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Papaneophytou’s Magic Always Happens: Professor’s effort on Autism

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Dr. Neophytos Papaneophytou is a Professor of Psychology at the City University of New York and several other institutions, a renowned clinical psychologist who maintains a clinical practice in Manhattan, New York and in New Jersey and the Founder and President of the non-profit Organization “Magic Always Happens” which envisions a world with full services offered to all people on the autism spectrum. He recently spoke to National Herald about his endeavors.

ΤΝΗ. What inspired you to be a child psychologist and how are you able to cope up with many activities at the same time?

Understanding the so-called Human condition, and being able to help people help themselves, were critical factors in my educational and professional decision-making processes. Throughout my career I was fortunate to have some of the best psychologists as mentors. Through my clinical training I worked with children, adolescents, and adults in some of the world’s best hospitals such as Bellevue/ NYU, St. Luke’s Roosevelt, Hackensack University Medical Center, etc. Learning and applying the latest therapeutic techniques is critical, particularly when it comes to issues of abuse and neglect (forensics). Seeing clients make significant progress with their life issues is inspirational; this is particularly true with children as they are more able to adjust and overcome their issues early on in life. Bridging adult and child issues was easier to achieve subsequent to the completion of a post-graduate program in Infant-Parent Mental Health at the University of Massachusetts/Boston. I do work with children and adults, as well as with couples and families. Human needs and wants are not all that different. As to the element of time, we all have time; maximizing time is the issue.

 

ΤΝΗ. You are the Founder and the President of the non-profit Organisation “Magic Always Happens, Inc.” Can you give us more details about the organization and its mission?

NP.This charitable foundation was formed in 2015 and it is solely composed of volunteer subject matter experts. We collaborate closely with luminary experts from some of the world’s most prestigious research institutions and universities. In our few months of existence we managed to successfully complete a number of formal events in New York City, and overseas. Our goals and mission include taking increased action toward the elimination of the symptoms of autism, increasing research, education, and the application of best practices. We envision a world where people on the autism spectrum will enjoy full services, receive appropriate therapy, and live an honorable life while enjoying an improved quality of life. Vocational, educational, and quality of life issues are germane to many adults with autism, and vital to their families. The grave question most parents ask is “what will happen to my child once I am gone?” Our non-profit organization offered a panel discussion at the “House of Cyprus”, the embassy of the Republic of Cyprus, in Athens, Greece, last June. The expert panel consisted of a local child psychiatrist, a local child psychologist, and me. Many parents and educators in attendance benefited from the presentation and discussion that ensued. Our 1st International Symposium for Children, entitled “Autism: Actions not words” took place in New York City, this past October. Parallel to the above, a team of marathoners successfully completed the 2016 Athens Classic Marathon wearing our colors, in support of “People & Autism” with an ultra-marathoner having recently completed the Dolihos-Olympia, 255 kilometers race sponsored by us. People can visit our website www.MagicAlwaysHappens.org.

 

TNH.The latest children book you have written is entitled “Strong as a lion, big as a tree”. What was your inspiration for this title and what message do you want children to take from reading your books?

NP.Three children’s books have been published by us so far, with all proceeds going toward our non-profit organization. The 1st book, “Magic Always Happens: My Daddy Loves me!” aims at enhancing the father-son relationship through daily life (seemingly mundane) events. This book has been translated and published in 4 languages (French, English, Greek, and Spanish). The 2nd book, “Fluffadelia” purposes to increase socialization, communication, friendship, acceptance, and enhance interpersonal skills. The 3rd book, “Strong as a Lion, big as a tree” encapsulates many daily life dreams and events, aspirations, behaviors, and memories of children while enhancing self-esteem, instilling values pertinent to healthy social engagement and play, love for nature, animals and friends, respect, kindness, and love. The metaphor of the lion allows any child to identify with strength, and feel powerful and respected, while the metaphor of the tree reflects on a strong, healthy, and long family history that enables prosperity and shared meaning to take place. All books are psychologically minded and developmentally based; they are essentially wonderful bed-time stories. These stories allow the child to rid of any internal anxiety or fears, and relax while identifying with real life or fictional characters of strength, bringing them to sleep while feeling loved, accepted, and cared for. All books are available internationally via Amazon, Barnes & Nobles, and other vendors.

 

TNH. Can you talk about the first annual International Conference on Autism Treatment and Research, that you are organizing in Cyprus in November, 2016?

 

NP.This conference includes more than a single discipline and it allows for luminary experts from all around the world to present their latest applied research and therapeutic models. At the same time it allows local parents, professionals, and educators to benefit from such a multidisciplinary international conference. Please note that this is the first time such a “360 conference” is being held anywhere in the world! With the “People & Autism” in the center (and their families in mind), we will welcome luminary expert speakers from the fields of psychology, law, genetics, architecture, technology, health sciences, dance, speech, play, sensory and other therapies, pharmacology, immunology, education, computer technology/ robotics, and many other disciplines. We are proud to say that a new robot to assist people with autism (created by a Greek-Cypriot, former NASA scientist and her team) will be showcased during our conference. We are honored by the fact that our conference has been placed under the direct aegis of the President of the Republic of Cyprus, Mr. Nikos Anastasiades, and it remains under the auspices of the minister of health, Dr. George Pamporides. The Gala Dinner offered during the inaugural evening is under the aegis of the First Lady, Mrs. Andri Anastasiades, and we remain especially thankful to the Church of Cyprus, particularly to His Eminence Archbishop Chrysostomos II, for the kind support.

 

TNH.What are you currently working on besides organizing the nation’s first global autism gathering?

