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Culture

Finding Meaning in Greece

By Alex Pattakos and Elaine Dundon

When we think of Greece, we often think of the whitewashed houses with blue doors and shutters painted to match the colors of the national flag and the sea and sky. We think of the many islands where tiny fishing boats lay docked in the forefront of sandy beaches and vast rolling hills filled with olive groves. And of course, we think of the many ancient buildings and sites of great architectural and historic significance, as well as the origin of the Olympic Games.
On our many odysseys throughout Greece, we wanted to go beyond these common images to truly understand the deeper character and spirit of the Greek people, to understand their attitudes toward life, and to share in their ageless wisdom.
On a basic human level, we are all the same – we are all trying to live “the good life” or as we refer to it, “the meaningful life.” Years ago, Plato proclaimed, “Man – a being in search of meaning” and here we are still searching! No matter what country people are from, our research has shown that people are feeling disconnected, overwhelmed, stressed, and unfulfilled. Despite advances in technology and the availability of modern goods, many people are still searching for the answers on how to make their lives (and work) more meaningful.
Sometimes, even though the world is so complex, the solutions to our challenges can actually be quite simple. As we turn to the Greeks to help us with this challenge, we are coming full circle. Thousands of years ago, the Greeks led the way in discovering new ways to think and be in the world, and today we turn to them once again to share their timeless wisdom on how we can live more joyful and meaningful lives.
OTHERS: The Greeks have a special way of connecting meaningfully with others. Even if they no longer live in the traditional villages, they still take the time to connect with others through sharing a coffee, mezedes (appetizers), or a large meal; they still extend hospitality to strangers; and they still believe in honor (philotimo).
PURPOSE: The Greeks engage with deeper purpose, being guided by the wisdom of their ancient philosophers who so wisely told them to “Know Thyself.”
ATTITUDE: The Greeks embrace life with attitude, celebrating all the ups and the downs, the joys and the sorrows of life. (We also decided to brand Greece as “One Big Spa!” for the fresh air, clear water, healthy food, and kindhearted people all contributed to replenishing our souls, boosting our energy, and promoting our health and wellness, important elements of living a meaningful life.)
Make sure you go beyond the common images and activities in Greece to dive deeper into the Greek culture, including learning about their philosophy, mythology, and village wisdom. We’re sure the people you meet and the lessons you learn will help you find new ways to live a more joyful and meaningful life. OPA!

Dr. Alex Pattakos, who served as a longtime TNH columnist, and Elaine Dundon are co-authors of The OPA! Way – Finding Joy and Meaning in Everyday Life & Work.

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