I TOOK a holiday in Greece last year, lobbing in with some locals (long-time family friends) for a big, fat, fun-tabulous three-day wedding. Which, along with the toga and souvlaki, those brilliant Greeks invented — and still execute beautifully.
The trip was fuelled by the best food I’ve ever eaten, filled with the most outrageous, hospitable, gregarious people I’ve ever met (plus a few European royals!) and punctuated by days lazing on blue boats in even bluer seas, lots of carefree laughs, and even more delicious tucker.
The Greeks know how to live. If I could have bottled this ability and brought it home on the Qantas flight I would. But alas, I got as far as Dubai and the memories of the octopus and those tomatoes stuffed with rice were fading as quickly as my tan.
While my Greek friends are fun (and did I mention their food?), what I adore about them most is their pride in their culture. They are great storytellers — the way to any journo’s heart — and even the youngsters at the dinner table tell ancient tales that could rival the guides at the magnificent Acropolis Museum.
Hearing stories about gods and goddesses by candlelight on a warm Greek summer night will beat anything TV can offer. Yes, even Sunrise… although we too create order out of the chaos of the universe every morning. (Confession: I was so inspired on my return to Australia, I named my four chooks Harmonia, Persephone, Calliope and Eos.)
But what really got this girl hot was the post-dinner chat about modern philosophy. During any conversation my Greek friends will interject with cries of “We invented that!” – whether it be music, maths, the stock market, the water mill (I promise I try to limit my chat about these when on holidays) or democracy, which in my opinion they have been coasting on ever since.
Yes, my name is Samantha Armytage and I love Aristotle, Socrates and Plato. I like to think of those major philosophers as the first A-list celebrities. Rock stars, if you like. They were well-known, wealthy and powerful, the masses hung on their every word and they had to endure rumours about their sexual preferences. And they have a longevity that Paris Hilton can only dream of. Now this might sound flippant, but one century’s Pericles is another century’s (Brad) Pitt. No-one embraced celebrity culture more than ancient Athens. Humans through the ages have looked for role models in society, and for good or bad these mere mortals become heroes. Their thinkers were superstars.
And in a similar way to us, their best musicians and boxers and soldiers were the ones they most admired. Deep down we like to think our best-known people — the ones whose homes and hairstyles and relationships we admire and pore over in the tabloid magazines — also have the best morals and values and manners.
While we mock “celebrity culture”, it’s still covered by even the most serious news organisations, and I have heard many a clever doctor or lawyer admit to secretly glancing at the “sidebar of shame” or occasionally tuning into Dancing With The Stars.
On the plane home from my last Greek odyssey, I watched a sweet Cameron Diaz rom-com in which rapper Nicki Minaj had a minor role (for which she was paid the GDP of a small African nation, if I’m to believe the tabloid magazines) and she uttered one line to Cam that stuck with me: “Selfish people live longer.”
And that, ladies and gentlemen, is a modern philosopher.
Samantha co-hosts Sunrise, 5.30am weekdays, on the Seven Network.