On The Odyssey, the Timeless Story of Adventure

I WAS INSPIRED to read Homer’s The Odyssey a couple of years ago when I heard one of my favorite writers Walter Isaacson recommend it on the Tim Ferris Show. 

I just finished reading it for the second time, as The Odyssey is the ultimate story of adventure, timeless, and relatable to anyone of us as we live out our personal odysseys.

Isaacson says:

The Odyssey is a particularly important one because I think life is an odyssey. Especially as you're young and you're coming out of college, you've got to travel. You've got to get on the road. You've got to connect with different types of people and have adventures.

The Odyssey is the story of Odysseus, the Greek king of Ithaca, on his way home from fighting in the Trojan War in around 1,200 BCE.

His return home takes about ten years. On the high seas, he encounters the cyclops, the lotus-eaters, the alluring sirens, and all the gods and goddesses of ancient Greece.

Odysseus never gives in to their temptations or their threats. He never surrenders knowing his rocky island of Ithaca awaits if he can continue fighting, day in and day out.

I found the encounter thoughtful when the great king Menelaus takes in Prince Telemachus, Odysseus’s son, who’s desperately searching for his father. The king’s aide-in-arms asks Menelaus:

Strangers just arrived, but they look like kin of mighty Zeus himself. Should we unhitch their team for them or send them to someone free to host them well?

Menelaus takes offense to this question and replies:

Think of the hospitality we enjoyed at the hands of other men before we made it home, and God save us from such hard treks in years to come. Quick, unhitch their team. And bring them in, strangers, guests, to share our flowing feats.

What if we could view life as a grand adventure, where we don’t know when we’ll need the assistance of a friend or even the love of a stranger?

As we navigate this great voyage, we must give love for nothing in return; we must lend help to those who need it from the goodness in our hearts.

I was inspired to read the Odyssey for the first time when I graduated from college because of Walter Isaacson, one of my favorite writers.

The men he writes about in his brilliant biographies such as Leonardo da Vinci, Benjamin Franklin, and Albert Einstein have something in common — their desire to explore the world, to experience different kinds of people, to find their place.

Isaacson says:

Read The Odyssey and all the others who felt that by exploring and getting on the road, it connected them better to humanity and thus eventually set them on the path for what Walker Percy called the search, which is how do I fit into all this?

Ultimately, Odysseus wants nothing more than to return home. In this unique time, where we aren’t able to travel internationally, reading The Odyssey makes me appreciate the joy of home.

We’ll be able to get out there and continue our adventures soon. But each season of life holds meaning; we must appreciate this very moment, not solely looking to the future or thinking of the past, for the present will be gone and swept away before we know it.

Right now is part of our odyssey, a moment to appreciate.

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