. (Well, I tried.)

Life is short, the learning is long.
How can its lessons be learned young?

Breathe with your eyes,
Measure with your heart,
Feed with your soul -
And if you founder, consider the whole.

Balance is of the essence,
Let nature show the way
And accept that doing nothing
Is sometimes sound remedy.

Talking leads to diagnosis,
Walking yields the best prognosis,
Thriving comes from symbiosis.

When everyone is a doctor, who is the sick man?

Thanks for reading. Happy trails, S ;-)


Anonymous said...

Excellent, young Steve. Pleased you had a happy holiday.

Anonymous said...

A fascinating read. I really look forward to these each week. I've no idea what a koan is but it makes a great poem. Thank you.

Annie Walton said...

Love this!

Well Steve you never disappoint ! I now want to see Kos although i would have to go in its " quieter " time be there such one ?

Love your mention of "One hand clapping" .... my daughter Jill who plays piano composed music to a song called.....yes you have guessed it
One hand Clapping...when she was in a duo many years ago...

It seems too long a time since we last saw you ( we were somewhat preoccupied on 20th August !)
Do hope you are well dear chap and not feeling too dismal re your return to Blighty and your shorts to the wardarobe!

Love Annie x

Anonymous said...

Very entertaining.

Matt West said...

Great blog.

Anonymous said...

A most interesting blog, food for thought! Great photographs as well.

Anonymous said...

You write with great style. I enjoyed this very much. Love Kos too.

Anonymous said...

'the sound of one wave lapping...' Ha ha ha - what a great blog. I loved it.

Anonymous said...

Yeah - just yeah. An inspiring read.

Anonymous said...

Echoing other comments - a great piece of writing.