Ποιειν Και Πραττειν - create and do

Myth of Love - Aristea


    Aristea 14 - 15 December 2013                 



Lifelines created out of love are the most crucial elements in our life. 

Inspiration for thinking about the importance of love in our lives can be obtained from Aristea who has a shop where she sells decorations for weddings and baptizations. The shop is located on Romanou Melodou - a street going up to Lycabettou Hill in Athens. Some compare that area to San Francisco for likewise the steep hill allows for views from atop down into the streets below.


Aristea's shop



                Outside the shop of Aristea Dec. 14 - 15, 2013

Around certain times, whether Easter or Christmas, she opens up her shop for all to view her newest ways of treating materials comprised mainly of cinnemon, nuts, apples, but also candles, vases, necklaces, etc. all of which entice to look and to image another aspect of life.

Already on the outside of her shop a display of different materials indicate skilled hands which transform them into more than merely decorative elements even though that component is there as well. They become artistic displays of the prowness of materials used. Whether stone, wood or ceramic, a kind of progression of egality linking the human spirit to the earth begins till sooner or later the spiritual and therefore magic level is reached. A perfect pitch of colours intertwine with what is rudimentary and rustical at the outset, but refined in the end. All has a sprinkling of humour and deeper understanding as to what life is about.


       Close up of things on display outside the entrance

Even a face can illuminate the sky like the sun, so to speak. It is interesting also what secretive smells enimate from the shop. The senses are spoken to in definite, equally mainly feminine tones. Soft touches and a strong grip combine to make this into an invitation to enter first the left side of the shop, for on the right is another door which awaits entry but this shall be kept for later.

Aristea's shop - left entrance


Once inside, a number of things await or better surprise one. On top of a shelf other vases made to look like faces can be spotted. They stand atop a cupboard full of amazing items. Where does she only finds these things? Among them are small boats, or a photo album bounded in a special way. Carefully laid out, they comprise altogether a composition of natural harmony. A ghost like hand seems to have gone over them and given them a serenity: the mark of an unspeakable beauty.

The things and objects waiting to be discovered in her shop are not necessarily beautified but rather through a special technique their unique beauty is brought out. That is not done forthright for then it would be contortion. Rather a lot remains hidden, secretive, even mysterious while the obvious is given, so to speak, a hat to take on an aura of an uplift. That is revealed especially onhand of the candles on display but includes a small cat, wreath, wooden shoe or a globe of the world to be found on one shelve.

Many items remind of a magic toy shop for kids, even though this is one is definitely for adults. It is done with the intention to re-awaken the adults' childish like imagination long forgotten after they became adults, but now suddenly in need of it all the more due to being confronted by the question of love. The confrontation occurs once two people have decided to get married, and therefore must decide on how to proceed with preparations for the ceremony.

Aristea grasps that most of the time many people are over whelmed by this question. It is connected to a wealth of emotions, the complexity thereof itself a confrontation with a special kind of morality or philosophy of one's own. For one should not heed necessarily what others say about love. Rather Aristea's philosophy includes a love which knows at times no hesitation what so ever. It is an unbelievable freedom and therefore heeds no borders, lest of all those of moral limitations. It is a freedom of love which matters to her the most. Out of this a transcendence of the usual give and take becomes conceivable. At the same time, such love is inconceivable in society if it does not entail a revolt at personal level against all limitations.

To learn to express yourself freely and honestly, without pretension or shyness, that takes courage. It is like plunging into the sea and to swim out. Aristea does so almost the year around but not with the aim to defy nature but to learn to live amidst all its elements and to love life in freedom. Thus through the various items she has assembled, she lets these elements called matter speak at one and the same time a diverse and an unified language. What binds them together can be of great assistance to those two about to get married. They need a proper context of self understanding by which they can call unmistakingly out of 'love' they are getting married.


