I wish you…
Cypriots tout health the highest amongst all blessings. We wish each other good health on every and all occasions. Congratulations on your wedding and above all else, Health. And the same goes for births, baptisms, birthdays, and namedays, which run the gamut of Cypriot personal celebrations. Above all else is Health.
When you get sick, you start to appreciate the importance placed on health above all else. When you are not sick, you wonder what you could possibly accomplish by being healthy and poor. Nevertheless, we do not wish each other riches. Cypriots never wish each other that. After Health comes happiness, and we mention joy, then we wish that you obtain everything you desire. Such an all encompassing wish is open to contain riches, but how can you possibly desire riches above health?
My mum says that we are blessed if we have two healthy hands to put to work. It’s a little bit extreme, but if you held it as a value your entire life, you’d be OK.
Logic, the handsome sister of Faith, dictates that Health is indeed the highest of all blessings. So, maybe Cypriots have stumbled upon a kernel of truth and we don’t even know it. Maybe it’s a deeply ingrained piece of wisdom that we have inherited through the ages without knowing how, or why. Kinda like the custom of giving out a mixture of cooked wheat, sesame seeds and pomegranate seeds (kollyva) at funerals to the mourners. I’m not sure why we do that, but that’s how it’s always been done. Logic would say that this tradition came about because people were poor, and such rituals requiring the presence of other people entails the obligation to feed them as well, and wheat is easy come by. Faith would say that the funerary act of giving to other people is a supplication for the dead person’s soul.
Unfortunately, there is a third sibling lurking around Logic and Faith. The Cynic. Everyone knows The Cynic. The Cynic is never invited to the party, but is somehow always there. And what would The Cynic say? Why, nothing other than the raw truth, which is, Cypriots can never ever have an occasion that does not involve food. And since barbequing or souvla are out of the question at a funeral, the less extravagant wheat, sesame seed and pomegranate seed mixture passes by without scrutiny. When you boil it down, it’s all about the chow.
And what would The Cynic say about Health? The cynic would say that you will never know if, one fine day, you’re healthily walking down the street and run down by a bus. True, you will never know; this could happen. But , if you were blind in both eyes you’d be at a serious disadvantage if a bus were coming for you.
The Cynic gets beat down eventually, and Logic and Faith remain in their steadfast pact which can never be broken. Health is upheld as the highest of all blessings, and we continue to console each other through our troubles by words that have been spoken for ages before. They sound pedestrian, commonplace, bland.
To your health.