The Road Leads Home

Many times I’ve been alone and many times I’ve cried
Anyway you’ll never know the many ways I’ve tried
And still they lead me back to the long and winding road
You left me standing here a long, long time ago
Don’t leave me waiting here, lead me to you door

https://www.youtube.com/embed/fUO7N-zSMYc?rel=0“>Beatles, The Long and Winding Road

Road songs, road trip novels and movie scripts, mythic journeys (e.g. the Odyssey): why is the Road such a common, universal cultural motif?

mountain-road-1013tm-pic-1563

Usually the Road leads Home or completes a full cycle of Departure–Transformation–Return, as per Joseph Campbell’s well known insight about “the Hero with 1000 Faces“. The mythic journey we all take is a “going and a Return”; it  is a journey of Self-discovery and advancement to ever greater horizons.

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Is it an Illusion, though? The Journey or Winding Road metaphor is after all just that: a way to frame experience as an ongoing, coherent Process. We depart from point A, traverse through obstacles or vistas, and ultimately aim to arrive at a “later” destination, one that is the same as that which we departed from, but we have gained through the struggle and lessons learned a greater maturity, skills and awareness. The Prodigal offspring, we seek to acquire wisdom in the lower realms in order to be of even greater service and humility when we finally return to the divine source of our own true essence. And every lesser journey is a microcosm or a small step along that ultimate Pathway of spiritual unfoldment in the eternal Nowness that IS.

Well then, just think of it! Nothing is ever wasted; every experience carries within it the Seed of this ultimate Return.

Ithaka

BY C. P. CAVAFY

TRANSLATED BY EDMUND KEELEY AND PHILIP SHERRARD

As you set out for Ithaka
hope your road is a long one,
full of adventure, full of discovery.
Laistrygonians, Cyclops,
angry Poseidon—don’t be afraid of them:
you’ll never find things like that on your way
as long as you keep your thoughts raised high,
as long as a rare excitement
stirs your spirit and your body.
Laistrygonians, Cyclops,
wild Poseidon—you won’t encounter them
unless you bring them along inside your soul,
unless your soul sets them up in front of you.
Hope your road is a long one.
May there be many summer mornings when,
with what pleasure, what joy,
you enter harbors you’re seeing for the first time;
may you stop at Phoenician trading stations
to buy fine things,
mother of pearl and coral, amber and ebony,
sensual perfume of every kind—
as many sensual perfumes as you can;
and may you visit many Egyptian cities
to learn and go on learning from their scholars.
Keep Ithaka always in your mind.
Arriving there is what you’re destined for.
But don’t hurry the journey at all.
Better if it lasts for years,
so you’re old by the time you reach the island,
wealthy with all you’ve gained on the way,
not expecting Ithaka to make you rich.
Ithaka gave you the marvelous journey.
Without her you wouldn’t have set out.
She has nothing left to give you now.
And if you find her poor, Ithaka won’t have fooled you.
Wise as you will have become, so full of experience,
you’ll have understood by then what these Ithakas mean.

C. P. Cavafy, “The City” from C.P. Cavafy: Collected Poems. Translated by Edmund Keeley and Philip Sherrard. Translation Copyright © 1975, 1992 by Edmund Keeley and Philip Sherrard. Reproduced with permission of Princeton University Press.

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