NP.Our organization is in constant communication with local parents and experts, both in the US, and in Cyprus. We plan on offering multiple educational and best practices seminars, initiating international comparative research and publications, while at the same time focusing on the establishment of the Cyprus International Center for Autism Treatment and Research, an innovative institution offering diagnoses, therapy, education, treatment and support to people on the spectrum ages 3 – 21. Furthermore, we are working toward the creation of assisted living environments, based on best practices that will fully support adults on the spectrum who are able to live and work in a semi-independent environment. On the artistic side, we are just about ready to announce our 1st Annual International Photography Contest with (online) submissions, followed by an exhibit of the best 100 pictures in a New York City gallery. During this formal event unique photographs will be auctioned off, and the almanac including all best pictures will be available to the public. All are invited to attend and we welcome sponsors and donors. Taking this opportunity I wish to invite everyone to join our efforts and offer their unconditional support. We reach out to our Greek-American Diaspora, in particular.

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Professor Gourgouris on Prose and Poetry

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Columbia University is the oldest institution of higher learning in New York state, and one of the most prestigious in the world.

Dr. Stathis Gourgouris is a Classics Professor at Columbia, and Director of its Institute of Comparative Literature & Society. He has published several books, including: Dream Nation: Enlightenment, Colonization, and the Institution of Modern Greece (Stanford, 1996); Does Literature Think? Literature as Theory for an Antimythical Era (Stanford, 2003); and Lessons in Secular Criticism (Fordham 2013).

TNH. What is the role of literature in an antimythical era and which are its borders among reality and imagination?

What defines my entire work, whether it is in literary studies or political philosophy, is to explore the intersections between the poetic and the political. Not just in terms of specific authors, texts or historical periods, but more broadly, in terms of how societies imagine themselves (as nations, cultures, traditions etc.) and, of course, how they imagine others – their adversaries. This sort of imagination expresses itself through myths, which I don’t see negatively (as falsehoods or deceptions), but rather as necessary fictions which create bona fide realities, sometimes emancipatory, other times detrimental. My argument is that in our era of calculation and the fetishism of data, myths are undervalued – that’s the anti-mythical era – and my point is to remind us that the non-analytical (synthetic) imagination deserves to be cultivated as resistance to our being reduced to a bunch of numbers.

 

TNH. You have also published numerous articles on Ancient Greek philosophy, political theory, modern poetics, film, contemporary music, and psychoanalysis. How hard is it to carry on in all of these different fields of interest?

SG.Well, all these things interest me equally, and I don’t see a contradiction between them. I come from a generation that learned to see knowledge as multi-lateral and intersectional. What we come to know involves (and requires) a great range of languages and methods; it can never simply be a matter of expertise. I respect specialized knowledge, and I certainly train students in specialized domains, but I have also come to recognize that specialization and expertise has become an obstacle to our seeing the big picture. Our time is characterized by serious lack of vision, the lack of seeing the broad horizon. In order to deal with the problems of our times, we need to learn to think in multiple ways and this requires a certain flexibility and acceptance of the need for experimentation and risk beyond your cognitive comfort zone.

 

TNH.You are an internationally awarded poet, with four volumes of poetry published in Greek, most recent being Introduction to Physics (Athens, 2005). Your work has been translated into French, Italian, Serbo-Croatian, Turkish, and Hebrew.How might the metrical ‘stresses’ of poetry help us to cope with the mental and emotional stresses of modern life?

Poetry is indeed a way of thinking about life – a different way of thinking than what we understand as rational and analytical. It is synthetic. It’s not necessarily bounded by metrics, although I would certainly argue that, for me at least, poetry requires a certain musical understanding, a certain rhythm, if we can say that, which goes beyond the verbal. In others words, what you say in poetry is not as important as to how you say what you say. Being able to articulate the mysteries and uncertainties – but also the playfulness and risk – of living in short, elliptical, imagistic, or musical use of language is poetry’s work.

 

TNH. What are your remarks about the public role of contemporary philosophers? Do you think that they correspond to their mission?

Unfortunately, the academy, with its intricate apparatus of expertise, has eroded the capacity of intellectuals to be decisive in the public sphere. Contrary to what is conventionally thought, philosophy was born out of direct encounter with the world – it’s not meant to be some individualized esoteric contemplation. Philosophy was born in the ancient Greek polis and is essentially political, which does not mean that it addresses only political problems. Even the most profound metaphysical questions are relevant to worldly life. Unfortunately, many philosophers today do not live up to this public responsibility.

 

TNH. You have taught Comparative Literature also at Princeton, Yale, UCLA, and the National Technical University in Athens You have also served as Director of the Institute for Comparative Literature and Society at Columbia (2009-2015). What does teaching mean to you?

Well, I have said several times that teaching is learning – it’s learning together with others. It’s not about transmitting knowledge to an empty vessel. Teaching is not an apostolic task; it’s not about enlightening the ignorant. In the classroom, I want people to think on their feet and not be afraid of their ignorance. I encourage speculative thinking, but I also demand close reading of details. I want students to have confidence and daring, yet be attentive and self-critical. It’s a difficult balance, but I try to encourage students to open up and take risks in front of their peers, to test their limits, to imagine, to question, and to rethink. A good teacher must be open to the unexpected. What happens in the classroom can never be fully predicted; a predictable teaching day deserves to be questioned.

 

TNH. In 2015 you were honored with the Lenfest Distinguished Columbia Faculty Award. Can you give some information about this honor?

It is Columbia’s most prestigious faculty award and it comes from student nominations. It is a great honor and I was humbled to receive it.

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Τρία μέταλλα, μου χάρισαν τον κόσμο-Sibyl Vane

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Στον κόσμο που ζω, κινούμαι κι εργάζομαι, λένε πως πρέπει να κρατάμε
τα μέταλλα μακριά μας.

Που να φανταστώ πως θα ερχόταν η στιγμή που δεν θα μπορούσα να
αποχωριστώ απο πάνω μου, τρία κοινά σμιλεμένα κομμάτια μετάλλου δεμένα
με ένα κρίκο.