    Cupboard in Aristea's shop

The grammar of life results out such use materials and martial intention. If done in respect of nature and of mankind, it will allow a comprehension as to what matters in this life. Therefore love as energy means something special not just for any, but this other person who might have been before a complete stranger. Once natural categories allowed to take over, and self trust is added, then the happy coincidence of two people who found it each other shall be sealed best in freedom by a unique form of happiness.

From Aristotle to Adorno the lessons of categories has been a puzzle for philosophy. Social aptitudes made seemingly vague but in other times they are quite exact and sharp. Not everyone fits into this. To bring, therefore, nature and society together in a single couple, this requires something Adorno called second nature. It can appear when learning to play the piano so well that everyone looking on and listening can think this is a natural talent. Likewise a couple must first get rid of the illusion of ease society seems to suggest by which it is possible to make love in a natural and most authentic way. Rather than being able to be spontaneous, Adorno adds that it is hard work before that becomes possible. Like the piano player, a comprehension of love requires avoiding misleading analogies. Thus lerning out of love to love in a most natural and beautiful way presupposes that there is a love which already exists, and which does not have to be brought out or evoked for otherwise it would be but an artificial imitation of what has been put into the mind. Indeed, many just go through the motion, pretend and play a role as to what seems to be the most apt way to do things when silencing in reality the lack of knowledge. The latter leads too often to such a distortion of love, that people hardly recognize soon after they got married with whom they have really decided to be with all their life. It comes as a shock when the other remains a complete stranger and the assertion 'but I do not know you' in reality an outcry of desparation. That happens too often and reduces as a rule love to being the mere sexual act, and nothing else. It has led over time to many tragedies. They stem out of deep disappointments which plunge the persons into an unknown abyss and they conclude that life is made solely out of despair while they remain stuck in a morass of feelings.

No, a true love needs the strong contemplation to undertake quite another grammar learned best by use of the touch to sense what makes the body of the other quiver. Thus the categories of love include a certain strength due to desire and which gives energy once convinced this was given freely, in a moment of freedom. It does entail sexual love but goes well beyond it.

Here then lies precisely the challenge when entering freely the intimate sphere of the other while remaining at a distance to the self wishing to stay free. Out of such small differences to be noted as stranger the trust in oneself emerges out of a unique notion of love. One is prepared and willing to give while love means as well the ability to be loved. What the other is prepared to give is not rejected, but enhanced and elevated so as to bestow dignity upon man and woman. They feel then safe and carried by this love freed from a selfish wish to hide the truth from the other so as to be in control. Love on the contrary does not enter such a power game. Rather it questions the use of power and requires likewise the other leaves all weapons behind. For love is accepting each other in all the vulnerabilities the human being can reveal to the self and to the other when really open.

Translated into a need to comprehend further love, an active search for love becomes possible out of knowing what love is about, namely a certainty of the senses which speak foremostly to the other and the environment. For then also what matters speaks a clear enough language for both to be fully engaged in love. It will allow them to understand each other as the mutual trust in each other gives them the strength to hold onto to the other as well as pose more serious questions. 

The prerequisite for all that is a freedom from the fear. It includes a freedom from the fear to be seduced and misled by the other who might be merely pretending to be in love when not. For love is a scarcity and circumscribes a happiness rarely found since freedom of love is not cherishes as often as thought or strong enough to be really convincing. For many pretend too much and therefore engage themselves not in love but in the game of seduction. Out of the latter emerges then not a true and ongoing search for love, but a game which does drive the other crazy to the point of wishing a final change, an irrevocable transformation. If that would be the case, then it would mean entry into a no man's land from which none would return as turning around to see the other if still following would transform that person into a figure made out of salt.


   Right side of the left shop - the jewellery section

Inside the left shop all sorts of things can be seen. They include small hearts, laterns but above all jeweillery in the form of necklaces, bracelets, rings, ear rings and pins. Again they do remind of something more than mere decoration. Of course, a woman may want to wear something special or add just one tiny item to make a difference in how she looks. A pin in the hat can suggest that. Yet a closer look at each of the items in Aristea's shop will reveal a special aura of nature is attached to the object. It reveals the soul of what matters most when beauty needs no extra emphasis and shed finally all clothes, for such beauty suffices by itself.



