The Odyssey PR: Life and its real meaning

The Odyssey is one of the most fascinating books that I have ever read because of its relevant themes that affect society nowadays, such as temptation, hierarchy, faith, death, family, and mortality. All of these themes and many more are highlighted by Homer in this book, yet one that has been on my mind since day one is the meaning of being alive, as it is a philosophical question that everyone has been trying to decipher for thousands of years.

What does it mean to be alive? What do we live for? Before entering the dark, unnerving Gate of Hades, Odysseus wants to give up. In other words, he wants to die. After all, why is he enduring so much pain just to go back home? But, when he arrives there and meets Akhellieus- the greatest fighter of all time- and his mom, he realizes that death is not an easy escape, it is an eternal prison. He remembers Penelope, awaiting him in Ithaka; his father, whose hopes to see his son have been completely crushed by grief.

He, now, has something to live for. He knows the hardships and conflicts he faces will be worth it because he will be rewarded with feelings of joy, comfort, and safety. That is the same for us. Most of us have faith that our adversities will turn into blessings after we undergo them. Life is meaningless until we find something worth getting up from bed for. Odysseus finds meaning in his life when he realizes he has a limited time to spend with his loved ones. He is not a god. Neither are we. And that is exactly why we need to cherish and be grateful for insignificant existence.

Paradise and Death: Personal response

“For Odysseus, for everyone, unconsciousness is death.” (p. 17) is what MacKnight stated in his work “Paradise and Death”. In this essay, MacKnight talks about the temptations of Odysseus, and how, even after 3000 years, human nature is so complex to understand yet so simple to predict that we can still apply the temptations of the bravest, wisest man of Greece into our current lives. There are six opportunities in which Odysseus can escape, in which he can forget all of his problems and perhaps live happily ever after, just like in fairy tales. We have the Loto Eaters, Kirke’s island, the Sirenes, Kalypso’s island, the three tormenting days caused by Poseidon, and Phaiakia. The Odyssey would be half of the pages it is if he had just picked to stay on the beautiful island of Kalypso, or perhaps decided to drown in his own suffering and please Poseidon with his death. Death has always been appealing to us, even to Odysseus; an unsolved mystery that once you find out of, you never come back to tell the rest about it. So, why is it that he refused over and over again to take his last breath on Earth?

Odysseus had no rush in coming back home from Kirke’s island. He was living comfortably, and felt safe after most of his men were killed because of his curiosity. But, as MacKnight says (p.4): “Odysseus has not yet been to Hades, the land of the dead, where he learns the importance of home and reality.” Odysseus, once entering the world of Hades, understands why Akhilleus would give anything to go back to the living; why his mom died because of grief. “For Odysseus, apparently, home has remained until this moment a timeless place in his imagination.” And that is true, not only for Odysseus, but for us too. How many times have we been curious of death, yet inevitably scared by it as soon as someone close to us passes away? How many of us have truly appreciated life after being so close to death? Funny enough, refusing to die is a type of death itself. Refusing to die means we are ready to live in the present, such as Odysseus when he decides to ignore the Sirenes and their song of Troy. We have all been caught in the feeling of nostalgia at one point in our lives. That bittersweet feeling; it brings us happiness; it brings us certainty; it reminds us we can control the past. But for the future? What does it behold for us? As Socrates would say, the only thing we know is that we know nothing. Yet, in living in the present, we are accepting our human nature: that we don’t know anything, yet we are still thriving for a future. In living fully, we will experience grief and sorrow, but also their opposites: happiness and fulfillment. We find something to live for, something to long for. Odysseus is able to overcome the temptations because he has something to live for: home. We are able to overcome our own temptations because we believe in something, regardless if it’s our home, our religion, our ethics, etc. Furthermore, Odysseus refuses to die because he wants to live his life consciously. For what is the purpose of life if it was not limited? He, and we, would not have any goals due tomorrow. We could postpone them, and at some point, forget about them. For us, unlucky mortal beings, life is a ticking bomb. We do not know when it will be over, but we can hear it all the time in our head, repeatedly, telling us it will eventually end.

Sadly, many humans, in modernity, are deaf to the ticking bomb that life is. They have succumbed to many of life’s temptations. “And how much they remind me of myself and other privileged North Americans: obsessed with sports from the time we can toddle across the room after a foam-rubber football […], and remaining deeply naive about the desperately serious struggles of people who are trying to feed themselves, defend their families, simply staying alive.” We are blind to our own privilege. We get bored with comfortableness. Life is not being lived. Current entertainment has killed human consciousness. We are not living in the present, we are living in automatic mode. Pain is currently avoided at all costs. And, who are we to blame them for wanting to avoid it? But, by avoiding these emotions, we also avoid the blissful ones. Perhaps, living with consciousness is a gamble. An endless 50-50 gamble until we die. But that is exactly what makes life so precious, and what it makes it worth living for. Homer knows this. Homer knows consciousness is wisdom and the greatest gift to life, and I, too, agree with him.

The way MacKnight is able to captivate me from his first opening sentence in the essay shows his impeccable way of keeping the readers hooked to the text. I deeply appreciated how he transitioned from topic to topic smoothly, it made the reading easy and enjoyable. The way questions were raised, even after they were answered, shows this is a good piece of literature that has an impact on whoever reads it. It is a valuable essay that definitely helps anyone who has, or is reading, The Odyssey.

