Got Kefi?


By Rebecca Alia
Kefi is the Greek word meaning the passion for and joy of life! And the Greeks seem to have this in spades. No matter how bleak, how bad their lives get, they have the ability (like energizer bunnies) to bounce back up, snap their fingers and jump into that next circle dance. They are paradoxical. I had never before seen a group of people who could hold grief and tragedy in one hand and kefi in the other. Unfortunately, this isn’t the case for most Americans. Not only have many of lost our kefi long ago, it’s been so long that we don’t realize that it’s missing.

There is a lot we can learn from the Greeks. No matter how bad things get, they are able to bounce back. They are downright resilient. Most of my Greek friends will credit this lesson to nearly 400 years of Turkish occupation. I understand this well, because my great-grandmother was forced to rebuild and re-create everything over and over again after constant theft and destruction in her small Middle-Eastern village. When we must constantly re-build and recreate we not only learn to detach from things, but we also experience our incredible capacity to create anew. We are forced to live in the moment. We are forced to let go of everything that is non-essential. Instead, we focus on what is important.

This is exactly what so many people around the world have been called to do this past year. With financial and environmental crises and job losses, we are all being forced to let go of all that is non-essential. In the process, many people are discovering a sparkling jewel—their kefi!

Fortunately, it isn’t essential to experience tremendous loss to recognize what is important. Have you lost your kefi? Do you want it back? There are as many ways as there are people to find it again.

I will use the Greeks to illustrate. Here are some examples:

1. Greeks live in the present moment! I know, easier said than done…and I know that I’ve said it before, but it’s the most important step.

2. You can’t have kefi if you’re lost in victimization and entitlement. That’s not to say that neither exists in modern day Greece; it certainly does. The point is, though, that we will never be able to experience the power and the joy of creating if we remain victims and expect the world to treat us fairly. I am still surprised by how easily the Greeks accept the natural cycle of life and death. Malpractice is just recently on the rise in Greece.

3. They let go. What will be will be. When I was an extra on the set of Mamma Mia, we had to be down at the port at some ungodly hour—I think it was 3:30am one day. That morning the weather was so stormy that my umbrella turned inside out within five minutes. I was complaining the whole duration of the hour-long bus ride to the camp. Most of my Greek compatriots were catching up on sleep. I just knew, I was saying to anyone who would listen, that we’d go through the entire day, waiting in the rain, without shooting. Why didn’t they just let us go home? And, sure enough, we did wait the entire day without a single shoot—while wearing damp costumes to boot (Yes, they stored the costumes in an open-walled building!). What did the Greeks do? I didn’t hear them complain once, other than a wishful sigh that they had some tsipouro (similar to ouzo, the preferred drink of Northern Greece on a rainy day!). But we didn’t have tsipouro, so what did the Greeks do? Dance and sing, of course!! (The tsipouro we had later that night. Don’t ever drink tsipouro after 6pm—another story…)

4. They get up and move their bodies; they usually dance (and, yes, sometimes other things).

5. They sing.

6. They gather in groups with friends and family, constantly. A typical social network and support system includes almost the entire population of Greece.

7. They work hard, play hard, and nap hard.

8. No matter what, they always have time for a (Greek) coffee or an ouzo.

9. They cherish their friends and family. Nia Vardalos’ kefi returned when she adopted her precious little girl—or, perhaps, it was the other way around!

10. They enjoy life!

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