Tuesday, February 9, 2016

Writing about a Community Publication, Writing for the Community

Greek Ethos: The Magazine, the Book, the Commitment to Learning

What is ethos? Why and how does it matter? Ethos points to a habit, something that someone does consistently and insistently. It is a recurrent action that one returns to because the action is inherently meaningful.

The concept of ethos is key to Eliseos Paul Taiganides’s work, and he brings it to our community through the magazine Greek Ethos, which he has been editing for the last ten years. Now, with the exciting publication of a book that compiles essays, biographies, and stories about Greek history and culture originally published in the magazine, Taiganides delivers his ethos of a tenacious commitment to cultivate learning within a community.

A great deal of labor is necessary to accomplish this endeavor. The ethos that Taiganides brings is a personal commitment to make this happen and a determination to draw as many contributors as possible to this orbit. Greek Ethos not only represents an individual’s commitment to create a community around the value of learning, but also carries a vision of engaging a collective: what is paramount is that learning involves a community. One may agree or disagree with Paul Taiganides’s interpretations of Greek history and culture, but this is precisely the point. His ethos is not to censor alternative perspectives, but to refreshingly host diverse points of view so that we learn from each other through civil conversation and dialogue.

One of the original highlights of both the magazine and the book is that they each bring within the same cover the perspectives of professionals, artists, authors, academics, engineers, scholars, and a wide range of community members. Multiple voices coexist here, a kind of a polis of letters if you will, where citizens share their knowledge, stories, biographies, and histories.

Greek Ethos connects the habitual practice—again, the ethos—of striving for individual and collective learning centered around the idea of a Greek identity. Bringing the practice of ethos and the idea of identity together, Greek Ethos raises a question central to Greek America. What does it mean to be Greek American in the twenty-first century? What is the meaning and relevance of a Greek identity when one is deeply connected with American society, and perhaps other cultures as well?

A great deal is at stake in these questions, and the investment to publish Greek Ethos provides a meaningful answer. The commitment to produce and disseminate Greek learning takes our understanding of Greek identity beyond a mere celebration of heritage, or pride to the legacy of this heritage. It entails a consistent, unceasing commitment (ethos) to animate this heritage and its values, as well as to study this history and understand the culture. It takes work to engage with heritage and be substantively enriched by it. This is what Greek Ethos delivers: a commitment to active circulation of knowledge about cultural heritage.

Greek Ethos represents a cultural project of particular significance for our community. It presents us with biographies of community members and their commitments, outlooks, and achievements. By telling the stories of people we have lost, it honors and preserves their memories. The project pays homage to individuals and families who have committed their lives to enrich the community, and it brings us commentaries about literature, language, history, and culture from artists and scholars with connections to the Ohio State University and beyond. In this respect this project is decisively local in orientation while also bringing to our attention Greek American issues of general interest. By focusing on individuals we know and interact with, Greek Ethos allows us to know them better, to understand what drives their lives. Their ethos.

In contributing to a mutual understanding, Greek Ethos enhances a sense of community. It enables us to remain connected as our busy lives and multiple commitments often keep us apart. One might even say that this project creates a sense of community. Its stories and essays nourish a conversation across generations, between newcomers and existing members, and among individuals who might not be otherwise socially connected. Greek Ethos weaves shared narratives within our diverse community, exemplifying the public ethos of investing in shared learning. This project is worth the support it enjoys from the Greek Olympic Society, and the ethos it cultivates will remain an integral part of our cultural identity. But this constancy, as Greek Ethos reminds us, cannot be taken for granted. It, without a doubt, takes collaborative work.

Yiorgos Anagnostou

December 29, 2015