Friday, February 13, 2009

Marcus Padley =what to say when you have nothing intelligent to say

It's the journey that counts, not the destination
It's the journey that counts, not the destination
Marcus Padley
February 14, 2009

ITHACA is the island in Greece that Odysseus had so much trouble returning to in Homer's Odyssey. On his way he survives run-ins with the Cicones, Polyphemus (Cyclops to you), Circe, the Sirens, Scylla, the winds of Aeolus, the Laestrygonians, Zeus, Poseidon and Calypso.

A rough trot, and when he gets there no one recognises him, everyone's cracking on to his wife, she won't have him back and he has to kill everyone. Hardly a great homecoming. In fact you wonder why he bothered.

Thankfully a Greek called Constantine Kavafis wrote a poem in 1911 explaining it. It was called Ithaca. You may know it. Here is a bit of it.

Keep Ithaca always in your mind..

Arriving there is what you're destined for.

But don't hurry the journey at all.

Better if it lasts for years,

so you're old by the time you reach the island,

wealthy with all you've gained on the way,

not expecting Ithaca to make you rich.

Ithaca gave you the marvellous journey.

Without her you wouldn't have set out.

She has nothing left to give you now.

And if you find her poor, Ithaca won't have fooled you.

Wise as you will have become, so full of experience,

you'll have understood by then what these Ithakas mean

Turns out that life's destination isn't much, but it doesn't matter. It is what you do on the way. That old chestnut. It is better to travel than to arrive. It is the journey not the destination. And so it is. I sit on the road to Ithaca.

My road consists of an office, full of people I have not chosen, in an industry that chose me, doing little more heroic than pushing electrons around on two big computer screens that really can't be healthy.

In fact I'm doing it now. If Odysseus came into the office I, and all my colleagues, would rightly be shamed in his presence for all that we have not done. I'm sure Odysseus could have chosen the path of a stockbroker, but he didn't. Our journey is not heroic.

Then there is my father. He is getting on. He is 75. He was a wing commander in the RAF and more topically spent a three-year posting on an RAAF base in Sale in Victoria flashing around in de Havilland Vampire jets, spotting bushfires, teaching people to fly and generally ripping it up like Tom Cruise on Valium. He had stories, his Cyclops, his Poseidon (Suez Crisis) and a few Sirens I'm sure. He is closer to Odysseus than I and for that I am proud. Just to have had Dad as my example.

He has journeyed well and I hope that has made him "so full of experience" that, as he comes closer to Ithaca, he now knows to continue the ride, rather than dwell on where it all got him, when the destination will arrive and how scared that makes him. I can but hope.

Meanwhile, back in the office, I am trying to live a life "full of adventure, full of discovery" in an environment that doesn't naturally lend itself to a danger that "keeps your thoughts raised high", offers "rare excitement" and generates a fear that "stirs your spirit and your body".

Then along came the bear market. Suddenly the journey has become more interesting. We have entered places we are "seeing for the first time" and it is full of discovery and adventure, and by the time we reach the island, yes, we'll be wealthy with all we've gained on the way, but it won't be in dollars, and unlike our Greek friend, we think it'd be better if it didn't last for years.

I know people who are not entirely happy with where they have got to on this journey. They now fear their destination because of what the journey has recently done to them.

But while there is breath in our bodies we are still travelling and this is not the end. And the destination, I know, will not be measured in dollars.

Marcus Padley is a stockbroker with Patersons Securities and the author of the daily stockmarket newsletter Marcus Today.

Padley wears a huge L on his forehead, due to the fact that all that he writes about does not include smart stockbroking ideas...lucky it's an easy gig and he relies on a past that has more blemishes than his modern stories.

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