Thursday, 17 February 2011

Er's Vision, Life Choices, and Stormy Weather

The sky is thick grey in places, with patches of lighter grey. Every so often it releases rain as if it was emptying an enormous bag or a wineskin, suddenly. Then the clouds move on, restless in the wind.

On the ferry today I thought about Odysseus and wondered what he did and how he lived his life after getting back to Ithaca. How could he possibly I wondered, live a quiet and settled life after all these adventures? Would he not have felt restlessness rising up in him again, after a few seasons of these pellucid blue skies and vistas of clear green water? Would he have been satisfied with a life of collecting oranges off the trees, gathering the olives [though there may not have been olive trees there in his day], tending his animals, enjoying the milk and cheeses from his goats, watching his pigs grow fat? And Penelope, after all her weaving years, did she throw her spindle away with a sigh of relief, or did she decide to create new patterns, branch out into tapestry, focus on abstract designs maybe or go into figurative depictions?

So I think, as the ferry makes its way through a calm sea, with clouds adoringly crowding around the peak of Mount Pantokrator, but a sky otherwise clear, with no hint of rain to come. But it does come later, once we've docked in Igoumenitsa and though I'm grateful to a couple of people who inform me where I can get a bus to Parga, I discover that there isn't one for another two and a half hours. Waiting in Igoumenitsa in the rain then walking around Parga in the rain does not appeal, so after a late breakfast souvlaki, I head back to the port and get a ferry home.

By which time the rain has reached here too, and bursts of wind bang open shutters and loose doors. I like this wild weather, its spirit and its energy and what it makes you confront both in your surroundings and yourself. Normally at this time in the evening the sun would be turning its ethereal colours of pink and mauve but instead it's like a bunched up dark grey garment and the wind is shaking and rattling the canopy over the balcony.

Plato by Raphael, courtesy of Wikipedia

At the end of Plato's Republic there is a remarkable account from one Er, which surely must be the first recorded near death experience. Er, a soldier, was thought to be dead but fortunately before his funeral pyre was lit, he woke up again and recounted his riveting experiences while out of his body. If I remember rightly his visions included seeing a kind of clearing house for souls departing and coming in to incarnate, a spindle-shaped mighty cosmic axis, operated by the Fates, and the 'lots' or lives chosen (the basics of the life drama, once chosen, could not be changed, though there was some freedom of choice in the selection process). And the reason I think of this is that in his vision, Er also saw Odysseus, who had returned to earth for his next life and had opted for a very quiet and humble time, tending the land, and animals, far away from politics and heroics, after the vagaries and wild adventures of his previous life.

Change is good, yes? said the young woman who cut my hair last week. I agreed with her and I'm pleased with my new short hair. Whether or not the basic dramatic structure of our lives is fixed and unalterable because of the choice we made before incarnating, it is good that in the trifling day to day affairs we can make small changes like altering our hairstyle. And it seems that Odysseus had had enough of the hazards of travelling and desired change and so chose what is called an obscure life, unfêted and unambitious, peaceful and close to the land.

The clouds are no longer pulling their punches and huge fat raindrops are pattering on balcony canopies and a gutter or pipe is splashing out onto the street. How lucky I am not to be at sea now, tossed around in a small boat, by Poseidon's storms.


Forest Dream Weaver said...

Hello again,I love the idea of Penelope creating abstract art!And Odysseus, could this not also be "ambition" to end his life travels living a peaceful rural life? Just a thought. R xx.

dritanje said...

Thanks forest dream weaver, yes indeed that could also be an ambition, and in fact it seems thats what he did in his next life if Er is to be believed. But I meant ambition in the warrior and hero sense. Must find out what in fact he and Penelope did do. I'm loving your images that you've put up. M xx

Forest Dream Weaver said...

My comments box is now open.
Would you try it out please!!!!!!!