In short, while it is wonderful to add something special, taking off something while adding something to the erotic tension, that then is being on the track of love. That small addition is like slowly undressing and slipping into bed while the trail left behind marks a destiny for the future. Such are expectations. They illuminate the path ahead.


The nymph

The nymph

A strong point in her shop is the statue of a nymph. Looking into those eyes which foresee like Cassandra the future, that is like a promise to take the lovers to the temple of love. If birds circulate above at that time, it is an omen. Literacy means here the ability to read the signs. 

All this comes close to all kinds of beliefs in different connections mattering, and if heeded, they shall safeguard the journey. For sure marriage is one of the most testing and enduring journey man and woman are ever to undertake. Like all journey, many unknown territories have to be crossed, challenges met and always it is a test of character.

Homer's Odyssey and Penelope's faithfulness is a testimony to that. When Odyssey enters Hades and there meets all his friends who had been with him in Troy, he wonders why they have died and entered Hades. All point to one reason: in their absence their wives were not faithful and therefore they cannot return home. That is a clear indication that faithfulness matters, above all the faithfulness to love itself.

Faithfulness in love should not be misunderstood as a kind of moral obligation which the church preaches on top of some Christian interpretation of love. Once that is touched upon other fibres and ways to link up with humanity come into play. Linked to an institutionalized ritual, the undercurrent is nevertheless a part of the pagean culture.

No wonder when Christianity reached Greece, it wanted to exclude all the rituals and religious practices demonstrated in places like Delphi for their pagean nature contradicted the Christian love of the invisible hovering above earth. Even though there is the letter of Saint John to the citizens of Corinth about love, it still speaks about a love to an abstract God. By contrast there exists in Ancient Greece as much a Godess of love: Aprodite! She was born out of the sea like man but transformed water and other elements needed to form the human being into one of beauty. 

Once beauty has been bestowed upon man and woman as a natural element, it should be treated with love. Hence Sophia, the love out of wisdom equals a knowledge of love letting one know how to relate to the other wisely. It would be misleading to use love perplexed by beauty to entice men and women to do things contrary to their own free will. But the infatuation many experience over and gain and therefore follow an uncontrollable desire, can lead to war as was the case with Troy and Helene. That should not be forgotten.

When walking past that statue standing in her shop, a sense of ancient wisdom linked to lasting beauty begins to breathe into one's face. A magic moment takes on the arms. A surprise awaits when casting a glance to the back of the statue. There is placed a mirror in such a way that her back is made visible. Quivers seem to run down the spine.


              The back of the nymph in the mirror

Rarely it is assumed that beauty can be sensed from the back even though the spine with all nerves running through it is one of the most sensitive part of the human body. Also to see beauty from behind and to anticipate how she looks from the front can begin to question assumptions about how beauty is perceived, generally speaking.

Again the glance is important, or as Martin Jay would describe it, philosophy does well to reflect upon what constitutes "the enchantment of the eye" or in his treatment of 20th century thought the "disenchantment of the eye." That is the fragmentation, indeed deconstruction of totalitarian vision, but there is something else in the case of the Greek statue. For even broken off arms or just a part allow the imagination of the whole. Hence there is more than a mere glance. For the look of the statue's eyes indicate that they look straight ahead. It is most telling that in this vision there is knowledge as to what lies ahead and thus the future is embraced without. Indeed, to envision things to come even if they lie 2000 years or more ahead in time, that is the wonder of Ancient Greece. To find it again in a shop is, therefore, more than just amazing. Above all it is a testimony of the myth of love. Along with all the other secret wisdoms, it shows how love is being kept alive in this shop and that when outside, the wide world, love may have been lost. Orwell described it, and showed as well only in some secret shops that precious memory has not vanished as of yet. All the more of importance of Aristea's effort not to let forget ancient wisdoms linked to love.


