I’ve been taking a class on Mythology at coursera.org. It’s a learning site of top universities offering online courses for free! I can even get a certificate at the end of a course if I successfully complete it. (If you are thinking about taking a coursera course beware, being at university level means studying and spending several hours a week on any given course).
The first 3 weeks were all about The Odyssey. A great Epic, so labelled because it’s universal and timeless in its themes. And because everyone can ascribe their own meaning to it, and can see elements they recognize.
To me The Odyssey is a journey into interculturalism. As I read Odysseus’ adventures I could’t help but recognize my own experiences with the people of the places I’ve visited.
In the Odyssey there are all the kinds of native and foreigner (‘the other’) that you might ever meet – from the hostile Cyclops Polyphemus’ kind who do not appreciate you being there at all and might throw you out’. The over-hospitable King of Phaeacians Alcinous (he give Odysseus so many gifts he was able restock his own kingdom!) kind who might give you the shirts of their back in order to be hospitable. Or the Circe and Calypso kind, the romantic reason for staying.
If you have ever moved country (state or neighborhood you may have experienced the phenomenon of culture-shock and felt overwhelmed by the differences. If you have, then please, please, please, read The Odyssey. You might be surprised to find some tips and tricks on how to act in a different culture (perhaps being like Odysseus and lying your way around might not be the best idea, but bending the truth might help you out of awkward situations). And maybe, like me, you’ll encounter scenes similar to your own experiences and adventures – your personal Odyssey.