I’ve been thinking of a word lately. I have been overcome with the manic-obsessive urge to translate the word in English. The word is no less complicated than the word ‘Alitis’ (as in Vissi’s latest hasapiko ‘Alitisa Psihi’). Oh please, lady, you may say. Bum, bugger, punk, trump or scumbag. True, each of those words tampers with one quality the word alludes to. Still! None of those words, or any other words in English, render the exact translation of the percentages of each attribute the English words describe plus the emotional impact the word ‘alitis’ has in the Greek language.
‘Alitissa Psihi’ means a soul free enough to explore its instant, imminent and pressing urges each and every moment. A soul that allows a person to experience each moment as though it’s the only living moment anywhere, ever. The word ‘Alitis’ is as ingrained to the Greek identity as the word love is ingrained to emotions. All of us Greeks hide a percentage of this ‘Alitisa Psihi’ deep inside, whether or not we care to admit to it.
Living abroad and adding a second nationality cultivates the illusion we tamed it, we conquered over it, even, we’re done, nice and all well put together. And then the day comes when it’s all out in the open again. Anything could trigget the outburst. A lousy job, a partner/husband/girlfriend, an outrageously insulting event or an Anna Vissi concert (beware, the North American tour is coming up). And then the ‘Alitis’ in us comes out stronger than ever, prouder than the flad on Independence Day, unbending and remorseless, kicking and screaming and we belong to it, one way or another, willingly or otherwise.
That wildly open heart breaks all obstacles and allows the truth to come out and life tobe lived in full. It’s a curse and a blessing. A curse cause it cause one to suffer while in a tormenting all-destructive conquest to reveal the truth and unveil pains that societies around the globe get structured around repressing. Yet, it’s a blessing, cause living life to the full involves living out pain, whether that is the pain in Melina Mercouri’s eyes when singing ‘Ta paidia tou Piraia’ in ‘Never on Sunday’ or the pain in Papamichail’s anger when crashing that shot glass inside his hand in that movie I believe was called ‘To pio labro asteri’.
Having that word in our vocabulary makes us Greek in a very particular, painful and yet liberating way, so we might as well rejoice in all its sorrow.