Τρία μέταλλα που το καθένα εφαρμόζει σε μια χωσιά και ανοίγει ένα ένα,
τα τείχη του κάστρου σου.

Η κίνησή σου να μου τα δώσεις, γέμισε τα μάτια μου υγρή φωτιά σε μορφή
δακρύων, έτσι, χωρίς να κλάψω.

Τρία μέταλλα, διαφορετικού μεγέθους, σχήματος, χρώματος, κράματος, μου
άνοιξαν τον κόσμο. Το φωτεινό χαμόγελό σου που συνόδευε την κίνησή
σου, έσβησε κάθε σκιά στο μυαλό μου.

Τα τρία μέταλλα που σκότωσαν τον Δράκο είναι αυτά. Που δεν του αφήνουν
πλέον περιθώρια απειλής. Αυτά τα τρία μέταλλα δεν λιώνουν με την
πύρινη ανάσα του. Όχι, δεν λιώνουν.

Με έχεις πάει σε σημεία που δεν με έχει πάει κανείς ως τώρα.
Κάνω σκέψεις που δεν τολμούσα.
Λέω λέξεις που θα έπνιγα, γράφω φράσεις που θα έσκιζα, κάνω όνειρα
πολύ αχνά, αλλά μαζί σου.

Η αγκαλιά σου τις νύχτες με ηρεμεί.
Με πάει σε τόπους μαγικούς. Νιώθω ανίκητη μπροστά σε απειλές και λόγια.
Απλά και μόνο γιατί εσύ κι εγώ, έχουμε τις πράξεις.

Κάνουμε μαζί μια πρόσθεση έρωτα, μια αφαίρεση της κακίας των άλλων,
διαιρώντας στεναχώριες και πίκρες στα δυό. Να οι πράξεις που μιλάνε
στα μαθηματικά της σχέσης.

Αυτό το καταφέραμε από την πρώτη νύχτα. Εγώ για σένα, κι εσύ για μένα.

Κοιτώ τα τρία μέταλλα στο χέρι μου και τα σφίγγω δυνατά να τα νιώσω,
όπως σφίγγω τα χείλη σου με τα δικά μου όταν σε φιλώ.

Αυτά τα τρία μέταλλα, μου λένε κάτι: μου λένε πως εχω ζωή να ζήσω, όχι
ζωούλα να επιβιώσω. Έχω αγάπη να πράξω, κι οχι κακία και ζήλια να
σκοτώσω.
Έχω πολύ έρωτα να κάνω, και μετά μια αγκαλιά να με θέλει μέσα της να ξαποστάσω.

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Η καλύτερη πρώτη φορά μου -Sibyl Vane

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Πρώτη φορά ανάμεσα σε άγνωστους τοίχους, αλλά με γνώριμη αγκαλιά.
Πρώτη φορά με ξένες πιτζάμες, αλλά με γνώριμη μυρωδιά.
Πρώτη φορά τα πόδια μου σε σαγιονάρες δέκα νούμερα μεγαλύτερες, αλλά σε βήματα που θέλω να βαδίσω.
Πρώτη φορά αγκαλιά σε άλλον καναπέ, αλλά με τον δικό μου τρόπο.
Πρώτη φορά με μάτια κλειστά σε άλλο στρώμα και μαξιλάρι, αλλά με καρδιά ανοιχτή πλάι στο κορμί που αναζητούσα για χρόνια.
Πρώτη φορά σε άλλο σπίτι, αλλά με τον δικό μου άνθρωπο.
Πρώτη φορά που ξύπνησα νωρίτερα για το γραφείο χωρίς πανικό.
Δεν έχω άλλες λέξεις να το περιγράψω. Μπερδεύω τα λόγια και χάνω σκέψεις.
Και τα μάτια μου καίνε.
Πρώτη φορά αλλού, αλλά πάντα εκεί.
Στο όπου εκεί. Μαζί σου.
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Το βραβευμένο σχολείο που προάγει τον πολιτισμό στο New Jersey

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Το ελληνικό σχολείο σχολείο της Εκκλησίας του Αγίου Δημητρίου στην πόλη Union του New Jersey αποτελεί ένα κόσμημα για την ελληνική κοινότητα και τον απόδημο ελληνισμό της Πολιτείας. Μετράει ήδη ογδονταοχτώ χρόνια ζωής, έχει λάβει πολλές και σημαντικές τιμητικές διακρίσεις και βραβεία και διαθέτει μια αξιόλογη και πολύ πλούσια βιβλιοθήκη, η οποία εγκαινιάστηκε στις 14 Δεκεμβρίου, 2014 και μέχρι στιγμής αριθμεί πάνω από τριακόσιους τίτλους βιβλίων.

Όπως δήλωσε στον Εθνικό Κήρυκα, η Διευθύντρια του κ. Κατερίνα Μακριδάκη Ρόμπου, η οποία έχει αναλάβει χρέη Διευθύντριας τον Ιούλιο του 2015, «Στο σχολείο υπάρχουν οχτώ τάξεις από προνήπιο εώς και έκτη δημοτικού. Προσπαθούμε να κινηθούμε σύμφωνα με τα αμερικανικά πρότυπα και τον Δεκέμβριο του 2014 ιδρύσαμε τη βιβλιοθήκη του σχολείου μας, κατόπιν της ιδέας της κ. Βαλασία Μουχτιδιώτου-Γεωργίου, η οποία είναι και Πρόεδρος της Σχολικής μας Βιβλιοθήκης και εκτελεί και χρέη βιβλιοθηκάριου. Η βιβλιοθήκη διαθέτει πάνω από τριακόσιους τίτλους ελληνικών βιβλίων και συνεχώς προσπαθούμε να την εμπλουτίζουμε με καινούρια. Αυτή τη στιγμή περιλαμβάνει βιβλία για παιδιά από προσχολική ηλικία έως και εφηβική, βιβλία όλων των μεγάλων Ελλήνων συγγραφέων, καθώς επίσης και μεταφρασμένα βιβλία ξένων συγγραφέων. Συνολικά, η βιβλιοθήκη μας διαθέτει βιβλία για όλες τις ηλικίες, από ενός έτους έως 101 ετών ,όπως διηγήματα, ιστορία, μυθολογία, μυθιστορήματα, θρησκευτικής φύσεως και διάφορα άλλα. Πρόσφατα μάλιστα αποφασίσαμε να κάνουμε και ένα bookmobile, δηλαδή να έχουμε μία επιλογή βιβλίων για μεγαλύτερους και να τα δανείζουμε στους παροίκους της κοινότητας του Αγίου Δημητρίου, μετά το πέρας της Θείας Λειτουργίας, προκειμένου να εξυπηρετούμε και όσους θέλουν να επισκεφθούν τη βιβλιοθήκη μας αλλά δεν μπορούν να το κάνουν τις καθημερινές λόγω δουλειάς.

