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The Cave of Zeus

How much further is it? I think this to myself, scrambling over rocks. I can’t see anything resembling a cave. Sure, there are tourist signs everywhere pointing this way for the Cave of Zeus, but the path ended two hundred meters back, and all the other tourists have already turned around. I’m having second thoughts myself, but I push on. I’m terribly out of breath, and curse myself for the cigarettes I smoked last night. Why the hell was I even smoking? Because the cute girls at the bar were smoking, and you wanted to offer them one, jackass, so you bought a pack, and then, well…

Then I see the cairn ahead of me. Keep going. I’m searching for something, I realize. Not just the Cave, which was just a lark when I saw the road sign. This entire trip has been a search. A search for what? For the future? For some mystical, life defining experience? Transcendence? Lucrative job offers? A potential book deal?

You could die up here, you know. Climbing by yourself. A rock could fall, could pin you down as surely as that guy who had to cut his own arm off with his pen-knife, but you might not be as lucky. Sure, I think, but at least they’ll say he died in the attempt. The attempt to…what, exactly?

Climb. You want transcendence? You want to find something? Mystical experiences don’t come by sticking to the path, son. Climb.

I do. I climb. I’ve got about twenty pounds of my electronics strapped to my back, but I climb. And then I see it. An opening in the rock face. It’s…rectangular? Why the hell is it rectangular? Did Zeus hang a pair of French doors on the rock wall?

The Cave of Zeus, where the god was said to be raised

The Cave of Zeus, where the god was said to be raised

Ten minutes later, I’m in the cave. I stop to rest. This is not a tourist destination. There is no graffiti. There are no guide rails. I go deep into the cave, unable to find its termination I sit there resting on my haunches, listening to the odd drip of mountain water. This is the cave in which Zeus was supposedly raised away from the eye of Cronos. What are you looking for? The god himself? Do you really expect to find god, or a god, in a Greek cave?

Inside the cave

Inside the cave

And, wonder of wonders…I do find something. That mystical moment I was half-jokingly looking for? It’s there, in the cave, waiting for me. Transcendence? No, not quite. A realization. I understand, finally, what my goal is. Why I quit my job, why I left New York, why I’m scrambling up a rock face in the middle of the Cyclades. I’m looking for the moment. Not the past, or the future, but to be fully invested in the ever coming, ever passing moment. This isn’t an entirely new revelation for me. They speak of this in Buddhism all the time. To meditate is to focus only on the now, to be truly and fully present. And this, I realize, is what I’ve come to find. A new way to be. To live fully, to live presently, to let go of the past, of my ambitions for the future, to cease being driven by the Scylla and Charybdis of fear and desire. To simply be.

The view from the Cave of Zeus

The view from the Cave of Zeus

I return to the beginning of the path. I’m shocked by how far the climb actually was. As I climb back on my moped, a woman stops me.

“After the path…was the cave very far?”

“Not far. But a difficult climb.”

“We only got to the end of the path and we turned back. Was it worth it.”

Pause. “Yes.”

She laughs. “Thanks!”

I climb on the moped. I am, for the moment, at peace, in the present, fully invested, fully alive. This feeling will pass, surely. It always does. But it’s a worthy goal, nonetheless, and I’ve finally realized that it’s MY goal.

I’m still in this state of mild enlightenment when I think how cursed that big toe of mine must be.

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