Mystically Magic: Finding Thyself with the local Greek Philosophers

There is something mystically magical about living in Astoria, Queens. Over the last few years, I’ve come to appreciate the Greek culture as an Italian-Irish American. I frequently look forward to the fresh out of the oven gigante beans, the inviting artwork at Socrates Park, and the familiar faces at the local coffee shops. The Grecians bring much more than just something material to us, and I’ve found out what that is during my years here exploring. That is; a different frame of mind.

As someone that struggles with a chronic mental illness, each day can feel like a battle between your mind and the outside world. I’m sitting next to a Socrates statue in Athens Square Park on a particularly tough day as I write this. It reads; “Know Thyself.” Studying philosophy in my free time has helped me find wisdom within my own self. The Grecian Philosophers remind us that we already know what we think we do not.

As Socrates once taught, “We unfortunately lose touch with all knowledge at every birth, and so we need to be reminded of what we already know rather than learning something new,” I find this is true in the little moments, particularly with children. Somehow, they innately know what we’ve forgotten and remind us when we least expect it. While sitting in the park, I am approached by a little girl that wants me to count her jumping down the stairs as her mom watches with a smile. For the first time that day, I smiled too. I look around and observe that we are all people that can feel joy and pain. I peek at the sculpture again, and feel inner strength sizzling up my spine like bubbles from soda. I leave the park with a new frame of mind.

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Photo Credit Megan Rubano

The Grecian way is one of contemplation. That is; deep reflective thought. Plato’s highest level of pleasure is the pleasure of the mind. I half agree. The mind can be both utilizing and traumatizing for those of us that suffer with constant, anxiety filled worry thoughts. I find myself observing that my mind can be a fascinating place to be in, and at other times, it can be a place of torture.

Over time, I’ve learned that when I’m willing to work with myself and be grateful for the insights and wisdom my own mind brings, it leads to less suffering overall. As Plato said; “A grateful mind is a great mind which eventually attracts to itself great things.” I remind myself to be grateful for the self-reflections the mind provides, despite it being hard at times. Living in Astoria where I can visibly see that there is nuance and diversity of people and emotions, I feel more at home. Getting out of the apartment can help you get out of your own mind.

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Photo Credit Megan Rubano

To struggle with mental illness and live in New York City is a paradoxical feeling. Somehow, the chaos can comfort your already chaotic mind. It feels comfortable. However, in Astoria, I’ve been able to be a part of and observe moments of stillness and beauty. At Socrates Sculpture Park, viewers have the unique opportunity to witness art exhibition installation and de-installation from a diverse range of local artists. I’ve noticed that within each installation brings out unique parts of the artists “self” and their story, along with an attempt to connect with the audience.

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Photo Credit Megan Rubano

I’ve witnessed park go-ers become entranced by these pieces of art, and can’t help but ponder if they feel a connection to their Self through the art. This is certainly following the Grecian way. Know Thyself, and you may just find that your Self and personal struggles aren’t very different from others around you. Pain and joy exist in us all. Express your story, and you may find yourself less alone. Venture outside the walls of your own mind, and you may find appreciation where you least expect it. Thanks to the Greeks!