Living in the moment, has become something difficult for me to do. I want to look forward to–and worry about–the future, as well as focus on troubles from the past. Taking advantage of the present, and the opportunties it presents me, is somewhat of a challenge.
In order to help me in that challenge, and to quiet the disquiet in my mind, I have decided to memorize a poem or quotation each week. I will share my thoughts on my passage for the week, each Monday.
This week, I have decided to memorize my favorite poem, Ithaca, by Constantine Cavefy. As I’ve said before, to know me is to know this poem. But, what does it mean, and what are its implications in our lives?
First, you need to read the poem, along with my initial thoughts on it, here. We are such a destination-oriented society, in both the literal and figurative sense. We’re told that if we don’t have a destination, then we will go nowhere. One of my favorite sailing quotes is “If one does not know to which port one is sailing, then no wind is favorable,” by Seneca.
I love that quote because it is so wrong.
When we had no destination, every wind was favorable. Without being fixated on a goal, we were free to explore, free to be spontaneous, and free to change our minds. When bad weather hit, we were not disappointed about staying in port, even for a week.
And so it is with life. When we’re not fixated on our ending point, we are more able to learn from the journey. And when obstacles are in our way, delaying the meeting of our goal, we are more able to be patient, when we’re not living for the goal alone.
This is a lesson that I learned the hard way. I chose my career very early on, back when I was 13, actually, and set about working toward this goal. It was worthwhile, because having a direction make high school make more sense to me. But, it was in college that I rushed the journey.
I was sure that if I followed the script and did everything right, I would arrive in “Ithaca.” I would have a rewarding job that I enjoyed going to everyday, a nice, large house in the suburbs, financial security, a family, and SUV…the so-called American dream. This life would bring me happiness, and there was no point in taking my time getting there. In order to achieve my goals, I needed to work toward a dual major, which is nearly impossible to complete in the standard 4 years.
In my defense, my hurrying was encouraged by society. Rather than asking how things were going, or what I was learning, people asked me how close I was to being done. I piled on the credits, earned good grades, but it always bothered me that I couldn’t give any class my best. There were just too many of them! I became busy. And I still did not finish in 4 years. After that, people began voicing their doubt that I ever would finish. There was definite pressure for me to hurry to my destination.
And, in the end, I found Ithaca to be poor. The destination was not what I had hoped it would be, and I had not taken advantage of the wisdom that was available on what could have been a splended journey. But that mistake, even, is just a lesson that I’ve learned on our current journey.
This time, we understand that it is more than all right, that we haven’t reached our destination yet. In fact, it’s all right that we’re not yet sure of our destination. We’re taking the experiences that each day has to offer, and learning what we can from them.