August 18, 2008


The Goat Rope Odyssey cruise continues, along with the usual links and comments about current events. If you like mythology, click on earlier posts.

Aristotle said that every story should have a beginning, a middle and an end. That's true of Homer's Odyssey, although it's not told in a chronological way. It begins near the end, shortly before Odysseus' long-delayed homecoming after 10 years of fighting at Troy and 10 more years of wandering and getting stuck.

Here's a skeletal outline for now:

The goddess Athena asks her father Zeus to give Odysseus a break and help him go home. He's been stuck on the island of the goddess Calypso for seven years. It doesn't sound like a bad gig: sun, sand, surf, and sex with a goddess (most of whom were considered to be hot), yet he cries every day out of homesickness. Zeus agrees to cut him some slack.

The story then cuts to the Old Home Place at Ithaca. Things are bad. Swarms of suitors are swarming around his wife, the faithful Penelope. Most people think her husband is dead and she is under great pressure to marry. The suitors are insolent, bullying his son Telemachus and eating the family out of house and home.

Athena then goes to Ithaca to give Telemachus a boost and suggest a plan of action that gives him something positive to do and gets him out of harm's way for a while. He visits the homes Odysseus's' old comrades Menelaus and Nestor seeking news of his father and gaining a good repute.

We don't get to the main character until book 5, when the god Hermes (see last week) visits the island of Calypso and tells her she needs to let him go and help him on his way. Odysseus sails off with her help but is shipwrecked by the sea god Poseidon, who holds a grudge for Odysseus' blinding of his son Polyphemus the cyclops.

Eventually he makes it to the land of the Phaeacians, where he receives hospitality and eventually reveals himself. It's there that we hear from the man himself the well known stories of the cyclops, Circe, Scylla and Charybdis and the other disasters that befell him on his way home.

(There's a lot of irony in this story. One example is the fact that Odysseus is a totally unreliable narrator who has a great deal of trouble telling the truth. Was he or wasn't he?)

The Phaeacians deliver him safely to Ithaca where after many ruses he and Telemachus open a major can of smackdown on the suitors and he is reunited with Penelope. The carnage is severe but the gods again intervene to make peace.

Next time: greatest hits.

KNOW NOTHINGS. Has ignorance become a badge of honor?

ORWELL AND STRAUSS. A philosophy of fear underlies much of current politics.

LEAVING WAR TO THE PRIVATE SECTOR. Here's a good editorial from the Gazette.

TOUGH QUESTIONS ABOUT QUESTIONINGS. Psychologists are debating whether assisting in military interrogations is a violation of professional ethis.

DOING GOOD AND DOING WELL. Socially responsible investment funds are catching on.


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