Wednesday, May 15, 2013

The Odyssey

By Sarah Cherry Illustration

Back in April, I attended our local homeschool conference whose main speaker was Andrew Pudewa from the The Institute for Excellence in Writing.  I have heard Andrew speak before, in several different online formats which I have previously mentioned.  In one of the seminars later in the day, he spoke about four different types or levels of relevancy in which we learn.

Briefly they were: 1)Intrinsic Relevancy in which you are interested in something just because, which causes you to pursue it of your own accord, 2)Inspired Relevancy in which someone else's passion for something inspires you to be interested in it as well, 3)Contrived Relevancy in which you are not very interested, but you have to know it, and 4) Enforced Relevancy in which you learn under duress and therefore engender a hatred for learning.

It is my recent and unexpected experience with number two, Inspired Relevancy, which I wish to write about in this post.

Last week I signed up for a Saturday afternoon webinar with the other Andrew, Andrew Kern of the Circe Institute, on the topic of Homer's Odyssey. Not exactly my passion, but I have learned that when Andrew Kern offers a free webinar, I sign up, regardless the topic, no matter the time slot.

Last weekend, Shane and I celebrated our eleventh wedding anniversary by sending our kids to our wonderful sitter while we enjoyed some quiet down time at home.  By the time the webinar was ready to start on Saturday afternoon, we had just brought them home and put the girls to bed for a nap. I wondered as I logged into the webinar page and saw the poll asking what your previous reading experience with the Odyssey was, if I was getting in over my head as I selected "I have not read the Odyssey." option and submitted my answer.  Oh well, no time like the present to highlight another area of gross ignorance on my part.
As the webinar got under way, I could hear and see Andrew reading aloud from some portion of the story. My ignorance grew. But as he welcomed us and began informally discussing different aspects of the story, reading other portions and discussing various Greek words in his typical conversational style, I began to see that perhaps I could see myself actually reading this story and finding some level of interest and understanding.
In the second half of the webinar, after a quick break, he asked the question, "What is the Odyssey about?" and after listening to several answers provided, he stated that for him it was marriage. And with this pronouncement, he began reading a portion from Book VI and I found myself listening, entranced by Odysseus' words to a girl preparing for her wedding day: 

And may the gods grant you all your heart’s desire, a husband and a home, and mutual harmony, in all its beauty. Since nothing is finer or better than when a man and a woman of one heart and mind stay together, a joy to their friends, a sorrow to their enemies: their own reputation of the very highest. ~The Odyssey
And perhaps it was because it was our anniversary weekend or perhaps it was because I had no idea that these types of ideas were embedded in this ancient Greek epic poem, but I listened with delight to hear the poetry of happy, harmonious marriages praised and honored.
And I now feel inspired to read through each Book in the story and follow the journey of Odysseus back to his waiting Penelope and truly understand why this poem is considered epic in Western civilization.  I am not so starry-eyed as to think I shall truly understand it from a single reading, but that it will no longer be as intimidating and or as confusing as I interact with the Greek gods and places mentioned elsewhere in literature, such as the New Testament.

To know that it can be enjoyed and lines relished is enough, for now.

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