Aaron and Manos met on a rainy evening circa 1996 in the kitchen of a South London apartment. After an explosive initial 10 minutes, they decided to take their differences to the local pub. A few pints of Guinness later, as often happens, they were already friends. They shared an intense interest in the human condition; the ability to self-observe, curiosity, a somewhat twisted sense of humour, analytical intellect, and a desire for adventure. But key to their connection, was a deep but well concealed “not good enough” programming. Possibly the central motivational factor in their separate as well as their combined life journeys.
Laughing Heart was conceived 15 years after that kitchen encounter on a flight from Hong Kong to Bangkok. Aaron wrote a note to himself saying that one day he will build a community space on an island; a place that would combine the spiritual and the intellectual, the serious and the Epicurean; a place where thinkers and seekers would come to explore what it means to live a Good Life.
Soon after, there was one of those late night deep and “dangerous” – but also inspiring – conversations with Manos. There was talk of ancient Greece, of the philosophers who had inspired so much of our current thinking and ways of being. And then, the moment to decide: should we head to Greece and fulfil a lifelong dream? Turn those conversations we had been having for 20 years into reality? To create a place for people who inspire us, who want to explore the deeper questions of existence and what it means to live a Good Life?
The project was – and is – to be an exploration. It was about the willingness to accept risk, to allow chance to happen, and to trust in what it may bring. It’s also about slowing down and experiencing life fully, indulging all of the senses, about following one’s heart (no matter how crazy that leap of faith may seem ). The challenge is to stay open, curious and embrace it all with a sense of wonder.
Coming up with a name for the Laughing Heart project had always been a challenge. Was Good Life too obvious, even trite? A number of other names came up, including Meraki, Eudaimonia and one of our personal favourites, Ef Zin. All alluding to ancient Greek words for ways to describe a life well lived. But they felt forced. The name came, instead, from the title of a poem by the “laureate of American lowlife”, Charles Bukowski, which states, simply and brutally “you can’t beat death, but you can beat death in life, sometimes”
There was an idea, then there was a name and then a place (the place came before the name, but no matter). Aegina, not far from Athens, is relatively undeveloped and undiscovered. You know when you buy an album and there is a song on it you really love at first and also one that feels a little difficult…then over time, the one you loved becomes simplistic and boring and the difficult one blossoms into your favourite, rich, complex and long lasting. That is Aegina.
We continue our search for the right place on the island to build a permanent, creative and connected community space, a piece of land that would be the home for Laughing Heart. Olive groves, pistachio trees, pines, a stone outdoor amphitheatre, a star gazing space to look back into the Kosmos, a library, meditation spaces, a place for symposiums where after eating and drinking, one can indulge in music, dancing and storytelling.
We will be inviting people from all over the world (from politicians, to scientists, artists to teachers, vagabonds to philosophers) all to use this space, to connect, inspire and transform.
The ancients thought it was important to question what makes a Good Life, and we believe it to be even more relevant today.
Come join us.