It goes without saying that there is always a small element of Cretan culture in her work and display of things. She uses cinnamon in many ways. Cinnamon is a spice obtained from the inner bark of several trees. The genus Cinnamomum can be used in both sweet and savoury foods but Aristea would also just bind two or three pieces together and attach to the ribon a small pearl or a nut. She would also make crosses out of cinnamon.






           Aristea Dec. 15, 2013

Aristea herself does come from Crete. She was a most beautiful girl and married when still very young one of the richest man in Greece at that time. That was her myth of love she followed back then. Soon they had two girls but when they were four and two respectively, Aristea could no longer stand all the disillusionment of her myth. She got a divorce and left with her two daughters. After this marriage break-up the man passed soon away. Unfortunately for Aristea his family embezzled all the money and fled with it into the United States. Since she was the only person to be held accountable, and even if divorced, she was sentenced by the court to pay back all the money the moment she had something in her possession. The court also confiscated her passport so that she could not leave the country.

That was in 1974, the year when the military dictatorship in Greece ended and everyone was glad to be able to travel freely again. To be held like a prisoner in your own country and responsible for what you did not do, while the family left her completely standed, is a severe injustice she has suffered and yet taken in her own stride with dignity.

Consequently Aristea turned to doing this shop in which she sells bridal and baptization decorations. She sums up her fate as follows: before she believed in the myth of love but now she needs to sell that myth in order to survive. For she cannot owe the shop for then it would be confiscated immediately.

Like any woman who experienced sharp transitions in her life, she acts at times like a wounded wild cat and can get angry, furious at what surrounds her. It is that invisible threat which limited her freedom for many years which made her fight back with all her beauty and in full knowledge of the beauty of love.

The shop extends to the back where the work bench is, and still further it goes out to the backyard. Here Aristea works on the decorations she makes for weddings. Two assistants help her regularly but when extremely busy the daughters and others come to give a helping hand. It is a regular team work and things have to be planned well ahead.

It includes going early in the morning to the flower market to make the necessary purchases. Aristea knows the market well. When she comes and goes past the various stands, they notice her for her beauty is both striking and secretive, so much that it is for most men too elusive as to imagine they would ever have a chance to meet up with her. But alone the thought or question shows how much she stirrs up and sets on fire even when very early in the morning.

It is said that her work can be quite expensive but then she knows how to handle things at various levels, and demands. It is no problem for her, if a couple wishes to keep things very simple for their wedding. Then green apples in a large vase and some special branches with red berries will suffice. Again she uses these materials to remind what is life about. Like Cezanne showing apples outside and inside a glass to demark in still life the difference between life and death, that is never far away when repetition is a risk and the ceremony is meant to lift off.  Koestler would make here a difference between the trivial level where repetitions occur all the time with people getting married, and the tragic level with many more thoughts and efforts needed to touch upon those deeper meanings of life.

Once the agreement has been made with her, all what else is left to do, is to start preparing for that specific wedding day. It is like taking out the lip stick and to paint slightly the lips in red, in order to be ready for the wedding kiss.


Aristea's shop - right side or the bridal chamber



Aristea knows too well people about to be wed that they can be easily disappointed and so everyone is at pains to avoid grave mistakes being made even though everyone knows no marriage is perfect. Anything can happen during a wedding ceremony to cast doubt on everything as if suddenly clouds appear and shadows are cast the gathering of people.

The crucial question is what will hold it alive. Love is this mysterious something, the secret itself beyond a mere finger on lips to silence the person about to speak. Definite is that love should never be reduced to become a mere routine for then the erotics would all but be gone. Long before he would slam the door, there would prevail another kind of silence between the two even when there would still linger a smile in her eyes or around the lips while remembering the wedding day. 

Her philosophy is, therefore, not to merely sell the myth of love but to make sure the couple continues to work further and search for love after they have taken the wedding vow. That secret wish for love to last makes many come to her out of intuition it shall make a difference to have her present. She has that certain touch she gives to the things used for making this a very special event, indeed a happy ceremony in which the material things participate and celebrate as well.


