Interpretation of “My sea” by Psarantonis

For this entry, I have picked a song from the island of Crete titled My sea (Θάλασσα μου): It is performed by the legendary Antonis Xylouris (Αντώνης Ξυλούρης). The singer’s nickname is “Psarantonis” (Ψαραντώνης), which literally means “fisher-Antonis”. It is tradition in Greece to pass a nickname through the generations, although this typically happens when the children have common names so they need something else to identify them (I didn’t get the “kofteros” (“sharp”) nickname because my name is unique).

What follows are the original lyrics, my translation of them, and subsequent philosophical commentary.

Θάλασσα μου

Ερμηνεία:  Αντώνης Ξυλούρης (Ψαραντώνης)
Στίχοι:    Γιάννης Παξιμαδάκης
Μουσική:   Γιάννης Παξιμαδάκης

Θάλασσα μ'εσένα έχω καημό
που δεν μπορείς, θάλασσά μου,
μες τα μπλέ σου τα νερά
να πνίξεις τον καημό μου

Όπως έπνιξες καράβια
και θαλασσινούς, Θάλασσά μου,
τον καημό μου τώρα πνίξε
πνίξε να σωθώ

Στ' άσπρο σου το κύμα απάνω
βάλε με να ζω, θάλασσά μου,
να κοιτώ πουλιά, καράβια
και τον ουρανό

Να κοιτώ και το φεγγάρι
μες τα σύννεφα, θάλασσά μου,
σαν και την καρδιά μου
να'ναι τοσο σκοτεινό
My sea

Performance:  Antonis Xylouris (Psarantonis)
Lyrics:       Giannis Paximadakis
Music:        Giannis Paximadakis

Sea with you I am sad
as you cannot, my sea,
in your blue waters
drown my grief

As you drowned ships
and sailors, my sea,
my grief now drown
drown it to save me

On top of your white waves
place me to live, my sea,
to stare at birds, ships
and the sky

To stare at the moon
amid the clouds, my sea,
which like my heart
is so dark

To me, the sea symbolises the open-ended adventure some of us yearn for: the sense of amazement, exploration, and discovery. As humans, we seek awesome experiences. A breathtakingly colourful sunset, the highest vantage point, the play of light as rays of sunlight reflect in the morning dew… We love all that!

There is an aspect to our being that is fundamentally disturbed by boredom. We appreciate a sense of stability, but we also need something fresh from time-to-time. The adventurer, however, is one who lives for the adventure. To them, stability is intrinsically boring and whatever balance between old and new is but an unpleasant compromise.

I suppose one is thrilled to venture into the unknown because of their very constitution. Their nature compels them to push forward. Are they searching for something though? Is the adventurer moving towards the horizon in the hope of finding something, or is the trip itself the reward? Perhaps a permutation in-between those extremes? My introspection tells me that what appears as one chasing their luck is, at times, them running away from it. There is something they want to drown in the murky depths of some distant ocean.

Suppose you have what you would consider the most preferable setup in your life. Let’s go with the common choice and say this includes a stable source of income, a partner with whom you are mutually compatible and in love with, a house in some fancy place, pleasant neighbours, good health, and the like. Do you cast all that to the wind and go on an adventure? I think not. Those who are more likely to leave it all behind are the ones who feel that the potential benefit outweighs whatever immediate cost. The “leave it all behind” may amount to nothing, after all, which makes the decision considerably easier.

I understand this sentiment of foregoing conventional comfort and doing something out-of-the-ordinary. I did it! Was there a tacit desire there for a terminus? Maybe it was codified in feelings that were never expressed? Or maybe it was latent in some rationalisation? At any rate, I feel this tendency to entertain notions of doom and gloom is driven by tunnel vision: we let the grief of the present preclude potential outcomes that may not consist in misfortune. Our decision-making is governed by the bias that we are omniscient: we pretend to know what the future has in store for us and how we will experience the world. It is also influenced by our misplaced sense of duty and significance: we assume too many responsibilities/burdens and think that everybody is judging us accordingly. In truth, we are not the epicentre and none of that matters to the extent we think it does.

[ Watch: Loss, entitlement, and presence ]

Your heart may be as dark as the clouded night sky. What you proclaim as a fascinating escapade is a tacit hope to meet your demise while in the open seas. I know. Though as with the weather, the clouds do not stay around forever. To think that the current sorrow necessitates eternal sadness is to make too many false assumptions.

No sea can drown your sorrow. It can only kill you. Whatever solution has to come from within: it is rooted in a disposition of aloofness, of not worrying too much, not assigning great value to things, not being fatalistic in the presumption that you know everything. Let life run its course. Admit that you are human. You do not have all the answers. Let go of what life tells you is not yours.

Take it easy, for you know less than you think.