And what he greatly thought, he nobly dared. – Homer
What does that mean?
This quote is spoken to the son of Odysseus (Ulysses) by Athena (Minerva) in the guise of an old and trusted friend, as the son considered undertaking a long and difficult journey.
In context, the quote is part of the goddess urging him to go, as he is the son of a great man, and then extols the virtues of the father. Key among them is the ability to think great thoughts and the courage to dare to accomplish them.
I believe that this quote can and should be applied to all of us, no matter what our parents may have done, or failed to do. We can all think great thoughts. We can all greatly dare.
The other side of this quote is to think few or no great thoughts, and to never dare to even attempt to accomplish them. Rather than a great life, this is the recipe for a mediocre one at best.
Why is daring important?
Note that this is not a dare, as in “I dare you to…”, but a dare as “I dare to dream great things, and I shall attempt them!” Dare as in taking action and applying our strength, our will, our intelligence and all our facilities to accomplish our goal. It doesn’t have to be the Siege of Troy, it can be smaller, but it must be done.
Imagine a world where young children didn’t dare to try new things? How many would learn to ride a bike? How many would test themselves against great works, whether in sports or literature? Would they try, or would they not dare to even begin? Would the great works remain on the library shelves? Would the woods and tracks remain unexplored?
The world is what it is because people greatly thought and nobly dared. While we may not be willing to retrace the routes to the north or south pole, or scale the greatest mountains, someone already did that, because of their great thoughts. It starts within us as children, and continues for as long as we allow it.
Every day, ordinary people dare to do things they have thought or dreamed. They have become great, even if in a small way, because they took action, and they accomplished something. Even if the result wasn’t exactly what they had hoped, they nobly dared. And sometimes, that’s all we can do.
Where can I apply this in my life?
We often go to movies or read books to see others daring to do great things. But we can do some of those things in our own lives. True, we probably never will fly on our own, or have super-human powers, but we can still do great things, if we are willing to entertain great thoughts and are willing to dare and to take great effort towards making them reality.
The question then revolves around what we are willing to dare to do. Dare we try to learn something new? Dare we attempt something difficult, something we have never tried before? Are we even willing to think about doing something great? What even constitutes ‘great’ to each of us?
If we are willing to consider trying something great (at least to us), are we willing to attempt to do it? What is great will be defined by each of us, and our abilities (or lack of). For me, I’m trying to rehab a leg injury by getting back into jogging. For many of you, that is trivial, to others it may be impossible.
But, for me, starting with something fairly easy is the first step. By working with a program of walking and jogging, I hope to be able to endure a 5K by the end of this year. Will I make it? Ask me in the new year. But I am willing to nobly dare. And I will learn from the experience, so I will be successful, even if I can’t go that far.
One thing to remember is that a successful outcome isn’t guaranteed. If you are looking for that in this life, you will be disappointed on a regular basis. Instead, if you define success as having tried your best and learned something from the experience, then you will always succeed, provided you have nobly dared.
Those who fear to even have great thoughts are missing out on so much. Those who recite the list of what they cannot do before they consider what they can are among these. We all have things we do well, and things we cannot do, at least at this point in time. But we can all think of great things to do, and we can nobly make the attempt.
If you don’t dare to think big, you can start by thinking small. Dare to do something, anything, but think, dare, and then do. Like the bulk of our lives, we are most likely to do what our habits have become. If you are in the habit of not great thoughts and noble daring, you won’t do much of it. Make thinking and daring to do your new habit.
What are you willing to think greatly about? And what are you willing to nobly dare to do?
From: Twitter, @okhokhar
confirmed at : Homer, Odyssey, Pope’s translation, Book II, line 312. 3rd quote
or at Project Gutenberg (search for the quote)
photo by Stacey Huggins