At the start of 2020, I read Genesis more closely for the first time (I wrote a memorandum of what I found) and completed my reading of Robert Fitzgerald’s translation of The Odyssey of Homer.
Here are some propositions about Eden and Ithaca:
1. Eden is about obedience disrupted by reason, choice, and the desire for experience. It is about the risks of growth. It has no conclusion but ends with an opening.
2. Ithaca is a destination and possibly an end. Its themes are loyalty, justice, property, duty. There is a lot of death, but the story is about making sense of life.
3. Eden is behind us; our lives lead to Ithaca. The first we can never regain, nor want to. The other we finally re-discover, alone, with the help of strangers and the advice of the dead.
4. Eden lies Eastward and is abundant; the four world-rivers flow from it. Ithaca is on the Western edge: marginal, hard-won and rocky. But there we are bound.
5. Civilisation, although much abused, rules Ithaca. Eden has a rule that civilization deplores.
6. In Eden there is companionship, order and rule but no love. In Ithaca there is misrule but also bonds of love and duty.
7. In Eden there is naked innocence and no art; in Ithaca disguise, tactics and artifice.
8. In Eden we are new, unmarked; in Ithaca, scars are witness.
9. In Eden the man and woman have dominion but no property. In Ithaca, property is the source of right.
10. In Eden there are consequences but no blood nor pain nor death. In Ithaca all consequences are bloody, painful and mortal.
11. There is no pity in Eden; there is no pity in Ithaca.
12. In Eden the action begins with the test of a tree; a tree unriddles Ithaca’s final secret.
13. In Eden there is no hiding, no duration, no strategy, no reciprocity. It is pre-fiction: there are no fables. In Ithaca there is waiting, hiding, strategising, loyalty, lies and fables.
14. The immortals in Eden have unknown but conflicting agendas. There is no fate. In Ithaca, too, the gods have competing agendas but there is also unknowable fate.
15. Eden does not become Ithaca. We become, by moving from one to the other.