Lessons From Literature: The Odyssey

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Homer’s The Odyssey, Translated by Robert Fagles – my summer read

If you’ve been following along for a while, you might know that I have been reading Homer’s “The Odyssey” on-and-off since November. Despite the fact that I am only at the half-way mark, I feel that it’s relevant to share a couple lessons that I’ve picked up so far – because this nearly 3000 year old epic poem is still relevant!

For those of you who are unfamilliar with the Odyssey, it’s the classic tale of Odysseus and the struggles that he encounters as he tries to return from the Trojan War.  Odysseus was a successful warrior and king, but he lets that go to his head and ends up offending the Gods – and just about everyone else in his wake. The results? A perilous ten year quest to a home where he’s long been forgotten.

Karma is, without a doubt, a bitch.

Here are two lessons from the Odyssey:

1. Boastfulness does not make friends. Odysseus managed to get himself into quite the pickle – but not without cause or reason. It turns out that his arrogance had dire consequences. I guess even the Ancient Greeks didn’t like that guy who was full of himself!

Sure, you know you’re awesome, but let others judge for themselves. Let your actions speak for themselves: whether it’s volunteering your time to an organization, fundraising, or just being a really present with your family and friends. 

2. Gratitude and courtesy are never wasted. Throughout the first half of the Odyssey I was amazed by the politeness that Odysseus showed towards his hosts and the graciousness of those who helped him along the way. Perhaps he’d learned his lesson after years of suffering at sea? His eloquent words of thanks and gratitude go a long way to solidify new friendships and secure his needs.

Common courtesy is not-so-common these days. We can all benefit from being more gracious, whether it’s for help given or received. Play things forward and reflect on the good things that you have at hand.

So who said the old stories aren’t still relevant? 

Everyone has their own journey and encounters struggles at some point in their life. But if there’s something that we can take away from classic stories is that boastfulness will only hinder you, while common courtesy will never go out of style. 

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6 thoughts on “Lessons From Literature: The Odyssey

  1. Pingback: Book Review: Let’s Pretend This Never Happened (Jenny Lawson) | Transitionelle

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