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In Greek mythology, Aris (in Latin, Mars) is the god of war, ready for conflict at the drop of a hat.
Aris, my classmate in primary school, was the exact opposite of his Olympian namesake. Plumb, clumsy in sports, emotional, and very talkative in class. The last trait made him a target for the teacher’s scorn and wooden rule. In the early Sixties, corporal punishment in school was the norm, part of the daily diet.
The teacher who picked on Aris everytime was none other than his own mother. We dreaded her, she was a real martinet. Needless to say we were all quiet in class; except her only son. Sitting at the back desks, Aris thought himself immune to her beady stare and chatted away, until he was called to the front, asked to stretch out both hands and stay unflinching while he received the numbered blows.
It's from this time on that my strong aversion for corporal punishment dates. I find it humiliating, sadistic, and totally unnecessary. A traumatic experience especially for young children. I remember how the rest of us suffered to see our classmate being punished, his eyes welling with tears, his face grimacing from pain.
After the end of primary school I lost track of Aris. I just prayed that in high school he would be under more humane educators, teachers who would discern his charitable nature behind the chatter and the giggles.
* * * *
Some thirty years later I returned to Athens with my family, and decided to take a trip down Memory Lane. I went to the church of my parish where I used to be an altar boy. The Mass had already started. I arrived in time for the Eucharist. A silent crowd had gathered round the altar in order to receive the consecrated elements, the Body and Blood of Christ.
We all waited for the priest to appear. I looked up to see the man appointed by the Lord who would administer the Eucharist to the congregation.
It was Aris! Lightly bearded, radiant in his liturgical garment, whispering holy words with a solemnity I remember to this day.
Athens, Greece - email@example.com
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