The Greeks are good at everything. I’m no history expert, but they seem to pop up at the top of every major list. You’ve got Socrates and his crew leading the way in philosophy, Alexander was the great military commander, the Spartans were unrivalled warriors, Homer is the great-grandfather of our literature, Pythagoras is a mathematics superstar, Hippocrates was the medicine guru, and then, of course, you’ve got John Stamos.
What is the Greeks’ secret? I never could figure it out. Not that I really tried—I find research boring. But then, one evening, I saw it. I was watching a television travel show, and in this particular episode the host was enjoying a relaxing week on a gorgeous Greek island. There was a section of the island, a small hillside, where all the houses were colourful—there were a few blue ones, some yellow, one light greenish one, and even a pink one. It became clear to me.
Society has rules. I’m not talking about the laws of the land or common courtesy; I’m talking about those little, unspoken rules that keep us in line, keep us part of the herd, convince us we’re happy (or will be one day soon), and make us conform. Buy the biggest television you can afford. That’s a rule. Trust the experts. That’s another one. Study hard, join the rat race, retire after forty years and die quietly.
Paint your house an inconspicuous colour.
But there they were, all those bright houses, colouring the hill on that picturesque island. The Greeks knew their houses weren’t supposed to be those colours. They knew, but they didn’t care.
“Paint your house white,” said The Rules.
“Nah,” said the Greeks. “We’re gonna make it blue.”
“I really think you should paint it white,” said The Rules.
“Blue it is,” said the Greeks.
“If you don’t paint your house white,” said The Rules, “We will mock you and ostracise you and ensure you never succeed.”
“All finished,” said the Greeks, setting down the paintbrush.
And there it was: a blue house. And with it, Homer’s Iliad, and Plato’s Republic, and the Gordian Knot sliced apart, and the Olympic Games and the Parthenon and democracy, and Uncle Jesse singing with the Beach Boys in Season 2, Episode 6 of Full House.
Forget about the rules. I painted some colourful houses to remind me.
16″ x 16″ Acrylic on canvas
© 2020 MILES VENISON ALL RIGHTS RESERVED