Πέρα από τα βιβλία, διαθέτουμε και αρκετούς τίτλους ελληνικών ταινιών που είναι στη διάθεση των παιδιών, των γονέων, των Μελών της Εκκλησίας του Αγίου Δημήτριου ή και άλλων ομογενών που θέλουν να διαβάσουν Ελληνική λογοτεχνία και ιστορία.»

Ιδίατερη αίσθηση προκαλεί το γεγονός ότι το σχολείο έχει διακριθεί σε πολλούς και σημαντικούς διαγωνισμούς στους οποίους έχει λάβει μέρος. Τον Μάρτιο του 2016 έλαβε το Βραβείο “Παντελής και Χρήστος Αλέφαντος” από το Ελληνικό Τμήμα της ΙΒΒΥ (International Board for Books for young children), καθώς και μία επιταγή 500 ευρώ σε βιβλία από τις εκδόσεις Καστανιώτη , για τη συνολική δράση του σχολείου και της βιβλιοθήκης και την προώθηση της παιδικής Ελληνικής λογοτεχνίας στους μαθητές. Η βράβευση έγινε σε ειδική εκδήλωση στην Τεχνόπολη του Δήμου Αθηναίων στις 2 Απριλίου 2016, την Παγκόσμια ημέρα Παιδικού Βιβλίου.

Επιπλέον, οι τρεις τελευταίες τάξεις του σχολείου (τάξεις Δ, Ε, και ΣΤ) έλαβαν μέρος στον διαγωνισμό “Σοφία Φίλντιση-Το δέντρο της Σοφίας” που διοργανώθηκε από τα Εκπαιδευτήρια Μπουγά στην Καλαμάτα, σε παγκόσμιο επίπεδο, σε συνεργασία με το υπουργείο παιδείας, και όλοι οι μαθητές έλαβαν τιμητική διάκριση. Επιπρόσθετα, η Ε΄ Δημοτικού, με δασκάλα την κα Αλεξάνδρα Ιωακειμίδου, πήρε το Β’ βραβείο στην κατηγορία συγγραφής παιδικής ιστορίας παιδιών Ε’ Δημοτικού.

«Το σχολείο μας θέλει να προσφέρει όλα όσα μπορεί στην Ελληνική οικογένεια, οπότε διοργανώνουμε και βραδιές Wine and Paint, καθώς και movie nights, αλλά πέραν τούτου διοργανώνουμε και παρουσιάσεις βιβλίων για το αναγνωστικό κοινό της ομογένειας. Τον περασμένο Νοέμβριο είχαμε την παρουσίαση βιβλίου “Ισόβια Δεσμά” της συγγραφέως Νίτσα Μανωλά, και τον Μάρτιο είχαμε την παρουσίαση των παιδικών βιβλίων του γνωστού ηθοποιού, Μάνου Γαβρά “Φυστίκιος ο Αιγινίτης 1 και 2″. Το σχολείο μας ήταν το μοναδικό σχολείο στο New Jersey, το οποίο ο κ. Γαβράς τίμησε με την παρουσία του. Θέλουμε να πιστεύουμε ότι οι διακρίσεις δε θα σταματήσουν να έρχονται και αυτό οφείλεται στη δουλειά που κάνουν όλες οι δασκάλες μας, οι οποίες συνεχώς προσπαθούν να βρίσκουν νέους τρόπους διδασκαλίας και προσπαθούν να κάνουν το κάθε μάθημα μία ξεχωριστή εμπειρία. Άλλες δραστηριότητες περιλαμβάνουν την προβολή επιτευγμάτων Ελλήνων συγγραφέων, για να μαθαίνουν τα παιδιά και να θυμούνται οι μεγαλύτεροι, όπως παραδείγματος χάριν την προβολή της διαδραστικής ταινίας του Ευγένιου Τριβιζά ” Το κοτσάνι του πετροκέρασου” ( “Little Emily”), το οποίο κέρδισε το βραβείο καλύτερου διαδραστικού βιβλίου της χρονιάς στα Kidscreen Awards.», πρόσθεσε η κ. Μακριδάκη.

Η κ. Μακριδάκη Ρόμπου, η οποία ανέλαβε τη διεύθυνση του σχολείου τον Ιούλιο του 2015 αλλά από το 2012 εργαζόταν εκεί ως δασκάλα, εισήγαγε πολλές κι ενδιαφέρουσες καινοτομίες στη διδασκαλία και στην εκμάθηση, όπως την συμμετοχή των μαθητών σε διάφορους διαγωνισμούς, με τους οποίους επιτυγχάνεται η ανάπτυξη του κριτικού τους πνεύματος και έχουν την ευκαιρία να έρθουν σε άμεση επαφή με την διάδοση και την προαγωγή του ελληνικού πολιτισμού, την εισαγωγή της προβολής ταινιών μικρού μήκους βασισμένες σε βιβλία από τη βιβλιοθήκη του σχολείου, την υλοποίηση μίας ιδέας της προηγούμενης διευθύντριας του σχολείου, της κ. Μάτας Αγριαντώνη, για τη δημιουργία “media room”, ενός δωματίου με υπολογιστές προκειμένου τα παιδιά να κάνουν μάθημα και μέσω υπολογιστή και να μαθαίνουν την ελληνική γλώσσα χωρίς την τυποποιημένη μέθοδο διδασκαλίας, το οποίο αναμένεται να ολοκληρωθεί τον προσεχή Σεπτέμβριο και τη διοργάνωση παρουσιάσεων ελληνικών βιβλίων προκειμένου να προβληθεί το σχολείο ως κέντρο πολιτισμού και προώθηση της Ελληνικής Λογοτεχνίας.

