Filotimo: Is it the key to surviving the age of loneliness?

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This is not the first article about filotimo nor will it be the last.

But is filotimo the key ingredient to ending this 'age of loneliness'? And why hasn’t this been discussed sooner? I want to explore.

Before the pandemic, our globalised society was hooked on the quick and cheap drip. We were time-poor, and we needed it done yesterday. Measured by how much we could achieve by COB. The pandemic has only exacerbated the situation.

In today’s society, the commodification of everything runs rampant.

We have begun to confuse the meaning of a Good with a Commodity, and the value of exchange has triumphed experiential value. The exchange of a transaction has dictated the way for many of our most simple interactions. Subconsciously, and even at the forefront we ask, “what will this cost me?" and, "what will be the exchange in our transaction?”.

To add to this, there is so much distrust and isolation in the world right now, it is no wonder the rate of anxiety, depression and feelings of loneliness keep skyrocketing.

Have we all forgotten that the well-being of a society is what constitutes a successful economy? Well-being is a wholistic goal. Not just physical and financial, but spiritual, mentally, socially, principally, and morally. All these elements interact with each other in the eco-system of well-being.

Notwithstanding, I believe what drives our well-being, is our relationships to our physical, spiritual, mental, and social selves.

So, what drives our relationships and interactions, propelling them forward, making them stronger and achieving greater intimacy? What is the missing element?

I don't have the complete answer to solve all of the world's problems, however, this is where I’d like to remind or introduce you to filotimo.

Filotimo – Φιλότιμο is a concept that has existed in the Greek culture for millennia, and morphed the way it acts through the generations. As with many other Hellenic words, euphemisms and concepts, I struggle to completely convey the essence. Its encapsulation goes beyond language and perhaps falls victim to the sea of cultural frame shifting, which broadly refers to the phenomenon of shifting from one cultural mindset to another. Some say it cannot be defined, but I would like attempt to prove them wrong.

Etymologically, the first part, 'filo' in Homeric times, means to behave politely, to host, to welcome, to kiss. In modern Greek, it translates to friend. Knowing what a good friend looks like, I think is also key to understanding filotimo.

The second part, 'timo' simply refers to honour.

When you mesh the two together, to me what transpires is a friend of honour. It signifies a devotional relationship with the the principles of honour and an embodiment of being honourable.

To establish the essence of filotimo, it is important to take a step back and define a relationship with honour. I would like to ask you, what does honour and being honourable mean to you?

Honour for me, directs my attention to the fundamental principles of humility, standing up for good in the face of injustice, carrying oneself with pride but no ego, having great reverence for life and your fellow brothers and sisters. It is about having integrity, and making choices that elevate your community.

When I look at the Greek flag, and reflect on the stories of the 1821 heroes, the way they fought and carried themselves. This connects me to the principles honour.

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We all have our own experiences and introductions with filotimo.

For me, it was my Pappou. He immigrated to Australia from Nea Epidauro in the early 1960s, and I spent my early formative years in his and my Yiayia's care. It was the way my Pappou would cary himself with people. The simple way he would greet and engage with various shop owners and strangers along our journeys left a lasting impression on me. He would see them. He would hear them. My pappou was completely present to the moment, respecting and valuing of their time. He was genuinely invested in them and was elated, even grateful for their interaction.

I understand that not all Greek people live with filotimo, but I remember my first experience in Greece. It was an interesting rollercoaster to say the least. So many expectations for a long-awaited reunion with a country, a culture, people and roots I had never met. People who didn’t have to spend time with me, did. They opened their doors to me, their hearts, their time, and of course their kitchen.

To be honest, my experience growing up Aussie-Greek in Australia, was cold in comparison. I was so overwhelmed by this generosity and fuss over making me feel welcome, I actually experienced several anxiety attacks. Why do they want to be so nice and welcoming and loving? They barely know me! My heart burst open and I didn’t know how to process this kindness. I witnessed the interplay of Filoxenia and Filotimo. The two concepts coexist together.

It made me realise that for too long I was on that classic hamster-wheel path, lacking legitimate connection with people.  I had turned sour within, a case of prolonged loneliness and meaningful connection outside of career parameters.
In hindsight it is obvious. Because it is fundamentally biological, we need to be interconnected. When you strip all the other noise away, all we are left with are our relationships and bonds. Chemistry101.

Companionship and parea (παρἐα) or company- is an extension of what filotimo embodies.

You don’t need to be Greek to embody filotimo.

Now more than ever, we desperately need more filotimo in the world. Global restrictions and isolations due to the pandemic are taking a toll. We live in an era of social media, that fools us into thinking we are connected. We are more seperate, and politically polar than ever. We see so much corruption in the systems, and a distrust in informations. And there is a whole other discussion surrounding the lack of filotimo in the workplace what that looks like. But with all that said and prolonged isolations from the people we love fuelling the equation, it is no wonder anxiety, depression and suicide rates are at an all time high.

I think filotimo may be our way to meet and move forward at common grounds.

Maybe if we were to live with filotimo as if it were just as natural as breathing, we could close the gap of loneliness, anxiety, depression? We could dissolve our insecurities. We could speak to one another with different opinions, learn from each other and establish a solution. It doesn’t matter our background or our endeavours, but everyone we meet, including our self-talk to ourselves, should be met with dignity, humility and fundamental respect and care. Our interaction must be that of experiential value, nothing else. Leading and making choices grounded in the concept of filotimo, I personally endeavour to live by the ways of my Pappou and the filotimo he instilled in me.

I’d love to hear your feedback, ideas and experiences.

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Philotimo, one Greek word packed with so much meaning, it can’t be defined