July 15, 2020

The Simple Joys of Summer

By Photios Kontoglou

Blessed is the man who can, now in the summer, get away for a while from the turmoil of civilization. If he likes the sea, let him go to any island, where the islanders are not spoiled yet, or to any fishing village. But do not carry civilization with you, as many do, who on the one hand want to leave the unrest behind them, and on the other carry with them all the complicated and tedious tasks of civilization. Take as few things with you as you can. Because, the biggest gain that you will have going to such a place, will be the joy that the person feels as if he is missing many things, that he has them so easily in civilization, and that over there it will seem like some great enjoyment, finding joy in the slightest thing. Unhappy are the people who lack nothing, and have no hope of longing for anything, whether it be food, or rest, or speech, or warmth, or coolness. And truly blessed are those who do not have everything easy, and that is why all things become new and refreshing for them.

Therefore, do not take many things with you, so as not to take both the lethargy and the stupidity that easy pleasure gives to man. Then you will understand how valuable even the most insignificant things are. Loneliness will give value to simple company, hunger to dark bread, fatigue to the hard bed covering. The fire of the sun and the salt of the sea will bake your skin, squeeze your body and your wounded soul and you will feel that you are living truly, as the other creatures that remained in their natural way of life live. You will understand in your body and soul real health, and some vitality that you had forgotten, and what you called health in civilization, will then seem to you like a disease. You will rest because of the simplification of your life, unless of course you are completely spoiled, so that you have the idea that happiness is to be confused with a thousand and two knots, and to have many other worries in your mind. It's as if you are beginning to slowly separate yourself, having formerly been very far away, like a shadow, and to be with yourself, without being upset. I do not want to say that you will start talking to the sea, to the trees, to the birds, to the stones, and to call them your brothers, as Saint Francis did, but it will seem to you that you are not falling out of your dignified box, as if you are lying on the ground and looking at the insects for hours, or as if you are sitting on a stone in the sea and watching the fish, the crabs and the other living things in the salt water, without getting tired and bored.

From the book Εὐλογημένο Καταφύγιο (Blessed Refuge). Translated by John Sanidopoulos.