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Ευτυχία κι Αλλεργίες-Sibyl Vane

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Κορίτσια μου.
Σήμερα θα μιλήσω σε εσάς που σας πιάνει η μαλακία σας και σας βγαίνει
η κακία σας φορεμένη με το πέπλο της χαριτωμενιάς και του κακόγουστου
χιούμορ. Ξέρετε κι εσείς πως μεταξύ σοβαρού και αστείου λέγονται οι
μεγαλύτερες αλήθειες, ας μή γελιόμαστε.

Εν αρχή ην η φιλία. Όσο κουλό κι αν σας φαίνεται, ακόμη πιστεύω στη
φιλία μεταξύ γυναικών. Ίσως γιατί ευτυχώς έχω αγνές και καθαρές από
συμφέροντα φιλίες.

Όταν μια φίλη σας περνά ζόρια, χαίρεστε να είστε μαζί της και να την
στηρίζετε. Να της σκουπίζετε τα δάκρυα, να την νταντεύετε, σωστά;
Σωστά.

Όταν όμως μια… φίλη σας είναι ευτυχισμένη κι εσείς σε μάλλον δύσκολη
φάση, δε το αντέχετε, ζορίζεστε, σαν να σας παλουκώσαν ένα πράμα, σαν
να σας δώσαν ξίδι αντί για νερό όταν διψούσατε. Νιώθετε προδωμένες σαν
τον Χριστό.
Γιατί δεν αντέχετε την ευτυχία της άλλης; Γιατί δηλητηριάζετε με το
γελοίο χιούμορ σας τις στιγμές της; Τί ζηλεύετε ακριβώς; Μήπως
νομίζετε οτι σας τρίβει τη χαρά της στη μούρη σας για να σας τιμωρήσει
ενώ δε φταίτε;
Σας έχω νέα. Χεσμένες σας έχει. Η ευτυχία είναι για να βιώνεται και
για να φωνάζεται. Ειδικά μετά από μεγάλα και βαριά πένθη.
Συννενοούμαστε νομίζω.

Τά χουμε ξαναπεί. Αγία δεν είμαι. Κι εγώ το νιωθα αυτό το συναισθημα.
Αλλά στα 15 μου. Όταν η Μαρία έβγαινε με τον Θανάση κι εγώ φώναζα
“ποιος Θανάσης”. Όχι στα μεσοκοπήματά μου.

Η ωριμότητα μιας γυναίκας στη φιλία της, φαίνεται από την λεπτότητα
και την φινέτσα των εκφράσεών της, στην χαρά της εκάστοτε φίλης της.

Εκφράσεις τύπου “τον έχει βάλει στο βρακί της“, “δεν μπορεί να της
ξεφύγει ο καημένος“, και “έ ρε μαύρε τί σού μελε να πάθεις με δαύτη
πού μπλεξες“,  συνοδευόμενες από το γνωστό κομψό γελάκι, τις μάθατε
από τις γιαγιάδες της εποχής σας, για να χαρακτηρίζετε ζευγάρια που
περνάνε καλά μαζί. Ούτε πεθερές να σας είχε η έρμη η γυνή που τόλμησε
να χαρεί χωρίς να σας πάρει την άδεια.

Η συμβουλή μου;

Σταματήστε να ζείτε μέσα από τις ζωές των άλλων και φτιάξτε τη δική
σας σύντομα. Βάρος γίνεστε, όχι χαριτωμένες.
Κρατήστε το δηλητήριό σας μακριά από τους ανθρώπους που υποτίθετε πως
αγαπάτε και νοιάζεστε. Καλό θα τους κάνετε, αλλά και ταυτόχρονα σε
εσάς.

Αν η ευτυχία των άλλων σας φέρνει αλλεργία, φτιάξτε τη δική σας. Και
να εύχεστε, να υπάρχει γύρω σας κόσμος να χαρεί με αυτήν.

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Prof. Aretakis on Greece and Geometry

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PRINCETON, NJ – Princeton University is one of the oldest and most prestigious in the entire world. It is particularly distinctive among research universities and to that end, the Stanley J. Seeger ‘52 Center for Hellenic studies was established in 1979. Recently, we interviewed Dr. Stefanos Aretakis, a professor of mathematics whose interests include differential geometry, analysis of PDEs, and general relativity. The interview follows:

TNH. Where were you raised and how you came about creating this niche for yourself?


SA. I was born in Athens in 1987 and stayed there until 1997 when my family moved to Rio (a suburb of Patras). My father, who is a high school mathematician, played a crucial role in my early development as a mathematician in the sense that his teachings laid the keystone for the choice of my field of study. I strongly believe that it is the combination of the constant support and help from my father and my innate passion for mathematics that allowed me to eventually pursue a competitive career as a mathematician. Indeed, when I was just 12 years old, I myself realized that solving problems using the laws of mathematics gives me the greatest happiness and joy. My father’s role was to expose me new problems and keep me mathematically active. Why is mathematics joyful? First of all, it is not just the moment of the resolution of a math problem that brings us joy. On the contrary, we extract joy from the every single stage of our interaction with the problem, from the first to the last minute. Understanding all the players in a problem, their properties and their relations and trying to use the universal laws of mathematics to obtain the desired results is a very exciting experience. For us the mathematicians it is a unique experience that has no analogue in other life activities. During this highly intellectual process, your mind simply forgets about the surroundings and focuses on the world that is governed by the players of the problems. Intuition, which is so important in all of science, is simply about creating an imaginary picture about this world; a picture that allows you to see the interaction of all the involved players.

