#2: It’s The Journey… Silly!
When we were at school, we read The Odyssey of Homer. Schoolchildren really enjoy the magic, the sensuality, the horror and the overwhelming sense of retribution of the story. I never imagined such an interpretation as this one by CP Cavafy in his poem Ithaka which I only encountered twenty or so years ago. But the sense of it is remarkably human and authentic. The quality of the journey is what is important, not so much the destination itself. Read it aloud to yourself and see what you think.
So much down-to-earth goodness and straightforwardness of behaviour is in this poem. Hope for a long life, maintain a level of high energy, don’t concentrate on your demons, enjoy the wild, mystical sights, sounds and experiences. Keep on learning forever and apply your learning to your goal (of which you should not lose sight). But wander slowly and contemplatively, enjoy the richness of your experience. Know that your goal setting has given you the marvellous journey; the goal itself may now be valueless. Take your wisdom and fall in love with yourself. This last bit is simply me, my interpretation of what these journeys mean – falling in love, over and over again.
When you have finished reading it aloud to yourself, you may wish to read it aloud to your children, your nephews and nieces, your grandchildren, your friends. It is a little countertrend in these days of goal setting, focus, and visualization practices and, of course, I have already written of my admiration for these tools. And I am also grateful for the redress of balance that Cavafy provides.
June 12, 2019
As you set out for Ithaka
hope your road is a long one,
full of adventure, full of discovery.
angry Poseidon—don’t be afraid of them:
you’ll never find things like that on your way
as long as you keep your thoughts raised high,
as long as a rare excitement
stirs your spirit and your body.
wild Poseidon—you won’t encounter them
unless you bring them along inside your soul,
unless your soul sets them up in front of you.
Hope your road is a long one.
May there be many summer mornings when,
with what pleasure, what joy,
you enter harbours you’re seeing for the first time;
may you stop at Phoenician trading stations
to buy fine things,
mother of pearl and coral, amber and ebony,
sensual perfume of every kind—
as many sensual perfumes as you can;
and may you visit many Egyptian cities
to learn and go on learning from their scholars.
Keep Ithaka always in your mind.
Arriving there is what you’re destined for.
But don’t hurry the journey at all.
Better if it lasts for years,
so you’re old by the time you reach the island,
wealthy with all you’ve gained on the way,
not expecting Ithaka to make you rich.
Ithaka gave you the marvellous journey.
Without her you wouldn’t have set out.
She has nothing left to give you now.
And if you find her poor, Ithaka won’t have fooled you.
Wise as you will have become, so full of experience,
you’ll have understood by then what these Ithakas mean.
Written by CP Cavafy, and translated by Edmund Keeley (1975)