Monday, January 11, 2010


If I had a euro every time I was asked why I gave up a perfectly good life and career prospects to come to Athens I’d probably be quite rich by now. Of course, that was seventeen years ago, when Greece was still using drachmas, and I was single, young and idealistic.

The fact that I had nowhere to live, no connections, no inheritance and all my money in a travellers cheque that I couldn’t get to because of a six-month bank strike actually made the adventure more appealing. In hindsight it was all quite irrational. But here I am…still…with no thoughts of ever leaving though the occasional pang of homesickness tends to hit as I recall the exquisiteness of what might have been.

Then I remember my Greek roots and love of Cavafy and Kazantzakis and ultimate need for a life filled with daily challenges and philosophical perusals. Indeed, “A man needs a little madness, or else he never dares cut the rope and be free.” So says Kazantzakis.

Seventeen years onwards I wonder if I am free…I guess, I’m still looking for Ithaca, though I know now that it is not a place but a state of being:


When you set out on your journey to Ithaca,
pray that the road is long,
full of adventure, full of knowledge.
The Lestrygonians and the Cyclops,
the angry Poseidon - do not fear them:
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 set 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,
as many sensual perfumes as you can;
visit many Egyptian cities,
to learn and learn from scholars.

Always keep Ithaca 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 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.
She has nothing mroe 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 have already have understood what Ithacas mean.

Constantine P. Cavafy (1911)

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