I’ve been pondering mens’ life journeys for many years: not just my own, but other men I’ve witnessed in mens’ gatherings and ongoing groups. Re-reading Homer’s Odyssey, I realise how brilliantly relevant it is to all this.

Words like archetypal and heroic get over-used, but this epic story’s appeal has lasted because it truly embodies these qualities in vivid adventures which speak to us still. Isn’t it amazing that 3000 years later, we still talk of siren songs, mentors and lots more from this story?

The shape of Odysseus’ adventures seems relevant to many men. For years, not much changes, then suddenly we put to sea, and land on an unknown shore which could be idyllic or horrific. Both disasters and rescuers appear unexpectedly. We have to live by our wits, but if we live with integrity, we may hope for justice and fulfilment eventually.

So what can 21st century man learn from this ancient Greek hero? Here are a few thoughts:

  • A hero needs far more than strength. In Odysseus we see cunning, integrity, persistence and eloquence.
  • Heroes have defeats and failures too: this hero feels his grief, knows his limitations, prays for help, and re-invents himself over and over.
  • Even heroes can’t control events, but they can influence them. Odysseus usually honours the gods and lives by his moral code, and his prayers are sometimes answered.

For much of the story, Odysseus is on the wine-dark sea, sailing between islands. The sea appears in every mood from following a breeze to a catastrophic storm, usually because a god sends it. It’s useful to see life as a voyage, through uncertain weather, over unknown depths, or choose your own symbolism.

On the weekend of September 6-8, I am co-leading a mens’ weekend called The Odyssey of Manhood. We will use the adventures of Odysseus to explore our own life voyage, as it unfolds both in the outer world and in the inner realm of the soul’s journey.

The magical 70 acres of Hazel Hill Wood will be in the ocean we sail, with glades, campfires and the Roundhouse as the islands we land on. We’ll use a range of creative methods to embody the story and explore its meaning for us.

For full details, see www.naturalhappiness.net/events. The cost is £140, plus bring food to share: only £120 if you book by June 30. For enquiries and bookings, contact John Harley: johnnigelharley@yahoo.co.uk

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