In the sign of so much beauty, it is important not to become speechless, but to speak up out of the heart for trust rests on honesty. That takes courage or rather a lovely audacity to be bold to the other at a time when it counts the most. It begins with looking into each other's eyes.

No wonder when many prefer her when seeking someone to do the decorations for the wedding. For they become affected by her myth. Somehow it lets an understanding of life flow through their veins.


 Bridal or marriage room

When it comes to the final deliberation about how the wedding decorations should look like, Aristea takes them into a special room where everyone sits down to discuss the multiple features, the likes, the dislikes, the common strand or theme wanted and especially what kind of flower arrangement next to the candles. It is a creative process with the imagination being uplifted as always by her white hair that shines and distinguishes her from all the rest.


First the wedding, then comes the child.

In Aristea's shop, there can be discovered many possible gifts which accompany any baptization. The gifts are meant not for the child, but those who have come to witness the child receiving the name within a tradition as celebrated by the Orthodox church. It includes bathing three times the naked child in a large pot of water and oil. A bit of hair is cut off once that has been completed and thrown into the water. Before that the priest stands with the mother and child at the entrance of the church and blows three times to make sure no bad spirits enter when the baptization process begins. Other things can be added. Always the male voice recite verses in a singing tone.


Love is as well a love for details which matter



The rituals in Greek society continue whether at home or abroad. The custom is to give to all attending the baptization a little gift to remember this day. That is also the case at a wedding ceremony but then the gift differs. In the case of a child it is linked to something playful, that is a toy like object. Yet the crucial question is whether or not this teaches in a subtle way that life is not a toy which can be easily thrown away once bored with it? There are many other dangers, forgetfulness of others another kind of danger especially if the child is made into a king as if alone the ruler of the world.

Naturally Mandela said everyone has to be the captain of his own soul and know how to steer that ship well. In that sense, a small wooden ship as toy may just be more than a mere allusion to this metaphorical reference for what it takes to become self responsible. There shall be always many hindrances ahead, so it does well to give a child orientation, trust and love. These three components along with an early cultural filter so as to distinguish between a good and bad friend are just as important as facing all challenges with courage and a lucky hand.

Needless to say at least two forces will pull usually a child in different directions: the social and the political. If in Greece an elite has dominated all along, it may well be the fate of a child born into a well off family, that this domination will continue through and therefore equally against that child. It will not be free to make own choices and the parents along with the greater family will make sure all connections shall ensure for that child a safe voyage through life.

It would mean not be born free but to be predetermined to play a certain role. It is said also many distortions are incurred due to the bad relationship the mother has with the father, as this shall be carried over to the child. If a boy strangely enough the wife and mother will educate it in the direction of the very same man under which she suffers. A perpetuation of agony and pain underlines this early drama once a child has been born and the wedding vow already forgotten. 

This is why a true love means not to sacrifice a child for the sole sake of gaining social status by having an expensive baptization. It depends, therefore, very much on what gifts are given as this will set a tone and just like the wedding, it shall make a difference if honesty prevails right from the start.


Here Aristea would want the materials to speak as this entails in her mind an early lesson for life. It cannot be started soon enough, for like the drawings children make in the sand with a stick, so thoughts about the future of that child can be drawn well ahead in time to ensure a true love for that child is safeguarded. 

Love is not an object but an experience of beauty in man and woman


Like a plant or a simple vase, if care is taken everything can be transformed into an object of beauty. For then it equals an object of inquiry into love. To do that without knowledge would be impossible for her. In other words, love is for her philosophy, but one reflected as well through the body, heart and soul. It relates to the wonder of life expressed by all kinds of materials. 

That is then the other side of her, not the down slope, but a point of entry into spaces of enchantment.