Antigone: Death after death

We are introduced to the play with the brave and fearless Antigone, Oedipus’ daughter. We are able to contrast these traits back and forth in this play, as we see how she turns Creon’s world upside down as soon as the story begins. Why would she do such a thing? Why would she rebel against the higher authority? Why does she not care about the consequences? These questions have a simple answer, yet to understand them is what is considered to be complicated: her beliefs. Antigone believed that her brother Polynices deserved to be buried with dignity and honor, such as any other citizen had the right to, no matter what questionable things they did while they were alive.

Antigone is a wild spirit. She does not care if her sister Ismene disagrees with her actions, she does not care if Creon tries to kill her, she does not care if she is exposed to the whole kingdom of Thebes. She, deep down, knows that if people were not scared to speak up due to Creon’s power, they would side with her.  Haemon’s support for Antigone is the evidence for this inference, and he believes in her so strongly he ends up dying for her. These two were the original tragic lovers, the ones we see later on in Shakespeare’s play “Romeo and Juliet”.

Death, death, and more death. That is one of the main topics that this play made emphasis on. Antigone shows certain signs early on in the play that she does not want to live. She has no motivation to fight for her life, and, in fact, is looking for a reason to go to the world of the dead. She openly talks about this with Creon, when she is accused of committing the crime of burying her own brother.

Speaking of Creon, I believe he is an intriguing character. Sophocles tries humanizing Creon over and over again, making us empathize with the hardships he has gone through in the span of his life. Almost at the end of the play, we can see the contrast between him and Oedipus; what makes them different. Creon does listen to Terisias, although he did it too late, and the consequence of his pride was the loss of his wife, son, and niece. I was not that fond of Creon due to the way he talked about women, saying they were weak and did not deserve to be in a power position. My opinion slightly changed after I read everything Creon had lost because of his ignorance, I empathized deeply with him, as I felt that he did not deserve to go through that much grief, he is a human after all.

Antigone is an ancient story that is extremely valuable to the actual world and society because it mirrors the issues we are currently facing. Sexism and abuse of power are relevant topics to this day. Men still feel uncomfortable around outspoken women and try to silence them. Powerful politicians weaponize fear against their citizens to keep them in control and with their mouths shut. On the other hand, philosophically speaking, there is this ongoing debate on free will. I remember in class we talked about how our brain controls us sometimes; how chemicals in our brain affect our actions and reactions; how, even if they do control us, we need to be held accountable for them. If I were to read the story again, I know I would find even more things to dissect and reflect upon. This play is truly a masterpiece we should never forget and always go back to once in a while.

Oedipus Personal Response

Oedipus the King was a play written by Sophocles for the Dionysus festival that was held in Athens in Ancient Greek.  This play took me in for a ride, and surprised me with a sensation of misery mixed with tiny bits of irony and interesting plot twists. In this play, I learned a lot by just looking at the lines, vocabulary, and how sometimes Sophocles personified certain things to make emphasis in them (such as time), it added more detail to the story, something that is to my liking.

Before we started reading this play, we learned the story of Oedipus and his tragedy in a summarized way. Oedipus was crowned King of Thebes after defeating the Sphinx, but what he did not know is that on that same path he had killed his own father (Laius, the past king), and later on married his mother when he ruled over Thebes. The most ironic part of the story is that Oedipus has no idea that he is the culprit of such acts, and so he carries on with the investigation until the end, when he finds out he’s the guilty/corrupted one. Traumatized, alarmed, and perturbed, he gouges his eyes out and is exiled from his own kingdom, living in misery for the rest of his life.

I had heard of this story before, and I was quite curious to see in more depth the story and what was Oedipus’ character throughout it. Before reading the play, I thought Oedipus was as innocent as a young infant. But, once the plot kept going, it became noticeable that Oedipus was an overly confident man, and that at some point, it got combined with arrogance. Although he had his flaws, like every other person does, he was overall a good person that tried to do the right thing for his own people. Something else that I observed is that he was brave and ambitious. The will to find the killer of Laius was something that Oedipus did not lack, no matter the consequences of the truth that were to come after.

The story can be approached in different ways, but the one that has caught my eye so far, is the philosophical one. Do we have free will? Are prophecies true? If so, to what extent? Who created the prophecies in the first place? Or, are they just there because that’s how the world works? These questions have been raised ever since I finished the story, and are questions I cannot find the right answers to. In my opinion, it is compelling how a play written so many years ago has relevancy in the now. I love stories that get me into a rabbit hole, and this is why Oedipus the King has been one of my favorite stories so far.

Introduction – Ana Carolina

Hello! My name’s Ana Carolina, I’m 17 years old, and I’m from Mexico. I do many things on the daily, but just enjoy a few. Reading is something I’ve become passionate about this year, especially memoirs and poems. Something I cannot live without is music. I love listening to any music genre and I know a few songs on piano too. Doing exercise almost everyday is something I’ve learned to enjoy, and that I’m grateful for now.

My first and foremost expectation and hope for this year is to fill my brain with as much knowledge as possible. I would like to focus more on the historical, social, and cultural contexts of the books that we read in class because they can reveal a lot about them. I also look forward to improve my reading comprehension this year and go more in-depth with the analysis of the characters we read about. I’m excited of this year overall, because I know I’ll leave with a bunch of knowledge that I will forever cherish.