Mediocre existence is utter absurdity. Poet Tennyson made the Greek hero, Ulysses, rage against that sort of existence in one of his most celebrated poems titled after the hero himself. Tennyson’s Ulysses is an old man who is quite unhappy with a life that seems idle to him. He looks around and sees the ordinary people doing nothing more than eat, mate and hoard. What’s the point of such an existence? Ulysses thinks of it as “savage” existence.
Ulysses wants to live life to its fullest. “I will drink / Life to the lees” is what he says. His heart is hungry for more, more than what satisfies the ‘savage’ man. Ruling a country of ‘savages’ is not his work, Ulysses thinks. His son who possesses a different spirit of “slow prudence” can do the job of subduing a savage people “to the useful and the good.” His own mission is “to strive, to seek, to find, and not to yield.”
Tennyson’s Ulysses is an eternal seeker. To be fully human and fully alive is his dream. Life never gives us fully satisfactory answers at any time. Go on searching for more and more answers. That is what Ulysses is suggesting. “Much have I seen and known,” he says. But that is not enough. There is a lot more to be seen and learnt “from that eternal silence.”
“To follow knowledge like a sinking star” is Ulysses’ aspiration. This sets him apart from most people and he knows that. He cannot be a king because of that difference. Being a king, exercising power over “rugged people,” is not the job of the seeker of truths. Truth and political power have little in common. To seek the truth is to strive with Gods. To be a king is to struggle with mediocrity. Ulysses can never tolerate mediocrity. So he sets sail “beyond the sunset.”
PS. I'm participating in #BlogchatterA2Z
Previous Post: T for Taxes
PPS. I am battling against time these days. Too many irons in the fire. Hence not able to do justice to the A2Z challenge. But won’t give up.