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Free translation of Cavafis poem “Ithaca” from Greek to English by Harris A. Samaras:
Constantinos P. Cavafis (1911)
When you set out on your journey to Ithaca, pray and hope that the road is long, full of adventures and challenges, full of discovery and knowledge. The Laestrygonians and the Cyclops, the angry Poseidon, fear them not; negligible fixations such as those you will never encounter on your path, if your thoughts are high, if a selective process that touches your mind and body dictates your every action. The Laestrygonians and the Cyclops, the fierce Poseidon you will never encounter, if you do not carry them in your soul, if your soul does not allow them to be set up before you.
Pray that the journey is long. Many may the summer mornings be when with pleasure and joy and rare excitement you enter harbors for the first time; may you stop at Phoenician markets, not just to purchase fine merchandise, mother-of-pearl and coral, amber and ebony, and sensual perfumes of all kinds, get as many hedonic perfumes as you can! And may you visit many Egyptian cities to acquire knowledge but learn from scholars and simple people alike.
But Always keep Ithaca in your mind. To arrive there is your ultimate destination and goal. But hurry not! May the journey last for years and years and anchor at the island an old man, rich from all that you earned on your quest, expecting not that Ithaca will ever provide you with riches.
Ithaca has given you this amazing journey. Without Her you would not have set out. She (Ithaca) has nothing more to give you.
And if you deem Ithaca poor, She deceived you not. Wise as you have become, with all this experience, you must by now have realized the true meaning of Ithacas.
Ithaca, the poem, is not just a story about a fantastic voyage and of a hero overcoming some imaginary or not difficulties on his way back home. It is an inner-self quest for rediscovering who you really are; at the same time it is a celebration of the human nature and the capability of achieving your goals, even if it means that you have to go through the most difficult and unexpected obstacles to reach those goals.
It is the journey not the destination that matters most in ones quest for life, says Cavafis with aesthetism and skepticism! Parabolizing from Homer’s Odyssey, Cavafis expresses through myth, allusion and symbolism that most important in life is the experience acquired from the journey of life and not necessarily just reaching the ultimate single goal. If one allows self to ignore those encounters that are only negligible fixations imposed by society’s status quo; if one challenges the status quo with wisdom and an open mind; facing life without fear, avoiding the frayed and stereotyped; exploring life to the fullest… then this person will be truly rich… this person would have lived and “tasted” life to the fullest!
Entrepreneurship is no different! An excelling entrepreneur and businessman or businesswoman will have to understand life if he or she is to be successful: One will have to enrich his or her critical thinking and thought leadership skills if he or she is to answer the “whys” and the “whynots”, the “cans” and the “cannots”, the “hows” and the “hownots”, the “whatifs”. How else can you achieve your business goals unless you are a true explorer of life? How could you even understand what your business goals are or should be if you do not understand life?Life should not be wasted in always contemplating the goal of one’s endeavors or in building up hopes and schemes for the future but in enjoying the journey, gaining from the journey. An obsession with the final goal can blind a person to the real business of living, which is to enjoy and explore every minute that is available.
Life at times can be disappointing. The goals people strive for, their Ithacas, may not yield what they hoped for. Therefore, it is better not to have fixations. There may be no pot of gold at the end of the rainbow. Ithaca may be poor, with nothing to give. A person should not have the type of lofty ideals that society imposes and considers success. Yet, it is human to have ambitions and expectations, and one must have, to strive to explore and achieve. As the poet states, without having an “Ithaca,” a goal, in mind, there would be no reason to act at all, no reason to embark on a journey…All of us set ever-changing goals that we want to achieve in our lifetime and we strive or not hard throughout our lives to reach these goals. As a result, we can all relate to our hero’s quest to reach Ithaca as being our own journey of life, to reach the goals we set before we start this long voyage. Just like Odysseus, we will all face difficulties, temptations and problems while we try to achieve what we want. The question is whether we have the strength and patience to remain focused on achieving these goals when we come face to face with the extreme difficulties of personal and business life alike – using all the resources of senses and intellect – just like Odysseus finally made it and reached his Ithaca.
What happens if we do not achieve all our goals when we finally reach our Ithaca? Should we be considered unsuccessful? Should we feel that we have failed in our lives or business venture? The answer is clearly “No”. The actual objective lies in making the voyage itself, and to face all those difficulties; to overcome them and gain experience while we are out making the voyage. By the time we reach our Ithaca we will already have gained so much from the trip that whether we reach our goals or not becomes of secondary importance.The poet has a recipe for enjoying the journey that involves the cultivation of a certain habit of mind. The whole person – body, mind, spirit, even soul – must be fully alert and engaged in the life it is living. A person must keep his or her “thoughts raised high,” which means that the mind must not give in to melancholy or disappointment or the sordid aspects of life. The poet in his own unique way highlights the contemplation of art, which leads the mind to the higher levels of the human spirit, rather than allowing it to sink to abyssal depths.
