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Wilson/Homer: The Odyssey

The New Yorker recently described classics scholar and translator of last year's new (stunning) edition of The Odyssey Emily Wilson's Twitter presence as “quietly revolutionary, a new kind of experience for readers, poets, translators, and really anyone who likes to watch knowledge take shape in an open format, its seams exposed.”

This speaks to how Wilson tackled the opening to Homer’s epic work of homecoming. The late Robert Fagles's notable (and in many cases landmark) translation reads the final lines of this stanza as, “Launch out on his story, Muse, daughter of Zeus,/start from where you will—sing for our time too.” But what I love in Wilson’s translation is this final rejoinder: “Find the beginning.” Like the New Yorker’s description of her Twitter presence, this is a call for knowledge to take shape in an open format, its seams exposed.

We often consider our lives, and the moments that form them, as complete, ready for presentation. Think about the artfully-curated feeds of Instagram influencers versus the realities of our messy lives. Think of how often we say to ourselves some variation on, “As soon as I have X, I’ll be happy.”

The reality is, we’re always in a state of beginning. Our seams are constantly exposed. Knowledge isn’t a finite horizon, but an infinite form constantly taking shape. The most we can do is see where we are with all of this in this moment, knowing that as soon as we read, type, or say the words “this moment,” that we’re in an entirely new moment.

Today’s Contemplation: Find the beginning, or find the moment you’re taking shape in this open format of your body in this particular section of space and time. Can you consider each moment as a beginning? Can you be comfortable with both the exhilaration and exhaustion of beginning?