I am off to Greece in the morning, to look at old stones and swim in ancient seas. It’s a vacation, but I will be reading Jan Patocka’s Plato and Europe, in which he explores the Greek philosophical origins of what he terms “the fundamental heritage of Europe”, which is “the care of the soul,” just to keep in trim for the riches in store. Will I find Apollo or Dionysus? Plato or Zorba? Watch this space.
And on the eve of departure, what better invocation than C.V. Cavafy’s “Ithaca”:
When you set out on your journey to Ithaca,
pray that the road is long,
full of adventure, full of knowledge.
Do not fear the Lestrygonians
and the Cyclops and the angry Poseidon.
You will never find such as these on your path,
if your thoughts remain lofty, if a fine
emotion touches your spirit and your body.
The Lestrygonians and the Cyclops,
the fierce Poseidon you will never encounter,
if you do not carry them within your soul,
if your soul does not raise them up before you.
Pray that the road is long.
That the summer mornings are many, when,
with such pleasure, with such joy
you will enter ports seen for the first time;
stop at Phoenician markets,
and purchase fine merchandise,
mother-of-pearl and coral, amber and ebony,
and sensual perfumes of all kinds,
buy as many sensual perfumes as you can;
visit hosts of Egyptian cities,
to learn and learn from those who have knowledge.
Always keep Ithaca fixed in your mind.
To arrive there is your ultimate goal.
But do not hurry the voyage at all.
It is better to let it last for many years;
and even to anchor at the island when you are old,
rich with all you have gained on the way,
not expecting that Ithaca will offer you riches.
Ithaca has given you the beautiful voyage.
Without her you would have never set out on the road.
But she has nothing more to give you.
And if you find her poor, Ithaca has not deceived you.
Wise as you have become, with so much experience,
you must surely have understood by then what Ithacas mean.