Another prerequisite for happiness and content on the journey is what Cavafis calls “rare excitement.” This might be explained as a certain attitude to the experiences that life produces. A person must cultivate the ability to respond to situations and experiences as if they were entirely new and fresh, never before seen, and therefore an object of wonder and delight. The opposite would be to respond in a tired, mundane way, influenced by habit and custom, or by the polarized elements of society.The last part of the recipe for a fulfilling journey is to enjoy the sensual aspects of life (“as many sensual/hedonic perfumes as you can”), to value beautiful things (symbolized by the precious stones), and to cultivate the intellect. The latter is suggested by the advice to learn and “go on learning” from the scholars in Egypt. The way this is phrased is significant. A person can never say that he or she has learned enough. Learning is an ongoing process with no final end in sight.
The advice given throughout the poem could be summed up as the need to live and feel life, to perceive, enjoy, and understand the world. The aim is to live in the actualities of the present moment, not in the imagined future that will only lead to fixations and obsessions…The final, and perhaps most important, symbol in “Ithaca” is Ithaca itself. Ithaca, Homeric Odysseus’ island kingdom, represents both the starting and ending place. Everyone comes from somewhere. There was a time and place that shaped them and made them what they are. As they reached adulthood they left home. Some went far indeed, even as this poem recommends. Ironically, the farther people get from home or focus (physically, temporally, and ideologically) the more they want to return. The great risk, however, is of idealizing your own personal Ithaca.The point of life is the journey and the experiences along the way. If you go long enough you will eventually get back to where you began. Ithaca is the beginning and the end. Ithaca acts symbolically as a representation of the achievement of the goals people set in their lives. Consequently, the quest for reaching Ithaca stops being just a fantastic voyage... Instead, it can now be thought as everybody’s quest in their lives to make their dreams come true. Ithaca exists for each and every one of us, in personal and business life, although for each in different ways! Remember, it is the path in between that makes life worth living! It is the path in between that makes a business venture a valuable experience and a remarkable story! It is the path in between that enriches our senses and intellect!
The European Union, the International Monetary Fund
and the international media blame Cyprus’ banking practices as the main cause
of the crisis… and made sure, that the economy of Cyprus was ruined in just a
weekend!!! Manically, German and French mainly politicians, argued that Cyprus
is harboring criminal money, that Cyprus is an offshore tax haven and a money
laundering center! For the record, Cyprus
is an EU low tax jurisdiction not an offshore
And it makes one wonder... Have all the so far EU, IMF
and OECD reports and assessments on Cyprus been false?
Why is then Cyprus on the OECD’s
white list of jurisdictions – complying with the global standard
for tax co-operation and exchange of information? How come the OECD financial task force in its last report (and in others before it) stated that Cyprus
complied with all forty-nine of its recommendations to combat money laundering
(interestingly Germany failed to comply with five of them)? How come the
Council of Europe awarded Cyprus with high marks on its last MONEYVAL September 2011 money
laundering report? And, how come the IMF has been forecasting in
its infamous last IMF staff report that Cyprus will have a balanced budget by 2014?
Yes, it is a fact, that the Cypriot economy became
overly reliant on the banking sector, and Cypriot bank portfolios were not
sufficiently diverse. That the resolution of Laiki Bank (country’s second
largest bank) should have been taken up long ago and that the Bank of Cyprus (Cyprus
largest bank) made disastrous bets on buying Greek debt at a discount and lost
$2 billion as a result...
Yes, the public pension system
should have undergone restructuring, i.e. revise contribution rate and
retirement age, base benefits on career average not on final salary, index
pensions to the CPI, etc.
automatic salary increment should have stopped a long time ago, public sector
wages should have been contained and the size of public employment should have been
reduced – public sector employees in Cyprus receive an estimated 30% higher
salaries than those in the private sector!
Yes, C.O.L.A. should have been abolished... It causes large increases in real wages and
deteriorates the competitiveness of domestic companies… it undermines
flexibility and competitiveness as it impedes relative wage adjustments across
companies and sectors in line with productivity differentials... it imparts
inertia to the public sector wage bill… makes it more difficult to reverse the
excessive growth of public sector wages and salaries…
Yes, governmental and
semi-governmental sectors should have enforced a more efficient salary system based
on merit and performance – employees there should not have gotten jobs for life
despite performance – and trade unions (that remain extremely influential and had been pampered
by each and every government in power because of political cost and own
benefits) should not have been influencing management decisions to the extent
that they did.
