Nikos Kazantzakis was born in a tumultuous environment in which Create was battling for its independence. He defines his father as a fierce individual who instilled in his son a sense of human integrity, bravery, and love/or pride in becoming a Cretan person. His mother, on the other hand, was a saint, with “the patience, stamina, and sweetness of the world itself” (Kazantzakis, p. 34). The war on the island of Crete compelled Kazantzakis to escape and seek shelter among the Greeks. Since beating the Turks in battle, the family was able to return to their island two years later. Kazantzakis was able to see the joy that freedom brought about to people. He admired the freedom fighters and could even go out at night to kiss their legs. This freedom fighters motivated him to deal with his phobia for darkness. In his Report to Greco, Niko Kazantzakis restates various stories about his life. He wishes that his life had an ascent to an end point which he does not precisely know. In this essay, I aim to write a personal narrative essay in comparison to Kazantzakis moral life as described in the ‘Report to Greco.’ The primary topic that I will focus on is moral development and reason for existence which he calls ascent.
The overall claim that Kazantzakis gives concerns his desire to reach an ascent. A form of destiny where he can fulfill his purpose and be fully liberated. This ascent is like a battle in his life towards some destination; it seeks to answer the reason for his existence. To quench this thirst of understanding the ascent he seeks guidance from; the life of Jesus described in the Bible; the way of Buddha; the driving force of Lenin to build a utopia world and Odysseus mundanity. He describes this figures as ‘the decisive steps in my ascent’ (Kazantzakis, p. 15). However, it is apparent that the doctrine held by either of this figures do not impact Kazantzakis. What moves him rather is the kind of commitment that each of these individuals had to meet their purpose/goal.
He reflected upon the life of God and the sole purpose that God had to save humanity. Kazantzakis compared God to himself or human beings in general and conclude that since humans also possess spirit and flesh, then they too are a half god. Furthermore, he felt that he was a God because he could do whatever he pleased (Trakakis, p. 10). Kazantzakis, therefore, wanted to contribute his part towards the salvation of humanity. I suppose that his thoughts about the salvation of humankind were partly influenced by the fact that he witnessed the salvation that the Cretans had after they fought and won freedom. In the end he describes the ascent that he was looking for as ‘I felt this was my duty, my sole duty: to reconcile the irreconcilables, to draw the thick ancestral darkness out of my loins and transform it, to the best of my ability, into light’ (Kazantzakis, p. 24).
The struggle for independence by his people seemed to have motivated him in his endeavor to find ascent for existences. In page 68 of the ‘Report to Greco’ he notes that; ‘to gain freedom from the Turk, that was the initial step; after that, later, this new struggle began: to gain freedom from the inner Turk—from ignorance, malice and envy, from fear and laziness, from dazzling false ideas; and finally from idols, all of them even the most revered and beloved’. This implies that in as much as Kazantzakis was grateful that his ancestral land had finally been liberated he felt that his inner being was yet to find freedom. He, therefore, needed to work out various aspects of his and battle with the things that was denying him liberty regarding his belief system.
This meant that he would do whatever he had to so as to develop his intellect. He read about many philosophers and religious leader to gain intellectual liberty. At some point, he even decided to go abroad to Paris so as to further his education since he to him the University of Athens was not enough. Luckily his further despite being illiterate and wild never denied him any opportunity to develop his intellect. Kazantzakis continued to further his studies with an aim to be liberated inwardly. In the end, he concludes that; ‘The world is my creation. Everything, both visible and invisible, is a deceptive dream’ (Kazantzakis). This statement may seem like a pessimistic statement coming from Kazantzakis. However, he noted that to become liberated one needed to question the solidity and truthfulness of everything.
Other than his family, childhood experience and intellectual development Kazantzakis moral development and view about the ascent were also influenced by his mentors. Nietzsche Superman is his abstract mentor whom he admires because he had the courage to accept that the world is naturally flawed. However, he does not wish to simply accept the world as being flawed and doing nothing about it. He wishes to contribute in making a new world that will have to mean and will not have any flaws. His other mentor is Zorba the Greek. Kazantzakis also had a friend called Skelianos whom he describes as being of the same age as him. He also says that he has continually loved and honored Skelianos as his friend. This was a friend of whom they could share experiences and fears to the point that they felt as blood brothers.
There are many aspects of Kazantzakis life that are similar to my life experience which probably explains the reason as to why I tend to agree with his point of view regarding morality and purpose for existence. To start with I had very morally upright parents. My mother, just like Kazantzakis mother is a saintly woman who has always taught me to me well mannered. My father is also an honest man who always encourages me to be a good citizen. However, unlike Kazantzakis’ father who was not educated my father has attained higher levels of education. He never denies me anything that he feels compelled will add to my intellectual development. The support from my parents has made me also to seek wisdom and understanding in all aspects of life.
The other aspect that I agree with Kazantzakis is on the purpose of humanity. In specific my goal here on earth. I believe that I was created for a particular purpose so that I will make the world a better place for humanity. My perspective is not exactly like that of Kazantzakis who thought that he was almost like God and should take part in saving humankind (Trakakis, p. 224). I believe that there exists much bigger supernatural being called God. This God created people and gave them a specific role. It is my work, therefore, to find out the purpose for which I was created and to do it. This is the reason as to why I have already discovered my talent, and I am using it for the benefit of all those people around me.
Liberty of the inner being is a struggle that I had had especially during my high school years when I was establishing an identity of my own. Just as Kazantzakis, I felt that in as much as I am living in a democratic country which is free of oppression and war the internal liberty was also significant. I felt that I need to gain knowledge and understanding that would set me free and quench the desire to know my purpose. I too believed that education was partly the answer to my inner freedom. This is why I developed a habit of reading not just for the sake of passing my exams but also to get gain wisdom and rid myself of ignorance.
I admire the kind of mentors and friend that Kazantzakis had. This is because I also believe that in life we should always have people who challenge us and those that are loyal to us. Kazantzakis states that his driving force in searching for ascent was Jesus, Buddha, Lenin and Odysseus because of their commitment to fulfill their purpose. Similarly, my motivation in life is Jesus especially because he was willing to sacrifice a lot to save humanity. He never deviated in his endeavor to fulfill his purpose in life. Unlike Kazantzakis who was being motivated by four religious leaders, I only draw my motivation in Jesus. The other similarity that I have with Kazantzakis is that we both have that special friend whom we honor and love. I believe that having friends and mentors can help me to realize my potential thereby fulfilling my purpose on other.
Liberty is something that all humans desire to have; this can be external liberty or internal liberty. In the ‘Report to Greco,’ Kazantzakis writes his autobiography focusing on various themes from his childhood to adulthood. The central theme of his report, however, is what he refers to as ‘ascent.’ I have shown in this essay how witnessing Cretan gaining independence and liberty motivated him to desire internal liberty and find the reason for his existence. In this essay, I have also compared my life experiences and life perspectives with that of Kazantzakis. I believe that finding once purpose and being committed to fulfilling it should be the sole purpose of humanity. I exist to make the world more meaningful and less flawed.
Kazantzakis, Nikos, and Peter Bien. Report to Greco. New York: Simon and Schuster, 1965. Print.
Trakakis, Nick N. “Who is Nikos Kazantzakis’ God?.” Modern Greek Studies (Australia and New Zealand) (2016).
Trakakis, Nick. “Kazantzakis’ poor man of God: philosophy without philosophy.” Colloquy: text, theory, critique 15 (2008): 221-257.