Retrospection on a Decision – Odyssey

Many of us know the story of the Greek hero Achilles, if not through The Iliad, stories or the internet, then possibly through the film Troy, portrayed by Brad Pitt. As far as I knew, his story was limited to The Iliad, where the great warrior chose death and eternal glory over a long and peaceful life, albeit without fame. He achieved what he wanted. My interest in mythology has always made me put him on equal footings with an Indian epic warrior, Karna, from Mahabharata. I know there cannot be an exact comparison between the two but I have the same awe and respect for both. Anyhow, back to the topic at hand…

In The Odyssey, another great hero, Odysseus, has a chance of going to (and returning from) the underworld, land of the dead. There he meets the ghosts, or shades, of many near and dear ones and converse with them all. What rattled me completely (and caused undue attention, since I was reading in the middle of a class lecture) was what the shade of Achilles told Odysseus. I quote from Robert Fagle’s translation:

“No winning words about death to me, shining Odysseus!
By god, I’d rather slave on earth for another man-
Some dirt-poor tenant farmer who scrapes to keep alive-
Than rule down here over all the breathless dead.”

Despite getting what he wanted, the hero longed to change his decision! I can’t understand why. I think Bill Watterson put it in a rather amusing one line – “How can something seem so plausible at the time, and so idiotic in retrospect?” Seems the so-called modern dilemma of the grass being greener on the other side has ancient roots.

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8 thoughts on “Retrospection on a Decision – Odyssey

  1. For the Americans, invading Vietnam, Iraq and Afghanistan were right decisions when they were made, but in retrospect they are all wrong.Decisions are often made with incomplete information,and so was probably made the decision by Achilles.Had he had an idea about the underworld,things would have been probably different.Planning what we do with the outcome of our decisions is more important than anything else.What to do with a victory is often a problem that the victor has no idea about.
    Lessons for Managers :
    1.Gain as much information as you can before taking important decisions
    2. Plan what to do after the victory/Fulfillment of wishes.
    3.Do not crib.

    Like

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