You may recall the poet Constantine Cavafy's wonderful poem, Ithaca, in which he persuades us that it is not the destination that is of importance, but rather the journey itself:
When you set out for IthakaIt always struck me as curious that the poem is entitled ITHACA, but in his text Cavafy always uses Ithaka, perhaps idealizing our mutual destiny that may be conditional to being human, while remaining totally personal and unique. But for the poet, the destination is more a process than a location. If you ever find your Ithaka, you may discover that the joy was in the journey and not the destination.
ask that your way be long,
full of adventure, full of instruction...
Have Ithaka always in your mind.
Your arrival there is what you are destined for.
But don't in the least hurry the journey.
Better it last for years,
so that when you reach the island you are old,
rich with all you have gained on the way...
Odysseus is the adventure story of a man who has been stranded after the fall of Troy, trying to return home. Ulysses is the Latinized version of the name. From the viewpoint of literature, the most astonishing experiment with the form of the novel was James Joyce's ULYSSES, an extraordinary literary achievement. I would venture to say that more people have owned more unread copies of Ulysses than any other novel from any period. I must admit it took me considerable time to thoroughly understand. It is difficult to process such originality that is profoundly dense, but also stands as the most imaginative conception of any literary achievement. No other novel reflected the dilemma of the twentieth century with such imagination and intelligence. There is something magical about this epic volume, so much so that when a new edition is released, I have to own it as though it had just been released.
I think the lure of Ithaca as a Greek Island in the Ionian Sea has been in my mind for as long as I can remember. As a poet in Texas wandering around different neighborhoods, towns and cities, I tended to think of those meandering excursions with blank-paged volumes to capture text as a part of my Odyssey. Part of my unremembered past came bounding out of nowhere from a comment of a friend who reminded me that several years ago, I had composed a musical version of The Odyssey, fifteen scenes with musical numbers that attempted to remain faithful to Homer's text, although it tried to add a contemporary tone. It was a workshop that received a staged reading at the end of the semester. There were many powerful moments, but I found myself daydreaming and fantasizing a different work that would combine the island of Ithaca with the lost continent of Atlantis.
So as the allure of Jeju Island loomed large on the horizon of my future, Jeju began to delineate aspects of my odyssey that was still in process of becoming. Even the writing of this text is part of the becomingness that links to themes of the past years, a quest that somehow is involved with the understanding of identity.
So I went to Jeju, which happened to be the destination of a fantasy story I had been sketching. The story was about an older man on a quest to find the answer to a mystery that finally leads him to Jeju. And now, through an incredible sequence of events, I found myself on Jeju Island, at the juncture of my own odyssey.
Jeju was a feast for the senses, a spiritual haven that nurtured spiritual awareness and fed my imagination. The island was born of volcanic activity beginning two-and-half-million years ago culminating in the eruption of a giant volcano a hundred-thousand-years ago. The volcano is now known as Mount Halla (Hallasan), the tallest mountain of South Korea. The island has flourished and is abundant with life, surrounded by the ocean to the North (the Strait of Korea and the Yellow Sea), with the Pacific Ocean to the South. Because the oceans have different temperatures, the abundance of different species in the two oceans provide an array of fish that is quite rare.
As I explored Jeju Island, I discovered through a friend a small restaurant on the southwest coast known as Zen Hideaway. There I would sit for hours writing and experiencing the presence of the ocean and distant islands that appeared to be calling me.
A little further into the ocean lay the dim outline of my island Ithaca, as I sketched in my journal. Ithaca was just a fantasy, connecting to the cradle of western civilization...and as I slipped into remote origins, I thought of Atlantis... the ultimate illusion of civilization lost, a continent so remote that it is dismissed by Plato as merely a fable.
It seemed more than coincidence that my Odyssey, begun on the dusty plains of Texas in my younger days had led me to New York City, then to Europe, and now to the remote island of Jeju. As I walked the terrain of Jeju, it seemed famliar and receptive. I felt the power of SanbangSan. and the sense of well-being associated with Jeju, with a welcoming spiritual presence... maybe a homecoming... but I knew I'd been this way before.
In the middle of May, before this posting , I wrote the following poem:
This poem came from what seems to be emerging as a series of Not-This-Far themes. It's no secret that I am continually surprised to find I'm still here. As I entered my fourth decade, I thought maybe I had overstayed my tenure. Now as I enter the eighth decade, I understand there are different expectations.Not this far. . .
I never knew I would survive
Beyond a barrier
Self conceived and self imposed
So long ago
That empty pages found a way
To mock my delusion,
Imitating the nothingness
Of anticipated emptiness.
Now these words . . .
I never knew I could revive
An unknown continent
Remembered, yet emerging
So far away
That silent chambers now resound
To shape a new perception,
Celebrating the resonance . . .
Restoring such abundant songs!
I draw attention to this recent poem because of the metaphor of an "unknown continent" that was apparently lingering on the fringes of consciousness even before I could identify and articulate the meaning of this new emerging intuition.
The purpose of my Blogs is that of uncovering, discovering, and disclosing the process of actualizing experience as a real and emerging entity. It is an underlying theme of how Time processed creates Quality as we record the singularity of what we notice.
As I follow this quest, I sense something emerging that somehow is connected to well-being, which is part of my remote past. Returning home to New York from Jeju, I came across a manuscript that was water damaged from a flood, my draft of a work that links ancient and modern worlds and the meeting of East and West. This document emerged from my experience with workshops in meditation and improvisation on Panther Mountain in Phonecia, a retreat near Woodstock in the Catskills in the 1980s. What came from this was one of my first works based on improvisation and well-being that eventually led to recent experiences with students at NYU in EXPANDED MUSIC sessions in Provincetown Playhouse.