Ithaka…

When you set out for Ithaka
ask that your way be long,
full of adventure, full of instruction.
The Laistrygonians and the Cyclops,
angry Poseidon – do not fear them:
such as these you will never find
as long as your thought is lofty, as long as a rare
emotion touch your spirit and your body.
The Laistrygonians and the Cyclops,
angry Poseidon – you will not meet them
unless you carry them in your soul,
unless your soul raise them up before you.

Ask that your way be long.
At many a Summer dawn to enter
with what gratitude, what joy –
ports seen for the first time;
to stop at Phoenician trading centres,
and to buy good merchandise,
mother of pearl and coral, amber and ebony,
and sensuous perfumes of every kind,
sensuous perfumes as lavishly as you can;
to visit many Egyptian cities,
to gather stores of knowledge from the learned.

Have Ithaka always in your mind.
Your arrival there is what you are destined for.
But don’t in the least hurry the journey.
Better it last for years,
so that when you reach the island you are old,
rich with all you have gained on the way,
not expecting Ithaka to give you wealth.
Ithaka gave you a splendid journey.
Without her you would not have set out.
She hasn’t anything else to give you.

And if you find her poor, Ithaka hasn’t deceived you.
So wise you have become, of such experience,
that already you’ll have understood what these Ithakas mean.

Ithaka-by Constantine P. Cavafy


How reassuring the thought that we were once giants, that we were once perfect and somehow immortal, that, if there is no evidence that we have lived, no one can say precisely that we have died…
“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.” Each of their Ithakas—sense of original identity—means the same as yours.
Ithaka is the home that gives you an origin, that you grow out of and that greets you as a stranger when you finally return.
Ithaca exists for each and everyone of us, but in a different way. Only the bold make the journey.

Today’s bit of ancient wisdom:

“Bear in mind that every man lives only this present time, which is an indivisible point, and that all the rest of his life is either past or it is uncertain. Short then is the time which every man lives, and small the nook of the earth where he lives; and short too the longest posthumous fame, and even this only continued by a succession of poor human beings, who will very soon die, and who know not even themselves, much less him who died long ago. “Marcus Aurelius. Meditations. Book 3.

Stoic philosophy is meant to be for everyone, regardless of class, race, age or occupation. This is because stoic philosophers themselves came from varying lifestyles and social classes, yet most of them arrived at the same conclusions. For example Epictetus was born a slave, yet Marcus Aurelius was born a Roman Emperor, both of them however lead extraordinary lives.

Therefore this philosophy transcends space, time, and personal circumstances, making it freely available to anyone who wishes to understand it.

Image: Marcus Aurelius Distributing Bread to the People by Joseph-Marie Vien, 1765 at the Musée de Picardie in Picardy, France.