To find your Ithaka

ithaca

In the ancient Greek epic of Homer, Odysseus would after the war in Troy sail home to his wife and his birthplace, Ithaka. During this trip, Odyssey, which took over 10 years, Odysseus experienced a series of exciting adventures before he finally returned home. As for Odysseus, the creative process can be a long and sometimes difficult, but often exciting, journey towards a glorious goal.

But while it’s important to set goals and priorities, it’s even more important to enjoy the process. The goal should be just at the horison, but the voyage is happening right now and it should be exciting and meaningful.

If you are just blindly staring at your goal, you will miss the journey and the risk is great to get tired and give up before you reach your destiny.

The Greek poet C. P. Cavafy has, in his beautiful poem “Ithaka“, in a beautiful and inspiring way described the essence of letting the destiny control the journey, but to collect a wealth of joy and experience in the meantime.

As you set out for Ithaka
hope the voyage is a long one,
full of adventure, full of discovery.

Laistrygonians and Cyclops,
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.

Laistrygonians and Cyclops,
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 the voyage is a long one.
May there be many a summer morning when,
with what pleasure, what joy,
you come into harbours seen 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 gather stores of knowledge from their scholars.
Keep Ithaka always in your mind.
Arriving there is what you are destined for.

But do not hurry the journey at all.
Better if it lasts for years,
so you are old by the time you reach the island,
wealthy with all you have gained on the way,
not expecting Ithaka to make you rich.

Ithaka gave you the marvelous journey.
Without her you would not 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 will have understood by then what these Ithakas mean.

You can find the poem on Youtube, recited by Sean Connery and with specially composed background music by Vangelis – a 4½ minute experience that can be highly recommended.

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Author: Karl Ekdahl

International public health leader and creativity blogger.

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