The Joy Is In The Journey

20 Sep

For students at Glasgow, this weekend has marked the official beginning of term.

On the weekend that I moved in, my parents got lost. That’s mostly what I remember. They were driving from Newcastle to Glasgow in a two-seater van that was crammed full of all my possessions, and I was getting a bus from Newcastle and then changing onto a train at Edinburgh, and, when I called them from Edinburgh, they were lost. They claim it was the sat nav’s fault. I claim that it’s not rocket science to figure out that if you’re in England and you’re driving to Scotland, following the signs for The South is the wrong way. That was two years ago (and, no, we’re no closer to resolving that particular argument). It was my fourth year at university, my second shot at being a fresher, and the beginning of my first week as a medical student.

I’ve been trying to write down a bit of what I’ve learned and most want to pass on, but I’ve found that the most important things can best be summed up by the title of this post, and like this:


When you start on your journey to Ithaca,
then pray that the road is long,
full of adventure, full of knowledge.
Do not fear the Lestrygonians
and the Cyclopes and the angry Poseidon.
You will never meet such as these on your path,
if your thoughts remain lofty, if a fine
emotion touches your body and your spirit.
You will never meet the Lestrygonians,
the Cyclopes and the fierce Poseidon,
if you do not carry them within your soul,
if your soul does not raise them up before you.

Then pray that the road is long.
That the summer mornings are many,
that you will enter ports seen for the first time
with such pleasure, with such joy!
Stop at Phoenician markets,
and purchase fine merchandise,
mother-of-pearl and corals, amber and ebony,
and pleasurable perfumes of all kinds,
buy as many pleasurable perfumes as you can;
visit hosts of Egyptian cities,
to learn and learn from those who have knowledge.

Always keep Ithaca fixed in your mind.
To arrive there is your ultimate goal.
But do not hurry the voyage at all.
It is better to let it last for long years;
and even to anchor at the isle when you are old,
rich with all that you have gained on the way,
not expecting that Ithaca will offer you riches.

Ithaca has given you the beautiful voyage.
Without her you would never have taken the road.
But she has nothing more to give you.

And if you find her poor, Ithaca has not defrauded you.
With the great wisdom you have gained, with so much experience,
you must surely have understood by then what Ithacas mean.

(KP Kavafis, translated by Rae Dalven)

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Posted by on September 20, 2009 in Blog, Medicine


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