In the movie “Zorba the Greek,” Zorba (Anthony Quinn), a wise middle-aged man who is friendly and spontaneous, says to Basil (Alan Bates) who is an uptight writer, "A man needs a little madness." Zorba suggests cutting the rope that confines him and being free and teaches him real life, which is not found in the books Basil read to learn about life.
Every time I think of this 1964 movie, I always think of the last scene where the two men dance on the beach and I still feel the freedom and ecstasy. Freedom is such an important value both in individuals’ lives and human progress. It is a core value of modern democracy, and numerous philosophers argued that it is guaranteed by reason and intelligence. “Zorba the Greek,” however, tells us that “madness,” the most extreme form of emotions, is what frees us. Madness here probably means the courage that helps us ignore customs, moral values and even social rules that regulate us. It can also mean “arrogance,” an attitude that does not succumb to money and power.
Author Nikos Kazantzakis, who is Greece’s most prolific writer, valued freedom. “I hope for nothing. I fear nothing. I am free,” reads his epitaph in Crete.
It is a frustrating time, especially because “the great COVID-19 lockdown” restricts personal freedom by limiting movement, gatherings and economic activities. It is a time when life without restrictions cannot be taken for granted, and I miss Kazantzakis’ freedom and Zorba’s madness.