Last week I was in Madrid, one of Europe’s most amazing cities, exciting and dynamic, with beautiful architecture everywhere you look. Dating back to the 9th century, Madrid has a rich history and has been the capital of Spain since 1606.
El Retiro Park, located in the center of Madrid was originally a royal garden built for King Felipe IV in 1632 but has been open to the public since the Glorious Revolution of 1868. At the center of the 12 hectare park is a large artificial lake, El Estanque del Retiro and a monument dedicated to King Alfonso XII. The monument itself is a grand and elaborate curved colonnade, topped with a bronze equestrian statue of the king by sculptor Mariano Benlliure and incorporates the work of 21 other artists. One of those works is a sculpture of Goddess Athena herself!
I am not kidding! I met Goddess Athena in Madrid; she was looking very majestic and godly sitting at the focal point of the park watching over the lake. You can imagine my excitement at the sight of her there. Goddess Athena and I have been talking for a little while and our conversations have always been through ‘dreamy channels,’ but this time, I was standing right next to her while she imparted more of her godly wisdom about the Art of War.
Goddess Athena, daughter of Zeus, was known as both the Goddess of War and the Goddess of Wisdom. You may legitimately think, “How can the Goddess of War also be the Goddess of Wisdom?”, those two attributes do not seem to work well together! Ares, son of Zeus and Athena’s brother was also a God of War; he was the patron of chaotic battles, extreme violence and slaughter, great pain, suffering and devastation. Athena was his antithesis; she was the patron of controlled strength, strategy, organized fighting, advanced weaponry and battlefield tactics. Athena excelled at mediation and always worked to prevent war, but if war could not be avoided, she was a fierce warrior and was known for never having lost a battle.
The Spanish Empire is described as the first truly global empire and the first to be known as “the Empire on which the sun never sets.” Between the late 15th to the early 19th centuries, Spain controlled a huge overseas territory, so, I asked Goddess Athena:
Author Joanne Reed: “Spaniards were great explorers; they were the first to venture to faraway lands across unknow oceans, and went further than anyone before them. What made them so successful?”
Goddess Athena: “You already know the answer to this question; it’s in Chapter 1 of your book, ‘This Is Your Quest.’”
Author Joanne Reed: “Exploration started at sea, intrepid navigators and explorers crossed oceans to venture to faraway lands in pursuit of fame and fortune. The Quest for those navigators and explorers was for gold, spices, plants, medicine, knowledge and to establish trading posts.”
Goddess Athena: “Yes, but the role of the navy in these overseas pursuits was critical. The Spanish navy used the lake in El Retiro Park as a ‘playground’ for their naval practices because practice makes perfect.
Author Joanne Reed: “Did they have to practice? Couldn’t they just devise a war strategy?”
Goddess Athena: “No, knowing without doing is like not knowing at all. You cannot learn to ride a bicycle by reading a step-by-step guide. You have to go outside, practice, stumble, fall off, get back on and do it over and over again until it becomes second nature. The same principle applies to everything else you do.”
Author Joanne Reed: “Wouldn’t it feel a little silly to hold mock naval battles in a lake?”
Goddess Athena: “No, because even if we have the intellectual capacity to quickly grasp concepts and ideas it is a mistake to believe that we also know how to execute them right away. Learning something new is hard, especially at the beginning when we struggle and make mistakes. The reality is that the only way to learn something new is to practice, get feedback, refine your approach, and practice again.”
Your mission, should you accept it, is to pay attention to a Goddess, identify your goals and put them into practice until you reach your objectives and claim victory.