 

 

TNH. You are an Assistant Professor in the Math Department at Princeton University. How hard is for someone so young to accomplish such an achievement in such a short period?

SA. I finished my undergraduate studies at the University of Patras (GR) in two years during which I had the opportunity to interact with many great mathematicians. The Professors at the University of Patras strongly encouraged me to accept an offer for graduate studies at the University of Cambridge (UK). In 2006, therefore, I moved to the UK. During that year, I had the chance to study advanced mathematics and to interact with many brilliant students and Professors from all over the world. But, most importantly, I had the greatest luck to meet Professor Mihalis Dafermos with whom I subsequently did my PhD. Professor Dafermos is a worldwide leading researcher and an exceptional supervisor. He spent countless hours explaining to us his results, ideas and future directions for study. After finishing my PhD at Cambridge, I moved to Princeton University as an Instructor. Currently I am an assistant professor at Princeton. I believe there are three keys in accomplishing such an achievement: 1) determination-motivation-passion, 2) exploring new directions, 3) support from other people.

 

THN.What are your research interests?

 

SA.I am mainly interested in mathematical problems that arise in Einstein’s general theory of relativity. General relativity describes the evolution of systems under the effect of gravity in terms of a system of very complicated differential equations (known as the Einstein equations). These equations have very rich structure from both a mathematics and physics point of view. For example, they predict the existence of black hole regions and gravitational waves (the detection of which has recently been on the news). As a mathematician I study the mathematical properties of these equations such as the stability of black holes, the formation of spacetime singularities and the scattering of gravitational waves. The end goal is to discover new physical phenomena; for this reason, I find this mathematics research area extremely interesting and exciting.

 

THN. Ιn which field are you currently working on?

SA.I investigative radiative properties of hyperbolic equations which are intimately connected with stability considerations for black holes and the propagation of gravitational waves.

 

TNH.Have you ever thought to go back to Greece and help with your expertise?

SA.Of course. My home, my parents are all in Greece. I have thought about going back to Greece, but unfortunately this is not going to happen for various reasons. At the moment there are minimal opportunities in Greece. Greece has so many talented students. Unfortunately there are no opportunities for these students in Greece. On the other hand, it is very easy to create opportunities here in the USA. So, instead of us going back to help with our expertise there, what is really happening is that we bring here the best minds of Greece and provide them with opportunities to help them ascend the scientific ladder.

 

THN.Do you think that Greek education is in great need for research excellence in order to be a leader rather than a follower in innovation?

Yes, of course. The society should give incentives so the best greek researchers stay in Greece. Professors should be competitive in a worldwide level. They should maximize the amount of research funds they apply for so they can provide research positions to young scientists. We live in a period where the world gets more and more connected. This of course is very beneficial for Greece, provided that research there keeps up with that in other developed countries.

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Princeton’s Hellenic Studies Director

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TNH Speaks with Dr. Dimitri H. Gondicas, Seeger Hellenic Studies Director

By Aria Socratous

 

PRINCETON, NJ – Princeton University is one of the oldest and most prestigious in the entire world. It is particularly distinctive among research universities and to that end, the Stanley J. Seeger ‘52 Center for Hellenic studies was established in 1979.

The Center’s mission is to promote the interdisciplinary study of Hellenic culture – Classical, Byzantine and Modern – to stimulate creative expression in and about Modern Greece, and to establish links between Greek students, scholars and institutions and their counterparts at Princeton and the United States.

Center Director Dr. Dimitri H. Gondicas spoke with The National Herald. The interview follows:

TNH: Since 1980 you have been at Princeton University where you are currently the Director of the Seeger Center for Hellenic Studies and Lecturer in Modern Greek, Department of Classics. Please tell us about your experience and your long association with the Institution.

DG: As an undergraduate at Princeton, I majored in Physics, but I also signed up in as many literature and arts courses as I could, including student-initiated seminars in modern Greek poetry taught by the eminent translator and scholar Edmund Keeley. Later, while pursuing graduate studies in Nuclear Engineering at MIT, I took Modern Greek poetry classes with George Savvides who held the George Seferis Chair at Harvard. A year later I was given the opportunity to become teaching assistant in Modern Greek at Harvard.

By that time, I had realized that my deep intellectual and professional commitments were in education and the humanities, in particular, Modern Greek Studies. In 1980 Stanley J. Seeger, a Princeton alumnus and Philhellene, who by then had become a citizen of Greece, announced his splendid gift to his alma mater in support of Hellenic Studies. Seeger’s extraordinary gesture moved me deeply and inspired me on a personal level. The very generous endowment that he established at Princeton would guarantee the flourishing of Hellenic Studies in perpetuity. I saw this as a tremendous opportunity for Greek education, scholarship and culture, and this gave me a huge incentive to move to Princeton where I have been ever since, teaching Modern Greek, building and leading the Hellenic Studies Program. In the late 1980s I was appointed Executive Director of the Program in Hellenic Studies. In 2010 Princeton established the Seeger Center, in recognition of the scale, quality and broader impact of our work in the humanities and the creative arts at Princeton, in Greece, and beyond. I was offered the honor to be the founding Director of the Center, one of the largest, most active and preeminent interdisciplinary units at the University. Looking back to 1974, when I first came from high school in Greece to study at Princeton, the Modern Greek Studies field was in its infancy in the United States. In those early days we called our classes “to kryfo scholio.”

