Some of them are ancient – they carry over 2000 years of wisdom – and others are quite recent. Here are some words of wisdom that Greeks abide by for a happier, more balanced life.
«Σα βγεις στον πηγαιμό για την Ιθάκη, να εύχεσαι να είναι μακρύς ο δρόμος.» | “As you set out for Ithaka, hope the voyage is a long one.”
-Constantine Cavafy, one of the most important contemporary Greek poets. From the poem “Ithaka” (1910/1911).
Ithaca/Ithaka is a beautiful island in the Greek Ionian sea. In Homer’s “Odyssey”, Ithaka is the main character’s home, the place he is trying to reach while exploring the Mediterranean in a series of adventures that we call “the Odyssey”. And today, it still symbolizes our goals and dreams, what we are destined to be. Constantine Cavafy’s poem teaches an important lesson to all ambitious young people: happiness is a journey, not a destination. In other words, don’t post-pone happiness; enjoy the journey. Fall in love with the process of reaching your goals. And wish that the process will be long and full of adventures. Just like Odysseus, sometimes you will find yourself straying from your path. And this is ok. Life is not a race. Life is not even a marathon. Life is a journey.
«Θνητός γεγονώς άνθρωπε, μη φρόνει μέγα.» | “You were born a mortal human, don’t see yourself as great/invincible.”
-Menander, ancient Greek dramatist. The phrased was coined around 400 BC.
I know, this sounds depressing. But we live in a very grandiose, narcissistic, and self-entered era. There is nothing wrong with self-love and being confident or knowing your value. But being self-centered is another. If you think about it, there are trees on this planet that can live for thousands of years. The planet is more than four billion years old and Homo Sapiens is not even half a million old. You are just a small dot in the entirety of the universe. Realize that life does not revolve around you. So, it is ok to be stupid sometimes. It is ok to make mistakes and it is totally fine if you are not the best of the best, if you never get to become famous, rich or superior to others. Because none of that really matters. Be humble and appreciate the “small” things in life that are actually much bigger than you think. And realize that, although you may not be able to change the world alone, you do have power and you can have an impact in someone’s life. It could be your mom, your best friend, that puppy you found on the street. Don’t waste your life trying to be the best. Try to be the best version of yourself instead.
«Η φτώχεια θέλει καλοπέραση.» | “Being poor requires living well.”
-Original source unknown. The phrase is known from the 1958 movie with the same title.
Just because you are not rich according to today’s standards does not mean you are not allowed to have fun and enjoy life. Dancing, telling stories, laughing, hugging your loved ones, watching the sunrise or the sunset are for free. Don’t focus on what you lack. Focus on the things you have. And when you spoil yourself with a material “luxury”, stop feeling guilty. Money can’t buy happiness. Don’t wait to fill your pockets with money to be happy. Don’t be miserable because you lack money.In an essence:
- Don’t post-pone happiness; enjoy the journey.
- You are not immortal or invincible; stay humble and grounded.
- Happiness is free; live well and enjoy life when you are low on money.