Is “home” a lie we tell ourselves?
I read this a few days back in one of those Stoicism write ups. (Roger Whitney had introduced my to Stoicism). Worth reading for all of us. Although the message will probably not resonate with youngsters as much.
If you’ve ever made it to the end of Homer’s Odyssey, you might have noticed a rather strange part of the ending. It’s a part that’s talked about a lot less than the rest of the poem, possibly because it makes so little sense. You see, despite spending every waking second for ten years fighting to get home, despite overcoming nearly insurmountable obstacles on his way, despite all the carnage of the final battle to reclaim his kingdom, Odysseus does something almost inconceivable the second he possesses what he longed for…
…he starts planning to leave again! On another mission. Another voyage. Didn’t he learn his lesson? Can’t he be content or happy for even one minute? Apparently not.
Perhaps this is really the message of the epic: We are incapable of being still. Even when we get what we want, we immediately crave something else. We are addicted to the hunt, to the journey, and ‘home’ is just a lie we tell ourselves. Isn’t that sad?
Seneca, an ambitious guy if there ever was one, wrote about the shameful spectacle of the “lawyer whose dying breath passes while at court, at an advanced age, pleading for unknown litigants and still seeking the approval of ignorant spectators.” He was just talking about Odysseus in another form — he was talking about all of us who can’t stop, who have to keep going, who have to keep achieving, who are incapable of knowing what “enough” is.
The key to a great life — and to happiness — is stillness. It’s contentment. It’s enjoying what we have. It’s the ability to say “no”. To reject the temptation to do more even if more is another impressive journey or an occupational honor.
Stop. At least for today. Just stop. Be still.
The author also talks about the book “Stillness is the Key” as a suggested read. As you will see in review of the book I did in April this year, I was fairly unimpressed. I will post if I come across better books (by my judgment).