The Sirens were three mysterious women who, according to Homer’s Odyssey, lived on an island. Whenever a ship passed by, they would stand on the cliffs and sing. Their beautiful song would tempt sailors closer and closer, until eventually they were shipwrecked on the rocks below.
Odysseus was curious to hear the Sirens’ song, but was well aware of the dangers. He ordered his men to tie him to the mast as they approached the island and then to plug their own ears with beeswax. When Odysseus heard the Siren call he demanded to be untied, but his shipmates bound him tighter, releasing him only when then the danger had passed.
To Odysseus, who is bewitched by the song, the Sirens look as beautiful as Helen of Troy. To his crew, made deaf with beeswax, the Sirens seem like hungry monsters with vicious, crooked claws.
Only once out of the siren range does Odysseus come to his senses.
– Adapted from Awesome Stories, Odysseus and the Sirens
Their beautiful song would tempt sailors closer and closer…
Let’s worry, that’ll be productive.
Let’s stick our head in the sand – that’s always fun and fruitful.
Let’s lash out and act badly because that’s always a good time.
Oh yes, – let’s catastrophize – because it’s such an amazing future trip.
…until eventually they were shipwrecked on the rocks below.
Skipping yoga sessions
Staring mindlessly at a computer screen
Scrolling bleary eyed through social media
Sleep, sleep, sleep, sloth, sloth, sloth
Spending money like a boss
Eat, eat, and eat some more…think like the cookie monster
On the crazy train focused on things I can’t change and ignoring things I can
I love in Homer’s story that if you LISTENED to the sirens you were basically SOL – their voices and melody sucked you right in and before you knew it, you were shipwrecked. But if you could keep your distance and NOT LISTEN – plug up your ears – you see the sirens for what they really were – hungry monsters with vicious, crooked claws.
Yesterday I received some disheartening, while not wholly unexpected, news and I woke this morning with a belly full of butterflies, a head full of chatter, and a melancholic soul. In such a state, the temptation to LISTEN to the sirens was strong and fierce…nearly impossible to resist.
At first glance, I’ve always wondered why Odysseus would WANT to HEAR the sirens – what benefit would there be in hearing the “song”? But in this illustration, I get it. The siren song is familiar and initially feels good and right. It’s the stories we’ve grown up with. It’s the habits we’ve practiced over the years. Worry makes you feel productive. Anger feels justified and is a release. Catastrophizing is a particular favorite of mine and I think it makes me think I’ll be prepared for the worst. But these behaviors only serve to land us shipwrecked in the rocks…there is nothing productive or good about them.
Oh but the temptation.
Because the alternative is discomfort and let’s face it, we don’t like to be uncomfortable. We don’t like the feeling of powerlessness. We don’t want to let go. We don’t want to be calm – we want things to return to how we think they “should” be. We don’t want to be proactive. We don’t want to grow and stretch.
Staying in just this moment is just too hard.
Just put everything back the way it was before I got uncomfortable.
Yeah, yeah, yeah…
Odysseus survives his encounter with three elements – the beeswax, the restraints, and time.
We need beeswax in our ears so we don’t listen to the siren call – beeswax is the truth – we’ve gotta have sources of truth in our lives – the Word, the church, the Big Book, support groups.
The restraints are our friends and our boundaries. Having a group of friends that will speak the truth to you is invaluable – friends that will walk with you as you thrash and find you’re way back. And again, why would Odysseus even go close to the sirens? If your emotional gymnastics are anything like mine – DON’T GO THERE. Get on the phone, meet a friend, write in your journal – just stay away from that siren island.
Time – it wasn’t until Odysseus was out of the siren range did he come to his senses. This is the trickiest part because this is the part that takes time. And time will not be rushed. Time takes time. Odysseus had to journey past the sirens. He listened and then he thrashed at his restraints. He was crazy for a period. And then he came back to his senses.
Here’s to history lessons,
xoxox – DM