“…do not hurry the journey at all.” But I’m in a hurry; I don’t have the time, I tell *Cavafy as I interrupt his thoughts. However, he glues to me subtly with some randomly memorized verses with no particular order. Without being able to rationalize it and explain it fully, he already takes control over my emotions. Ah, but wait, where was I suppose to be? Yeah, good job, Cavafy, out of all the days you chose today to play with me! Today, I just don’t have the time, Cavafy! Come to think of it; I didn’t have it yesterday either. Although, I do not know what I was doing, much less what I did.
My thoughts don’t correspond to the current situation; they fly in all directions and exceed my possibilities to reach them, organize them, and sort them out. A constant struggle between the chaos and the desire for order, ongoing unrest that tends to be superior to the silent longing for peace. Endless rush and a sense of urgency that many things need to be done, which I deal with simultaneously, I jump from one thought to another, a million small intermittent parallel activities, inevitably some forgotten along the way or, worse, postponed. After that, anxiety follows, accompanied by self-blame, devaluation of everything that can be characterized as an accomplishment, even if it’s a small one.
While listing all of my obligations in my head, my thoughts run between them and some superficial amateur analysis regarding why I can’t focus on only one thing at a time. But Cavafy succeeds again to get through and impose himself as an uninvited guest:
“Hope the voyage is a long one.
May there be many a summer morning when,
with what pleasure, what joy,
you come into harbors seen for the first time…”
You have no intention of stopping, do you? It’s better to leave this conversation for another time; you don’t have a clue what it’s like to live nowadays anyway… I have many real things, and somehow, this philosophy doesn’t help me. Plus, why is it a common perception that when you are in a hurry, you don’t pay attention to the things around you or they go unnoticed, that it’s impossible to enjoy life!? Even though I slightly doubt these thoughts of mine, I don’t give up. I have a strong urge to defend myself. I quickly come up with another argument. On the contrary, your perception becomes more precise; it becomes sharper, I am sure it is so.
Okay, since we’ve cleared that up, let’s focus so I won’t forget anything. Lately, that’s been happening to me very often. I check my bag, where’s my phone? I can’t find it. Simultaneously, while I look for my phone, I go to the kitchen to see if everything is turned off, although I am pretty sure that I didn’t turn anything on this morning, but I don’t trust myself, so I double-check. Of course, the phone was in my hand all that time. It happens to all of us.
Finally, I’m out. It’s sunny and warm, what was I thinking? Why the heavy clothing? I quickly go back to change. Shit, I’m just wasting time. My phone rings. It’s my mother. “Hey, how are you?” “Is it urgent”? – I interrupt her. “Just to hear your voice.” “Okay then, I’ll call you when I come back home.” In the meantime, I can’t find the right clothes; maybe they’re in the drying machine; I head three loads today. Oh, you should have seen me; I didn’t run; I flew to take them out. But what’s the use? They are all wrinkled. As I already start to boil, both literally and figuratively, I quickly take off my cardigan. Suddenly I remembered I didn’t send one email I was supposed to. I dress in a hurry as I’m headed to study. In the hallway, I see myself in the mirror; my blouse is upside down and crumpled. I take it off, go back, and put on the cardigan again. How bad can it be? You can’t die from the heat, I think to myself.
“…hope the voyage is a long one, full of adventure, full of discovery.” I just want this day to end; I don’t need adventures; I need a simple dull day. I exhale deeply as it hasn’t even started yet.
“Laistrygonians and Cyclops,
angry Poseidon—don’t be afraid of them:
you’ll never find things like that on your way
as long as you keep your thoughts raised high
as long as a rare excitement
stirs your spirit and your body.”
Where did these verses come from? They keep following me. I must have some syndrome; what was it called… I skimmed this text a few weeks ago, but I don’t remember it very well. Earworm… No, that was for a song. Let me send that email—just a moment. I’m in a hurry to have time afterwards.
“Keep Ithaka always in your mind.
Arriving there is what you are destined for.
But do not hurry the journey at all.”
In the background, Cavafy continues regardless of my impatience and borderline irritability. And suddenly stops. The words are on the tip of my tongue, but I can’t recall the rest of the poem. Not a word. I searched on the internet. I need to find it to calm myself down. I chose the audio version. As I listen to it, I will send that email
Sean Connery’s voice is so suggestive; Vangelis’s music and Cavafy’s poem slowly become dominant sounds in my head. A miraculous stimulus runs through my body. I need to sit down and listen to them. As I listen, Cavafy’s words start making sense for the first time.
In fact, there is one word, raat (rahat), which entered the Macedonian language through Turkish. It’s simply untranslatable because it is a complex of many nuances. At the same time, it means peace, tranquility, carefreeness, comfort, but in a form free from any, even the slightest, thought that could disturb that state. Pure enjoyment. In moments like these, I think I can feel the meaning of raat. I’m drawn to it. Like to Ithaka. My Ithaka. And the road begins with a sigh. I exhale and decide to postpone all my activities. My Ithaka is waiting for me.
Sometimes you really have to slow down and stop running through life; I think as if the hand of wisdom has touched me. I laugh at myself.
In order to think and recognize your Ithaka and what it means to you, you need to slow down. That cortisol level needs to be reduced because the constant rush puts the mind and the body in an uncomfortable situation that can’t be managed in the long run. I’m adding a new practical dimension to this forgotten knowledge that haste intensified by enormous pointless pressure leads nowhere.
Cavafy gets to the point.
I have to admit, Cavafy, no matter how beautiful Ithaka is, the road leading there is more important. It can be more exciting, meaningful, and full of experiences and adventures if we just have to let them happen. We shouldn’t just rush to it because it will lose its meaning.
“But do not hurry the journey at all.
Better if it lasts for years,
so you are old by the time you reach the island
wealthy with all you have gained on the way,
not expecting Ithaka to make you rich.
Ithaka gave you the marvelous journey.
Without her, you would not have set out.
She has nothing left to give you now.
And if you find her poor, Ithaka won’t have fooled you.
Wise as you will have become, so full of experience,
you will have understood by then what these Ithakas mean.”
*hurry sickness is a behavior pattern (not a diagnosable condition) characterized by chronic rushing and anxiousness and an overwhelming, persistent sense of urgency — even when there’s no need to be moving so fast. The term was coined by cardiologists Meyer Friedman and Ray Rosenman and popularized in their 1974 book, “Type a Behavior And Your Heart.”