Eden and Ithaca

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.


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