POST BY BILL PALLADINO
Monday January 24th, 2011 Our Final Post… for a while.
– Black Elk, (1863-1950)
The Flaw of Odysseus
We are at the closing point of this journey. A year in the making, it is now time to turn our ships homeward. I want to bring you back to an idea I mentioned last week. It was in reference to heroes and specifically regarding Rick Riordan’s Percy Jackson series, which I’ve been reading over time to my eight year-old friend Sam. That series, and many of the characters within it, is derived directly from Greek mythology and more precisely Homer’s Odyssey. Homer’s nearly perfect protagonist, Odysseus, is sent on an incredible adventure spanning years. One after the other he first seems to seek battles with gods, monsters, and mortals, managing to defeat or outwit them.
Only once does Odysseus falter from his state of grace. After escaping many villainous characters, and spending seven years imprisoned on an island, he tricks the great Polyphemus by first blinding his one eye then telling the cyclops his name is “Noman.” The cyclops is bereft as he tells his supporters that he was blinded by “no man.” Odysseus, as he sails away from Polyphemus’s island, triumphantly shouts back to the giant that “no one can defeat the great Odysseus,” thereby ruining his original illusion. The result of which was the cyclops’ plea to his father Poseidon to help him, whereby the great god of the sea sentences Odysseus to years of turmoil wandering the oceans.
I tell you this because the one bad trait Odysseus is credited with is “hubris”, that is arrogance and pride. It would be very easy for us, On The Ground and the Run Across Ethiopia team, to fall victim to this same device. To look back on our work in Ethiopia and say, “look at us, look at what we’ve done.” We have taken great pains from the earliest planning of the Run Across Ethiopia journey to avoid such pitfalls of ego. While we are not without fault, we have taken care to honor the people in Ethiopia first and last. It is their dreams of education for children we’re trying to make a reality.
There was some worry early on that frankly this might look like a phalanx of white do-gooders running through Africa so they could throw down a big fat check. We addressed this through comprehensive conversations and partnerships with the organizations, communities, and people this project would impact. From the Tesfa Foundation taking our own team through hours of cultural immersion, to their Team Tesfa runners being an active component of the event itself, every grueling step of the way. To Tedesse Meskela’s close relationship with his 800,000 coffee farming families through the Oromia Coffee Farmers Cooperative Union. Our team of runners didn’t run a protected ribbon of highway through Ethiopia, they ran through and with living communities of the very people we were there to serve. The team was sent with a mission to be stewards of the trust that our 700 plus donors gifted to them. As our team left the U.S. en route to Ethiopia in early January they were asked simply to “be well, travel safe, and come home changed in some way.”
Homer himself would ask no more from his heroes. It is assumed that the Odyssey was not intended to be read, rather scholars seem to agree it was likely designed to be spoken from memory by the bards of the day. Even here we strike some resemblance to Homer’s classic in sending our own modern day bards Seth Bernard and May Erlewine along on the trip. They, along with our filmmakers & journalists, were asked to experience, catalog, and record the journey so that it might live on beyond the event itself. We hope in the coming months to bring you this odyssey, the Run Across Ethiopia quest, so that you might experience, learn from, and allow yourself to be changed in some way too.
The posts from the team have diminished to very few. Chris Treter left a beautiful tribute to our team medic Mamoosh on our blog. Please click this link to see it. http://onthegroundtc.org/2011/01/24/bizuayehu-sees-all-things/
And last night most of our team made it home safely to airports and homes around the U.S. Many of them returned to Traverse City. We’re very happy they have made it back home to their families and loved ones. Two of the last to arrive were filmmakers James and Jamaica. And that reminds me that they are still seeking funding to allow them to complete their documentary of this journey. Please click this image or the following link to view their Kickstarter project online. https://www.kickstarter.com/projects/weston/run-across-ethiopia-feature-film
We find ourselves conflicted now, pushed home by the winds of our own circumstance, having to leave behind the many friends and relationships we’ve made along the way. I thank you for spending this past three weeks with us exploring this place half a world away. Sometime later in 2011 On The Ground will likely launch another ambitious endeavor. If you’d like to be part of that, and hear more as new plans develop, please stay subscribed to this newsletter. If your quota for vicarious adventure is filled, feel free to unsubscribe using the link at the bottom of this page.
Here’s a final quote from Norman Cousins -
“The new education must be less concerned with sophistication than compassion. It must recognize the hazards of tribalism. It must teach man the most difficult lesson of all—to look at someone anywhere in the world and be able to see the image of himself. The old emphasis upon superficial differences that separate peoples must give way to education for citizenship in the human community. With such an education and with such self-understanding, it is possible that some nation or people may come forward with the vital inspiration that men need no less than food. Leadership on this higher level does not require mountains of gold or thundering propaganda. It is concerned with human destiny. Human destiny is the issue. People will respond.”
To read full-length stories posted by our RAE Team members please visit our blog pages athttp://www.onthegroundtc.org
If you want to see our stream of photos as they arrive you can go to the website (see below) or go right to our Flickr Photostream using the link below. http://www.flickr.com/photos/57872575@N05/
You can also help us continue this important work by clicking the Donate button below and contributing what you can afford to On The Ground.
Executive Director – On The Ground
“On The Ground works directly with communities around the globe helping them gain sustainable access to fresh water, education, and quality healthcare.”