Interpretation of “Like you” by Xylina Spathia

For this entry I have picked a classic song from the old Greek rock band Xylina Spathia (“Wooden Swords”). Typical of the band’s style, Like you captures profound meanings in beautiful lyrics and memorable music. I could not find a video recording of the original, though discovered a later cover by Pavlos Pavlides who anyway was the songwriter of Xylina Spathia:

Below are the lyrics in Greek, my translation of them, and some further philosophical comments. Remember to also check my other interpretations of songs by Pavlos Pavlides or Xylina Spathia:

Σαν εσένα

Θα 'θελα να 'μουν σαν εσένα
ιστιοφόρο με τα πανιά του ανοιγμένα
αυτούς που με οδηγούν στην καταιγίδα
σε κάθε αμμουδιά να τους χαρίζω μια πατρίδα

Θα 'θελα να 'μουν σαν εσένα
ένα δεντράκι με τα κλαδιά του απλωμένα
να μη λυπάμαι, να μην καταλαβαίνω
αυτούς που με πετάνε στη φωτιά να τους ζεσταίνω

Θα 'θελα να 'μουν σαν εσένα
έρημος φάρος πάνω σε βράχια φαγωμένα
να 'χει χρόνια να περάσει από μπροστά μου το καράβι
μα εγώ να αναβοσβήνω κάθε βράδυ

Θα 'θελα να 'μουν σαν εσένα
περιστεράκι με τα φτερά του μαδημένα
να στέκομαι μετά τις Συμπληγάδες
και να κοιτάζω πώς περνούν του κόσμου οι φυγάδες
Like you

I'd like to be like you
sailboat with its sails open
those who lead me to the tempest
on every sandy beach to offer them a homeland

I'd like to be like you
a small tree with spread branches
to not grieve, to not understand
to warm those who throw me to the fire

I'd like to be like you
isolated lighthouse atop worn rocks
ages gone by without a ship in sight
yet I keep flashing every night

I'd like to be like you
a dovelet with ripped wings
to stand by the Symblegades [dire straits]
and observe the world's fugitives pass by

We have an intuitive sense of importance in our life. If we see an eagle fly nearby, we interpret it as a sign that Zeus is sending us a positive message. Such is our thinking that we are the protagonists in our life and in life generally, to the extent that the divine is paying attention to all our actions, tending to our every need, and guiding us in each step. We assume that the universe conspires in our favour, as if our volition is its prime mover; as if the realisation of our potential is its purpose.

This sense of significance keeps us going. We power through hardship, work tirelessly to not be left without shelter, and find solace in the belief that at least some god knows what we are really dealing with. Yet this very thought comes with the latent risk of confining us to a comfort zone of egocentrism.

The universe cannot have each person as its epicentre, while an omnipotent and omniscient god would have no need to wait, listen, or experiment with us given its absolute power and knowledge. A deity that expects to learn something is not omniscient.

To invest in our sense of self, we have to internalise the narrative of selfhood we have woven together through years of exposure to stimuli of all sorts. What we have learnt or experienced, with whom, within which arrangements of power or association. We are the product of circumstances beyond our control yet are not bound to what has transpired. Selfhood is ever-evolving.

[ Watch: Comfort zone and impostor feelings (in the snow) ]

I think it is not possible to be completely selfless, as in having no notion of selfhood while remaining human. The act of feeding oneself already is a subjective prioritisation among presences in the cosmos. Why feed yourself if you do not think you are somehow special from your perspective? Every fibre of our being exhibits such a bias.

As such, we cannot be the tree that turns into firewood that “blithely” keeps people warm. We cannot be a lighthouse that waits indefinitely to provide its service. We can learn from those metaphors to be less egocentric, less invested in what we think we have, less focused on the particularities of our microcosm, and more inclined to consider the bigger picture in which our subjectivity unfolds.

Absolute selflessness runs counter to the actuality of the human condition. What we can do is adjust the degree to which we cater to our needs and the manner in which we do it.

[ Watch: The golden fleece and impossible standards ]

Be magnanimus by applying the principle of non-discrimination. To discriminate is to (i) treat the dissimilar as if they were similar, or (ii) to treat the similar as if they were dissimilar.

Proceed in accordance with practical reason. If you can be the sailship that carries sailors through the storm into a safe haven, do it. But refrain from becoming an outlet for their recklessness to travel under such conditions.

And if, perchance, you are that pigeon of ancient lore that barely managed to pass through the clashing rocks, do help the fugitives of this world find a place they can call “home”. They may be inspired to be more selfless in turn.