Fifteen years ago, during the Summer of 1994, I spent three weeks in Greece with my wife and brother-in-law. My wife and brother-in-law are of Greek ancestry. We drove through much of Greece, spending a lot of time with Greek friends and family. I am not of Greek ancestry and not able to speak Greek. My wife and brother-in-law can speak some Greek and the friends we were with, were fluent in both Greek and English. I mention all of this in order to establish what my visit was like, from my point of view. You see, I always had someone with me who could interpret the language, therefore, allowing me to follow my “intellectual curiosity” to wherever it may lead.
One of the more important traits of Greeks that my curiosity led me to was the way they judge people. Now, I don’t mean “judging legally” or even, “judging socially,” but instead how they, in general, seemed to judge one’s essence. They, the Greeks we met, would view me, first, as an unknown quantity and quality. I would notice how they would spend a lot of time observing me, asking about me and listening intently to what I said, of course, usually through an interpreter. After a couple of weeks, I happened to come across a essay, written in English, that shed some light on what I was experiencing.
The essay was about ethos, pathos and logos, but was not, necessarily, about the ways to persuade using language. Having stated that, I should point out that there is a connection, in that, ethos (character), pathos (emotion or passion) and logos (logical reasoning) are the three forms of persuasion used by Aristotle; the Greeks that I met were using these three “paths” to judge me.
OK, so what do I mean? In order to keep this as simple and clear as possible, I am going to explain what happened to me and how I viewed my experience.
My experience was that they, the greeks, didn’t regard the importance of my intelligence or passion, as much as my character. They would literally search for traits and features that made me who I am. Their questions would often be about my history and how it reflects what they were observing. A specific example is how they questioned our friends about my drinking a glass of wine without eating food. They consider it barbarous to drink without eating. They questioned my apparent lack of good character regarding the act of drinking without eating. But, the important point to make, is they didn’t judge without questioning. I often find that, in America, we are quick to label someone as good or bad, while only observing their passion or perceived intelligence.
Fifteen years ago, in Greece, I learned a valuable lesson of life. When considering the merits of a human being, start with ethos (character) and then consider pathos (passion) and logos (logic or intelligence).
What are your thoughts about this?