I have always been a fan/student of mythology. I have a hand-full of posts scattered throughout this blog on the topic. Of those however I have never done a post on The Odyssey of Homer, which is my favorite mythological story by far. This story constantly evolves for me, as my wife pointed out the other day, and constantly has new meaning. Which I think is the nature of a good story or myth. I have had a few things in my life evolve for me as I have aged and interestingly they have all had a root in mythology, and they have all been very defining to me.
Right now I am reading the second book in the “Percy Jackson” series of books (Rick Riordan) to my boys (and sometime my wife). Which parallels a lot of the Odyssey. Which meant last night as we were talking around the dinner table we moved from talking about Percy Jackson to the Odyssey and I became very animated as I was retelling my favorite parts to the boys. My wife pointed out to me that being a husband and a father has helped me understand the story, not better necessarily, but in a whole new light. The motivation of Odysseus carries much more weight with me than the battles and the wit he employed (don’t get me wrong I still totally enjoy that stuff). I find myself understanding why you would fight a war for 10 years and struggle 10 more to find your way home.
I can understand it so clearly now that I can see myself in those stories. Not only do I understand those stories I recognize them in my own life as well. My family is my Ithaca, and being a good father and husband is the odyssey that I am on. There are demons, monsters, and sirens to fight, battles to be faced bravely, and storms to weather. And they are not easy. I can remember as a kid reading this story for the first time and saying “oh man I’d have just given up, it was too hard…” and as a kid I would have. As a father I can’t and I won’t. I know all to well how great my Ithaca is. I have made a living bed out of love for my wife, and I yearn to see my boys grow to be men. So what obstacle, what demon, what storm is worth surrendering to and thereby sacrificing those things. I can tell you as a man approaching middle-age that there is none.
I had no idea that my fascination with mythology in my youth would become such in intricate part of my life as an adult. The lessons I have learned, which provide clarity and reason to my life, have been profound. I hope that in some small measure I can pass these lessons on to my children. I believe that is what being a father is all about.