Today, there are several very strong programs around the country and scores of excellent young academics whose work focuses on modern and contemporary Greece. I feel very fortunate to have made this intellectual voyage, to have studied under and worked with some of the most distinguished scholars in our field. It gives me a sense of pride to have been part of this collective, collaborative, international effort toward the overall growth of Hellenic Studies in the United States and around the world.

 

TNH: What does teaching mean to you and how would you describe your relationship with your students?

DG: Teaching and mentoring students is an essential part of my work, while academic administration takes up a large portion of my time. In the classroom at Princeton and on-site in Greece, it is a rare privilege to work with some of the brightest and most talented students in the world, to offer them the opportunity to engage with the Hellenic world in all its manifestations, and to share with them the joy of discovery, as they experience Hellenic culture, meet people from all walks of life, and travel the landscapes of Greece. Language learning opens your eyes to new worlds: It is a process of encounters, discovery and self-knowledge. Beyond the transmission of knowledge and skills, I teach my students the values of intellectual rigor and professional integrity, so they can become responsible, engaged citizens in civil society. I have taught and advised hundreds of undergraduate and graduate students over the years. With many of them I keep in touch long after their graduation. Their life trajectories are impressive and diverse: academics, public servants, teachers, professionals, business people, writers, and artists. All of them are part of our extended family of Princeton Hellenists.

TNH: You manage several fellowship programs for Greek and international students, scholars, writers, and artists, and you coordinate academic partnerships with Greek universities, museums, libraries, foundations, schools, and cultural institutions. Please elaborate on that.

DG: Our Hellenic Studies fellowship programs at Princeton are unique in the world, in terms of scale, range, and diversity. We maintain the highest scholarly standards in selecting fellows through rigorous review processes. Once they come to Princeton, our fellows form a tightly knit academic community that interacts closely with some of the leading minds at the University. One aspect of our mandate is to support creative expression in and about modern Greece, so we have offered fellowships to scores of Greek writers and artists over the years.

From day one we have sponsored collaborations with many Greek academic and cultural institutions (museums, libraries, archaeological service, etc.). With the recently established Paul Sarbanes ’54 Fund for Hellenism and Public Service, we are expanding in exciting new directions – economic policy, international relations, public administration – that we hope will be beneficial for Greece, in view of the huge challenges it faces. I believe that this latest initiative is central to the concerns and aspirations of the American-Hellenic community. It is thrilling for me to be at the center of our effort to identify and nurture international academic talent, to support scholars at the launch of their careers, and to guide them professionally. It is a huge responsibility and a continuous challenge to help train and mentor the next generations of scholars in Hellenic Studies. During the last 35 years, our fellows have come from over 30 different countries. Over 700 of them have been from Greece. Regardless of nationality or ethnic origin, their focus is on Hellenic culture: ancient, medieval, modern, or contemporary. They constitute a vast and growing network of scholars at institutions in Greece and around the world. I call them our world wide web of Hellenists.

TNH: You have the overall administrative responsibility for the Seeger Center, one of Princeton’s largest and most vibrant programs. one of the largest and most active programs. What is that like, and how do you manage your time among the academic and administrative responsibilities?

DG: Leading a large and complex academic unit such as the Seeger Center is like directing a symphony orchestra: managing behind the scenes, while also directing from the podium, to perform the most diverse and difficult repertoire, both classical and cutting-edge, concert after concert, season after season. A clear sense of mission is of paramount importance. To inspire and motivate colleagues, staff, and students, one needs to have a broader vision for the long term, while also caring for the details and the individuals themselves. Setting realistic priorities for the short term and the day-to-day is a must. Respect of alternative viewpoints is critical. Balancing continuity and change is a delicate balance. Patience, focus, administrative agility, academic diplomacy, imaginative planning, forward-looking spirit, self-effacing leadership, sustained effort, humility and team-work are all essential. Continuity of leadership and inclusivity are crucial elements. Of course, resources and a supportive institutional context are critical to the success of any academic initiative.

At Princeton, thanks to the legendary generosity of our American and Greek donors, we are blessed with very significant resources that allow us to build with confidence, to consolidate, and to plan growth over a long time horizon. Seeger’s vision was ahead of its time in many ways, including the stipulation that every Princeton student in Hellenic Studies would be supported for travel to Greece for serious study, independent research, and an immersive cultural experience. Princeton is a leading institution, a magnet and haven for scholars and students in Greek Studies: Ancient, Medieval, and Modern. The academic and cultural programs that we maintain require very significant resources – and we are certainly blessed in this respect. But I want to stress the sense of responsibility that comes with such blessings. And, of course, I want to emphasize the human factor: personal commitment, hard work, integrity, fairness and high standards are at the core of every successful academic initiative.

TNH: You have published several books. On what projects – books or otherwise – are you currently working?

DG: In between teaching, advising, and directing the Seeger Center, I am working on several research projects and cultural activities: two major exhibitions and related publications, to celebrate the 40th anniversary of Hellenic Studies in 2019; the second volume of our acclaimed reference catalogue of Greek manuscripts at Princeton; a guide to our Hellenic Collections (rare books, art objects, coins, maps, manuscripts, archives, etc.); and an oral/archival history project on “Princeton and the Hellenic World” that will include profiles of distinguished Princeton men and women active in Greece, as well as Greek students at Princeton, from the Greek war of Independence to the present.

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Μπες στην ταινία μου-Sibyl Vane

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Μωρό μου, αν κάτι μένει στους ανθρώπους και στις μεταξύ τους σχέσεις, είναι οι αναμνήσεις τους. Ευχάριστες και δυσάρεστες.

Δεν λέω πως πρέπει να ζούμε μόνο μ’αυτές.

Αυτό που λέω, είναι το εξής: καθώς φτιάχνουμε την ταινία της ζωής μας, σαν πρωταγωνιστές, σκηνοθέτες και φυσικά σαν σεναριογράφοι, αυτό που μετράει, είναι σοφή επιλογή συμπρωταγωνιστών και φυσικά, η μαγεία της πλοκής.

