Lost on Calypso’s Island

The Odyssey remains one of the greatest and most archetypal stories of man’s journey away from and return to his most essential self. If you haven’t read it, you should and if you can’t remember much of anything about it, it’s definitely worth a refresher (with explanatory materials in hand). Homer’s poem is far too dense to make it feasible to provide much of a summary, but in this post I wish to focus on Odysseus’ seven years on an island, seduced and held captive by the sea nymph, Calypso. This segment of the story represents the great “stuck place” of the hero’s life. Spoiler alert: in order to find his way back home, he must build his own boat, tap into his inner wisdom, and reconcile who he has been with what his deeper nature requires. The archetypal changed man.


I resonate a lot with this portion of the Odyssey because I feel pretty stuck myself, only I’m probably playing both roles: that of Calypso and the hero, reluctantly complicit in my own captivity. I may rail against portions of it, stridently proclaiming my wish to flee but unwilling to cut ties. It’s sorta fun to say you’re a hostage—doing so eliminates all the responsibility for rescuing yourself, doesn’t it? I’m unhappy but there’s nothing I can do,” we whine, reveling in our self-pity. “It’s too late to change direction,” cowering behind our own laziness or fear.


Where are you stuck? What or Who is your Calypso’s Island—a refuge from dealing with nagging wants or desires you consider so threatening or highly inconvenient?


Now, I realize that I’m employing a lot of heavy allegory and high falutin’ literature to ask some intense questions about your life, but that’s the risk you run with my blog. It’s also, probably, why you read it. You want to think about these things; you simply need someone to help focus your thoughts. These are no small matters we’re addressing, so it’s understandable that, sometimes, you’d just as soon…not. I get it. As soon as I wish to avoid something, I start feeling tired or sleepy. I can’t maintain my focus; distractions develop into friends. Avoid, avoid, avoid.


Sound familiar?


Wilderness periods are tough. Transitions demand much from us. We don’t know what we’re doing or where we’re going, stumbling around from pillar to post. Some of us rely on mundane routine to shield us from the inconvenient truths we know lurk beneath the surface.


But to round out our story, Calypso loved him, wanting to make Odysseus immortal and stay with her forever. He yearned to return home. Eventually, they became lovers and she bore him two children over the course of the seven years they shared a home. He found succor in her arms up until the time he built a boat and sailed away. Was he really her unwilling captive? Are you?




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