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A Prayer to the Muse

"O Divine Poesy, goddess, daughter of Zeus, sustain for me this song of the various-minded man who, after he had plundered the innermost citadel of hallowed Troy, was made to stay grievously about the coasts of men, the sport of their customs, good and bad, while his heart, through all the sea-faring, ached with an agony to redeem himself and bring his company safe home. Vain hope – for them. The fools! Their own witlessness cast them aside. To destroy for meat the oxen of the most exalted Sun, wherefore the Sun-god blotted out the day of their return. Make this tale live for us in all its many bearings, O Muse.” – from Homer’s Odyssey, translation by T.E. Lawrence (Lawrence of Arabia)

I am sad to say, I am an illiterate when it comes to much of great literature in general.


Admittedly, I looked for every excuse to justify why it was alright for me to avoid challenging myself with these masterpieces when of school age and opportunities to explore these great works were served up like gourmet meals that a toddler refuses in lieu of chicken nuggets and hot dogs.


I wanted to be outside doing things and exploring. I suppose that's alright and all has worked out fine. Besides, I can always dive into those works now - they'll be there if and when I'm ready.


Just a few years have passed since I first read The War of Art by Steven Pressfield. I still recall how his story about about his old friend and mentor, Paul Rink resonated with me.


Pressfield described how when he lived in Northern California, he used to have coffee every morning with Paul in his camper, that he had named "Moby Dick.” Ironically this is one of the great pieces of literature that I actually was able to read completely.


Paul was a writer. He was quite a bit older than Pressfield and he claimed that learning from Paul was one of the great experiences of his life. He would turn Pressfield on to writers he had never heard of, lecture him "on the evils of the marketplace, and tell stories about Steinbeck and Henry Miller, both of whom he knew."


In addition to all of this, Pressfield claims that the "best thing Paul did... (for Pressfield) was he introduced me to the idea of the Muses."


Pressfield explains that the idea of a mysterious force beyond the material plane began to make a lot of sense throughout the years of working in solitude while honing his craft as a writer.


His conclusion around all this was that all he was doing, "day after day, week after week—trying to access the goddess."


Pressfield explains in The War of Art that Paul had a prayer that he said every morning before he started to work.


“It’s the Invocation of the Muse, from the very beginning of Homer’s Odyssey, the T.E. Lawrence translation."


This is the quote I offered at the beginning of this post.


Personally it is not the words in this invocation that I find most meaningful. The meaning for me is twofold. 1- It is in the ritual; and 2- it is in the acknowledgment that when creating we are acting as a channel for creation and we definitely are not in control.



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