But did Cyprus
do such terrible things that made it deserve this horrific fate? Is it only
Cyprus’ fault? Is Cyprus the real problem? Is the Euro the real problem? What
about the EU policymakers? Is their incompetence part of the problem at all? Are
we witnessing an EU policy game changer? What is to be expected next from the
EU think tanks and policymakers? Could anyone guess? As the Euro crisis worsens
going into its fifth year, would the EU cathartic and fragmented policy move
from one country bailout to the next? Is the Euro, a grand, political project
with no practical foundation – hence crisis after crisis, with the dominoes stretching
far into the distance?
big question seems to be focusing on systemic risk: To what extent does the
collapse of an institution imperil the financial system of a country as a
whole? Is there really sufficient systemic risk to warrant a rescue of a “country
giant”, in the case of Cyprus the Bank of Cyprus? And if there is, why there
was not sufficient systemic risk seen in rescuing Laiki Bank?
the inability of policymakers, to enforce current regulations by imposing
stricter more complex ones, create a more chaotic, slow-reacting, bureaucratic,
multilevel regulation system which will be at the expense of movement of
capital and everything positive that comes out from it?
Note that now
we have capital controls and withdrawal restrictions and de facto wealth taxes
inside the Eurozone... where depositors were threatened and directly hit... is
the concept of the Euro to exist in the same format? Are we going to observe
the start of multiple versions of the Euro in the near future? The restricted
one now observed in Cyprus and the so far unrestricted one for the rest of the
the problems really lie in entities that tried to take advantage of whatever
conditions they operate under? Or does the real problem lie in the framework
created by politicians and bureaucrats, preventing free markets to deal with
excesses in the way the laissez-faire economic
philosophy always does? Do we want the free market economic system to survive?
Is this version
of democracy (where only majority rule is required, but where there is no
longer a respect for personal negative rights) the right one for the EU to keep
on following? What about human dignity? Shouldn’t all members of the EU be functioning
under the same law? Why was Cyprus treated differently than any other ailing EU
the bloated welfare states begin to collapse under politicians’ inefficiencies,
bigotries, populism-like behavior and irresponsible promises, crumbling value
systems and unsustainable demographics… wouldn’t it be easy to convince more
than 50% of voters that confiscating and stealing other people's money is OK
for the greater good?
it not what happened in Cyprus a clear step towards totalitarianism and suppression
of individual liberty? Is this form of “EU democracy” a mean to the conquest of
EU member states? Is this a new form of tyranny? EU tyranny? Is this what the European
Union stands for? Is this the legacy as citizens of the world and Europe that
we really want to leave behind? And if solid fundamentals are widened wouldn’t
that lead to polarization in Europe?
fate of Cyprus was basically sealed when the Troika revealed its first version
of the bailout package!
President Jeroem Dijsselboem spread terror to Cyprus and the markets worldwide
when he stated that the Cyprus “deal” is the new template... Mr. Dijsselboem said
in essence that the EU will save the Cypriot financial system by destroying it...
along with the rest of the economy of Cyprus... in essence he meant, if this experiment
is successful then it will be used in the future, if it doesn’t, then who gives
a damn about Cyprus...
But did Mr. Dijsselbloem think for a moment about what impact his
so-called template surprise would have on financial markets? Did he consider,
for example, that small and/or fragile banks in Portugal, Spain and Italy would
face increased stress due to an exodus of funds now searching for safer harbors?
Or depositors all over the Euro area would now have a strong reason to get out
of European banks and the Euro, causing damage to both?
A bit later
after criticism from EU partners and the ECB, Mr. Dijsselboem corrected his
comments... Other EU officials hurried also to explain that what happened in
Cyprus was a one off thing, that Cyprus is a unique case while Mr. Schaëble,
the German Finance Minister, attempted to defend Mr. Dijsselboem’s comments...
But then again ECB policymakers rushed to announce that Cyprus will be used as
a model... Yet again, a bothered Mr. Juncker, the Prime Minister of Luxembourg,
stated that Cyprus is not a blueprint, we cannot, he said give the impression
that savings in Europe are not safe... So what is it? Are deposits in Europe
safe or not? And if they are safe, why take such approach with Cyprus? Still
remains to be understood, why Cyprus is such a unique case and what justified
In regard to the
fate of Cyprus... with very little hope for any kind of immediate future it
will more than likely fall into a depression... Hit by fiscal, financial, and wealth shocks... as the Troika demands further
tax hikes and spending cuts in return for its €10 billion bailout loan... for
another, its bail-in and capital controls will effectively kill off its
financial sector and starve its people and businesses of credit... even worse,
those people and businesses are going to need credit now more than ever after
losing so much of their wealth in the bail-in...
In regard to the
fate of Europe... well nobody knows... when it is obvious that the EU leaders
do not know themselves...