Meaning comes alive
Published by: BenBella Books
Price: INR 1350
A couple of months ago, on the occasion of our 8th anniversary issue, we wanted to choose a topic that would connect deeply with everyone alive. So we settled on ‘finding meaning in everyday life’. We then started looking for someone to write the cover story on such a profound and universally relevant topic. As providence would have it, we found Alex and Elaine, who had just finished writing their new book on that very subject. We invited them to write and they accepted, and wrote one of the most significant cover stories in Complete Wellbeing.
Their new book The OPA! Way is now in stores. The book expands on the ideas presented in the cover story. But it’s not a run-of-the-mill self-help book. Far from it, The OPA! Way is an insightful odyssey that takes you back to the basics in a delightfully non-preachy style and tells you how you can weave joy and meaning into every single day.
The book is based on the authors’ travels to Greece, the land of philosophers, where they learned the secrets of living a life filled with joy and meaning. What makes the book come alive is the narration—every chapter starts, and is interspersed, with personal anecdotes of the authors’ experiences and encounters with Greek folk. As they share their stories, we accompany them to the narrow lanes of Greek villages, visit Greek kafenios [cafés], spend time at the village plateia [public squares] and meet a variety of ordinary Greek folk who, through their words and actions, teach us that living joyfully each day is far easier than the struggles that most of us have become used to.
Every chapter of The OPA! Way is sprinkled with generous doses of wisdom that strike a deep chord with our fundamental humanity. As an example, when you meet someone for the first time, the conversations are about making you comfortable and establishing a human connection before asking about work and accomplishments. So, instead of asking, “What do you do?” which is the common introductory question in the west, they might ask, “Which village are you from?” Throughout their travels within the country, Alex and Elaine were recipients of kindness from total strangers—people they would meet on the streets, or in cafés—they encountered gestures that reinforce the basic goodness of humans, despite how hopeless it seems to those of us living in large cities.
Even though the book flows like water in the river, it has a basic structure. Divided into five sections that include an introduction to lay the foundation of the book, followed by the three main sections—connecting meaningfully with others, engaging with deeper purpose and embracing life with attitude—and finally concluding with a summary of the key OPA! lessons. To emphasise the ideas and insights that they gained, the authors extensively use quotes of Greek thinkers and philosophers including Plato, Socrates, Aristotle, Heraclitus, Epictetus, Pythagoras, Hippocrates and many more.
Another endearing aspect of the book is the Aesop’s fables that spring up every now and then, making a point that is at once simple and yet intense. The tales, although familiar, seem fresh and different in the context of the ideas presented in the book, leaving you to contemplate on the meaning in the little things in life. The chapters end with a short OPA! affirmation to help us remember the essence of the ideas contained in them.
Indian readers may find a striking similarity in many aspects of the Greece and India—and may also recognise, albeit somewhat unhappily as I did, that we have been fast losing the heritage that makes our culture and tradition so rich and fulfilling. In blindly following the west in its mindless pursuit of wealth and possessions, we are paying a heavy price. But the good news is, we can all return to sanity.
The OPA! Way is a reminder for all of us stop and reflect on why and how we are doing what we are doing. It tells us how we can bring greater joy and fulfilment into our daily lives by following the timeless and universal values that put us back in touch with our glorious humanness and our innate potential for bliss. Read this book if you feel empty or incomplete—or just to enjoy the many heartwarming stories that bring a smile on the lips.
This was first published in the January 2015 issue of Complete Wellbeing.
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