Athens in Layers

Athens is a city alive. It hums with life at all blasting by inches from where you stand, laundry hanging across balconies, flowering vines climbing ancient marble walls, old women carefully picking out fruit on the corner, old men arguing soccer scores at the neighborhood newsstand. As you walk the streets, there are small signs everywhere of how long people have lived and died and made their homes here. From the hilltop in the First Cemetery of Athens, you can stand next to a headstone from the 19th century, look over at the Parthenon built in 447 BCE, and bow your head in solemnity as a group of mourners make their way past you to the funeral taking place that very moment. It is city of layers, of new lives built upon old ones, of modern history overlapping ancient. Signs of some of Greece's current economic crisis butt right up against signs of its history as the world's leader in philosophy, art, and democracy, a reminder that greatness rises and falls, that cycle is inescapable, that we all have our own moments of enlightenment and decline. There are lessons to be gleaned from this, insights into our own sustainability, a call to dig into our own overlapping layers.