The importance of being a Hellene


The importance of being a Hellene

By Savvas “Testos” Limnatitis
Category:  Exlusive Stories / Hellenism
So. What constitutes a true Greek? Or a Hellene if you prefer. A question that has been bugging me for ages, a question that -let’s not be coy here- should concern every single one of us whose roots go back to the land that has given civilization its birth. A land whose sheer brilliance and innovation continues to this day to influence and shape modern western civilization as we know it.
What exactly then? What is it that makes up the fabric of a true Hellene,  what exactly are those characteristics that make us unique as a people, as a race?
I remember interviewing Katerina Cosgrove,  a well known Greek – Australian author and asking her what makes a book uniquely Greek. Is it the language? Or is it the themes? And if it is the theme, what are the requisites?  Her answer stunned me. And made me think. “Pain” she said. “They need to have pain”.
Oh yes. Pain. As a country,  as an entity we certainly know a lot about pain. The pain of wars. Big and small.  External and internal.  Wars that left behind them devastation and chaos, that ravished the homeland and brought it to its knees. Wars that destroyed families and drove wedges between brother and brother, father and son. Neighbor and neighbor.
We, the Hellenes of the diaspora,  have also experienced a different shade of pain. A pain that is deep rooted and all-consuming,  all-captivating.
The pain of uprooting oneself and setting sail for distant shores. For foreign lands. Often unwelcoming, hostile. Feeling displaced. Dangling from a string. But we fought on. Galantly. And we won the battle. To the point where we have become indispensable. Vital part of the societies we live in.
Another Hellenic characteristic: never give up. Keep fighting irrespective of how unbearable,  how inhuman conditions might be. Fight on and emerge victorious.
Pain and the knowledge of its existence,  of the part it plays in our lives, is obviously a tiny part of who we are. To give me a bigger picture, to help me push doors open and let me take a sneak peek into the heart and soul of Hellenism, I recently asked my Facebook friends. Here are some of the answers they proffered forth.
First up a valid point from one of the ladies who argues that if you feel Greek then you are Greek.  And following the culture and traditions adds another element to this kaleidoscopic race of people. Another point: the kids might not be fluent in the language, but… They do attend the functions, they do behave like Greeks, they are proud of their inheritance.
So pride in what you are, of the achievements of those that proceeded you, pride in the way fellow Hellenes open new roads for humanity,  is another vital part on the fabric of Hellenism. And as anothed lady pointed out,  we did indeed invent (almost) everything. So puff up your chest and scream out: I am a Hellene and I am proud.
Moving on then. Another friend pointed out the diversity of Greeks, the need to remain individuals.  The differences between Greeks of the diaspora and those still living at home. “Greekness is so vast” she says. Which is true of course.
She goes on, pointing out one important part after anothef. Broad mindedness and the difference between Greeks coming from different parts of the country. The need to socialize, to make your own inwards journeys and finds in the Greece of today, rather than sticking to what your parents have passed down on you. The hunger for knowledge.
Another huge part of what makes us so unique.  Exploring the nooks and corners of the homeland. Feeling the energy of the places and letting it captivate you. The constant nagging sense of wanting to discover what and who has come before you. Another vital aspect of a true Hellene.
Understanding the Great greek modern writers and poets, as my friend pointed out. Understanding  Romiosini and the philosophy of Orthdoxy. The political and social history of the country.
All that and more. Should we include the love of dancing?  I am not too sure about that as I find the particular art form to be very tiring to my feet and not to my liking. But we can certainly use dancing as an example of who we are as people.
Which is to say έξω καρδιά, exo kardia (can’t thing of an English translation), open hearted, bigger than life. Dancing on the thin line that divides happiness and sadness, life and death, here and then, the past and the present.  With little respect, little consideration for tomorrow.
Let’s not hide behind our little fingers: we are not the biggest planners in the world. We’d rather leave tomorrow to chance, leave the reigns to unpredictability rather that set out a clear path.
I guess that’s what true artists are: unpredictable and self destructive.  Because we are artists. We love all art forms, we love creating and experiencing art. And -damn it!- we are also very good at it. Whether it’s music, theatre, fine arts, poetry etc we have it all covered.  We tick all the boxes.
Obviously the discussion can go on forever.  Every single one of us can bring their own ideas to the table. And we can spend the rest of our lives debating over their cons and pros. Like all true Hellenes do. Gosh, we do love an argument,  don’t we? And we are very passionate about our believes.
And then there is filotimo and filoxenia. Words that do not translate very well in English. And that should not come as a surprise.
In a race as  spontaneous, unpredictable and impulsive as the Greeks, logic has no place. It’s passion that leads, passion that defines the parameters. (by the way: an expert from my book, “Avatoi dromoi tis figis”. Inaccessible Roads of Exodus).
I will leave you with my point. “Being Greek means to be yourself. Always.  Under whatever conditions.  Under whatever pressure”. Hope you agree.

3 Comments Add yours

  1. savvastsestos says:

    Glad you like it Panayiti Matsea


  2. Ελενα says:

    Lovely article! Congrats.
    However I do not agree that we Greeks do miss as an atribute logic.
    Being of proud Macedonian origin and strongly influenced by Aristotle please consider our philosophical influence in logic:


    Liked by 1 person

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