Σαν τέτοια λοιπόν, επιλέγω εσένα.
Θέλω αναμνήσεις μαζί σου. Πες με τρελή, βαρεμένη, psycho κι αλλοπαρμένη. Μέσα θα’σαι.

Αλλά κάτι που εκτιμώ πολύ σε σένα, είναι που με αφήνεις να σου μιλάω. Να σου εξηγώ τα θέλω μου, το μέσα μου. Που δε με αφήνεις να σκάω και να βράζω στο ζουμί μου.

Να σου δώσω ένα παράδειγμα: Τα Χριστούγεννα που μου χάρισες, είναι από τις ωραιότερες αναμνήσεις μου.

Θέλω να πιστεύω πως πέρασες κι εσύ το ίδιο όμορφα, και πως είμαι κι εγώ επιλογή του cast της δικής σου ταινίας. Δεν ξέρω αν είμαι πρωταγωνίστρια, ή αν θα γίνω ποτέ. Αυτό εσύ το ξέρεις. Και δε σε ζορίζει κανείς να το πεις, ούτε τώρα, ούτε μετά.

Μην ξεχνάς μωρό μου, τα γράφω δημόσια, και εκτίθεμαι, χωρίς να με νοιάζει. Αυτό κάτι σημαίνει.

Στο θέμα μας λοιπόν.

Θά θελα να μου χαρίσεις κι άλλες τέτοιες αναμνήσεις για μετά, τις μέρες που έρχονται.

Θέλω να σε φροντίσω, γιατί με εσένα επέλεξα να το κάνω. Εσύ μου το ‘βγαλες ρε παιδάκι μου, πως το λένε.

Θέλω, βρε αδερφέ, να βάψω τα αυγά μαζί σου και να παλεύουμε μαζί να ξεβάψουμε τα δάχτυλά μας από την κόκκινη βαφή στο νεροχύτη, με σένα να μου χώνεις σφαλιάρες στον κώλο.

Να κάψω τα κουλουράκια στο μικρό φουρνάκι και να μένουμε με την όρεξη.

Να πάμε μαζί να πάρουμε το Άγιο Φως, κάνοντας τις ευχές μας πάνω στο “Χριστός Ανέστη”.

Σε σένα να δώσω το πρώτο φιλί της Αγάπης και να αγκαλιαστούμε σφιχτά και πολύ, κάνοντας μέσα μας την δική μας Ανάσταση, κοιτώντας ο ένας τον άλλο στα μάτια, παγώνοντας την στιγμή. Αυτά δεν τα είχα ποτέ με κανέναν, παρά μόνο με την οικογένειά μου. Και τα θέλω μαζί σου. 

Δεν σου ζητώ να υπογράψεις δεσμευτικό συμβόλαιο, με συναισθηματικές ποινές και ρήτρες. Μακριά από μένα αυτά. Δεινοπάθησα με συναισθηματικά γραμμάτια κι επιταγές που τελικά ήταν πέτσινες. Μια επιθυμία μου εκφράζω και μόνο.

Να κοιμηθώ και να ξυπνήσω για μέρες πλάι σου. Να μοιραστώ τον ύπνο και τον ξύπνιο μου στο κρεβάτι, στον καναπέ, στη βόλτα, στη θάλασσα μαζί σου.

Θέλω μαζί σου να μοιραστώ την μαγειρίτσα και την πετσούλα από το αρνί, μωρέ!

Τι λές, ψήνεσαι;

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Τώρα κι εγώ μαθαίνω. -Sibyl Vane

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Έχεις κι εσύ τα δίκια σου. Μπορεί και να σε τρομάζω. Δεν το θέλω. Δεν αντέχομαι ώρες ώρες.


Που σπάνια παίρνω τα μάτια μου από πάνω σου, αφού κι η πιο χαλαρή σου κίνηση, τραβάει τη ματιά μου. Σε χαζεύω και χαζεύω, σου λέω.


Που σε κοιτάω σα βλαμμένο, και χάνω κάθε τι αισθησιακό από πάνω μου, παίρνοντας ύφος χαμένου μπούφου.


Που κολλάω πάνω σου, στον ύπνο και τον ξύπνιο σου. Να σε μυρίζω.


Που κοιτάω τα μάτια σου και μετρώ πόσα καστανά και πόσα πράσσινα έχουν μέσα τους.


Που μου λείπεις, ακόμη κι όταν σ’αγκαλιάζω, στην πόρτα καθώς φεύγεις.


Τουλάχιστον 15 χρόνια ακίνητη.

Έλα λίγο στη θέση μου. Φαντάσου λίγο πόσο επίπονο είναι. Επιλογή μου, δε λέω. Αλλά και πάλι. Προσπάθησε να δείς.


Κι εσύ με κράτησες να περπατήσω.
Με έρωτα της αγκαλιάς, σαν μωρό επτά μηνών, και τρέχω. Πώς να μην τρομάζεις… 


“Τρέχεις” μου λες.

Και ναι, μπορεί να τρέχω.
Ίσως γιατί μέχρι τώρα, ούτε καν μπουσουλούσα.
Τουλάχιστον παίρνω από λόγια. Μου το λες και σταματώ να πάρω ανάσα. Καταλαβαίνω. 


Μή με παρεξηγείς. Τώρα μαθαίνω.

Μαζί σου, σε αυτό που ζούμε, δεν ξέρω γραφή κι ανάγνωση, ξέρω μόνο να συλλαβίζω. 
Θα περιμένω να μου πεις το πρώτο γράμμα, για να σου πω το δεύτερο.


(Η φωτό είναι από την αγαπημένη Ιφιγένεια Βήτα, που σε δυό της λέξεις, μπορεί να κλείσει τόμους από μελάνι)

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