Text and photos by

Hatto Fischer

Athens 20.12.2013


Recently I read a book with the title 'Displacement of the concept' by Donald A. Schon who made explicit already at the time when his book was published in 1963 why modern times lack in so many important explanations, the most important of all being the lack of love. He points out that when the world is treated entirely as something mythical, then no explanation will suffice while at the same time if we declare the world being merely a subject of ideology and therefore of illusion, then no explanation is needed. This means things are done out of unfounded reasons and everything else is being rejected out of a wish to be at least in one's own judgement in control of things. So all politicians are corrupt and the world is a mess. 

Surprisingly so the author about "displacement of concepts" comes at the end of the book to an amazing turn. He begins to reflect upon the 'theory of love' and begins to review what has dominated for centuries the minds of men and women. He starts with the Middle Ages when a knight like Lancelot would fall in love with his maiden who was none other but the woman loved by the king. Thus love of the lord had a double meaning. Out of this there developed an agenda of love to substantiate the chivalry or code of ethics as it was called around the time of King Arthur and his round table. Interestingly enough, Donald A. Schon points out this included the often neglected points on that agenda, namely adultery and unfaithfulness. As if the suppressed assumes its own power over time, it is noted that King Arthur himself became a king at a very young age so that he was hieved into full responsibility before he could ever discover what is this combination of love and sex. In the end, he recognizes too late whom he does love.

Donald A. Schon shows out of this romantic notion of love, there developed over time various figures from the wandering poet to the misunderstood artist. Always these romantic fools, as Shakespeare would describe them, they end up as outsiders to society and this without able to reflect upon the very reason for that. The need to uphold their notion of love blinds them to the ethical breach. Take, for example, Hölderlin. This German poet who studied together with Hegel in Tübingen, fell in love with the wife of his employer whose children he was giving lessons to as a house teacher. When confronted by the husband about Hölderlin's intention vis a vis his wife, the poet fled to Paris. She died soon afterwards at the gentle age of 23. Hölderlin was decimated since she was the only one so far who had listened really to his poetry and appreciated it. The poet spend the rest of his life in a tower in Tübingen. Such is the force of love that it can shake the very foundation which can and does make us sociable.

Out of the romantic poet, there emerged later an artist like Van Gogh, another tragic figure of great art. And once times become a part of political turmoils due to a lost revolution, the next figure to adopt the romantic love was the Anarchist. There is also Lord Byron who joined the freedom fight of the Greeks but never foresaw how they swapped one kind of dominance with another after 1821.

Therefore, it seems best to develop quite another theory of love, a love which ensures that social integration is not neglected and that the binding power of love does uphold a true democratic life based on the equality between the sexes. 

So to end this discours for the moment, even though I hope that it will add up to something, Kurt Kreiler has just sent me recently his book in which he claims Shakespeare did not write all those brilliant pieces but an Earl. He comes to this thesis by way of studying a reversal best conceived by imagining what a lover would do after he has lost his love. He needs to overcome such a deep loss of love that it is usual for the romantic poets or like the young Werther to end only in suicide as if a life without her is inconceivable and impossible. Interestingly enough, Kurt Kreiler develops here a realistic language which no longer perceives him as a loser, but the lover as someone who can still manage to walk away and smile. He does so, literally speaking, so the assumption, because he has learned to lose. To have lost something invaluable and incurable, and overcome it out of love and not hate for that other person, that requires great strength. Such a person begins then to speak in a different language and this out of full appreciation as to what love entails. By implication such a reversal means posing to Kurt Kreiler the question whether it was not Shakespeare himself who invented the Earl as that other self?

Such a democratic positioning, namely to let the other go, and this at a very personal level, it resonates with what Michel Foucault said, namely we begin to speak only then with the other when we have no victories necessary.

Likewise a couple safeguards its love for one another by becoming free from the need to win or have control over the other. Love is about giving away power or indeed not to fear losing the power one might have over the other. That happens regularly since love can also blind and enslave one if the other takes advantage thereof. For only a true love makes life in freedom possible.

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