The first of 12,109 lines in Homer’s Odyssey comes right to the point: “Sing to me of the man, Muse, the man of twists and turns driven time and again off course.” And do so, it says a few lines down, “for our time, too.” Apparently, what happened to the hero in Greek mythology is apt to happens to you and me as well (at least metaphorically).
Webster defines an odyssey as “a series of adventurous journeys usually marked by many changes of fortunes.” So, not one but a series of journeys. Usually marked by, thus to be expected. Adventurous, not to be mistaken for easy, calm, predictable, or safe. With changes of fortunes, as implied by the phenomenon “impermanence” and our experience that everything changes and nothing stays the same.
We know all that, and yet, and yet … we’re surprised and amazed (as well as perplexed and devastated and offended) when straight lines suddenly curve or well-thought-out plans evaporate into thin air; when relationships, conditions, and circumstances change course against our express wish.
Norman Fischer observes that “an odyssey is not just any journey, it is a journey of return.” And,
“we are Odysseus. … We realize that we are not heroes. Yet we must go on with the journey, see it through to the end, even if, from time to time, we have to stop by the side of the road and weep. … We’ve got to get home. It seems as if there are no other options.”
source: Homer. (The Odyssey). (1996). Translated by Robert Fagles. New York: Penguin Books, p. 77. Fischer, N. (2008). Sailing home: using the wisdom of Homer’s Odyssey to navigate life’s perils and pitfalls. New York: Free Press, p. 9.