Philotimo

“You will never do anything in this world without courage. It is the greatest thing next to honour.” Aristotle

As many of you know, I’m in Greece with my father. We’ve been visiting relatives and hanging out. Every night we watch the news at 8. In some ways it reminds me of the closeness we shared when I was a child. We watched all the Montreal Canadians games on Saturday nights on CBC. I’m heartbroken for Montreal’s loss this week, but never mind. There will always be another time.

My dad used to translate all the play-by-play action then to my wide-eyed, enthusiastic child self. In Greece, he’s translating the Greek news for me. Some things stay the same. Other things change.

Now I listen intently because I don’t know how much more time I’ll have with him. None of us know this, but it hits you in the face the older you and your parent get. I’ve already lost one. So I’ve come to anticipate the next loss. But that’s a discussion for another time, perhaps when I’m more prepared emotionally to deal with it.

The first forty minutes of the newscast rails on about the poor economic situation in Greece and how the country is one EU decision away from complete collapse. A deal is needed with its lenders: the EU, the IMF and others. You can hear the panic in the newscaster’s voice, although I know this is the way most Greeks talk: with rapid-fire sentences delivered in slightly raised voices.

As a foreigner who feels Greece is her second home, it’s difficult not to feel alarmed for the country and the people I adore.

My father tells me there has always been one problem after another in this country. Eventually, they figure things out. He doesn’t understand the Greek or the European politicians who can’t find their way to a deal. It’s shameful, he says.

For me, I’m not sure what is real. The doomed outlook portrayed by the newscasters or the one I see when I’m out walking in this city of traffic and people, monuments and history, high-end shops and restaurants. The man and woman on the street seem to go about their business, ignoring the noise of impending catastrophe. Or perhaps as my father says, they feel they’ve survived worse and will do so again.

Still, I ask. Taxi drivers, baristas, small business owners, restaurant patrons and servers alike. I’m curious and I want to know. What is real? The news or the life I see on the street? Almost without fail, all tell me the situation here isn’t good. They talk about the economy, the fiascos of the various governments and the tyranny of foreign lenders. But just as quickly they say, “what are you going to do? You can’t stop living. Worrying about what others are doing or not doing won’t help.” They shrug and smile. I’m charmed as any hopeful romantic would be.

Still I’m not completely blind. I see the hordes standing in front of the many newspaper stands here reading the latest headlines each morning. Some roll their eyes. Some partake in heated discussions. Then they’re off. I assume to jobs and businesses and their daily realities.

They seem resilient, proud and I’m convinced they will endure. Perhaps what I see is their philotimo. The philosopher, Thales said, philotimo to the Greek is like breathing. A Greek is not a Greek without it.

In case you don’t recognize the word, take a look at this video The Greek Secret. The word isn’t translated into English easily, but the concept is explained.

I know this is exactly what I see and feel when I speak to Greeks here and it is what I believe will help them weather this latest economic storm.

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