Cyclops and the wild Poseidon in my Journey to Ithaca

This post I write inspired and humbled by a message I received yesterday from my Director of Studies after our supervisory team meeting with a new member in it.

I think one of the things that characterises a good supervision is mutual respect and both sides learning. I came away from Thursday with an increased respect for your attitude towards learning and growth.

Indeed, we had a hard and heated discussion about my report for the progression assessment panel. They made me many hard and harsh questions. Some of them I could answer but others I found myself caught in being the evangelist of my idea. This feeling I felt quite embarrassing and life changing in a way. It generated intellectual wounds that will make me grow. That void and sometimes black space where we have to enter if we want to make profound changes.
In the discussion, Mary questioned my assumptions and my beliefs and showed me in a cruel and brilliant way how much I am promoting my idea. How I am an advocate for the PLE instead of a researcher that is trying to find out about it.
And yes, it is true! I BELIEVE in the approach and I believe in the positive effects of working with such an approach. That is what the existing literature stands for, isn’t it? You read the empirical evidence of others, and you start to think of the approach as a useful means of achieving the goals that are guiding and driving your teaching. But this has a place in the research, I guess not at the beginning. In any case, what I do understand is that being an evangelist will not be of any help as Neil Selwyn suggests in his book. We need to be dispassionate and skeptic if we aim at contributing to any change in the status quo of educational technology.  I took the suggestion seriously, and my reflection process is unfolding painfully as transformation always is for me. But I feel so much better!
I want to answer to Darren’s message, which has given me strength and courage to keep me enthusiastic on this research journey with the key ideas that are in Cavafy’s poem: Ithaca (my mantra in life).
Five years ago, when I left my home country, Venezuela, I set out for Ithaca, this  was my vision. Ithaca being the journey of self-exploration and growth (also professional growth). That journey has been as Cavafy describes it, my mantra in life: Adventure and discovery!
I quote as it explains brilliantly what I think happens when I go to a supervisory meeting

Laistrygonians and Cyclops, angry Poseidon-don’t be afraid of them: you will never find things like that on your way as long as you keep your thoughts raised high, and long as a rare excitement stirs your spirit and your body. Laistrygonians and Cyclops, wild Poseidon-you won’t encounter them unless you bring them along inside your soul, unless your soul sets them up in front of you

Mary, my new supervisor, could have taken the shape of an angry Poseidon and Darren that of a Cyclop or/and a Laistrygonian when they were challenging my ideas asking me so difficult questions. I even felt scary. For a moment, I felt that my beliefs and ideas were not true and even worse, were somehow interfering in my journey to become a researcher, which is why I set out for Ithaca in the first place.
But this is not what happened in the session, Mary and Darren instead are the scholars I met in the Egyptian cities, from which I have been gathering stores of knowledge and wisdom to advance in this Journey to Ithaca. They are the harbors Cavafy names in his poem, the Phoenician trading stations where I have been stopping and finding in their advice mother pearls and coral, amber and ebony, gems of wisdom and experience to shape my raw and still naive ideas about educational technology and research.
There are still more storms to come as I move further in this journey. New scholars with which I will meet and new oceans and different directions that I will have to navigate. But I am confident and serene although sometimes the waves are big and swirls will surely come in my way. Because as Cavafy says, as long as a rare excitement stirs my body and my spirit I won’t encounter neither a wild Poseidon nor an intimidating Cyclop, instead I find two wise and loving supervisors that challenge me while holding my hand so I do not fall into a swirl but be aware of their presence so I can find an alternative route through which I can navigate safely to Ithaca.  Thank you for being there in my journey and teach me with so much care.
My journey so far has been amazing. Full of surprises, new discoveries, challenges, sad moments, grief and sometimes huge anxiety of being on the wrong track not being able to accomplish this part of the journey to Ithaca. But in all the difficult moments, although I am away from home, from the safe-space, that which I know well, I have always kept Ithaca in my mind and my thoughts are always, as Cavafy says, raised high, very high! Arriving there is what I am destined for. But I am not in a hurry. I have still so much to discover, to learn, to think about, to explore, to find out.
What I do hope is that when I arrive, full of experience and hopefully some wisdom, I can share my joy with some of these sensational people I met on that journey.

One Reply to “Cyclops and the wild Poseidon in my Journey to Ithaca”

  1. Ithaca – Carol Ann Duffy (a poem about growth…)
    And when I returned,
    I pulled off my stiff and salty sailor’s clothes,
    slipped on the dress of the girl that I was,
    and slid overboard.
    A mile from Ithaca, I anchored the boat.
    The evening softened and spread,
    The turquoise water mentioning its silver fish,
    The sky stooping to hear.
    My hands moved in the water, moved on the air,
    The lover I was, tracing your skin, your hair,
    And Ithaca there, the bronze mountains
    shouldered like rough shields,
    the caves, where dolphins hid,
    dark pouches for jewels,
    the olive trees ripening their tears in our pale fields.
    Then I drifted in on a ribbon of light,
    tracking the scents of rosemary, lemon and thyme,
    the fragrances of your name,
    which I chanted in my heart,
    like the charm it was, bringing me back
    to Ithaca, all hurt zeroed now
    by the harm you could do with a word,
    me as hero plainly absurd,
    wading in, waist-high, from the shallows at dusk,
    dragging my small white boat.

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