The Sirens and their legendary song stem from Homer’s Odyssey, telling the tale of their enchantment, luring men to their island only to be devoured. So pervasive is this idea of the Sirens that over the ages others have written of them as well. (Among them Matthew Arnold in the 1800’s and Atwood in the 1970’s.)
The Sirens song is not just alluring and seductive, but as the listener nears, he becomes obsessed to the point that he is no longer able to turn back; willpower and sense of self vanish.
In Melville’s Moby Dick, the character Pip essentially loses all sense of self after nearly drowning during a whale chase. Further reading reveals, “…Pip saw the multitudinous, God-omnipresent… He saw God’s foot upon the treadle of the loom, and spoke it; and therefore his shipmates called him mad.”
In Homer’s Odyssey, Odysseus is aware of the Sirens before he ever draws near, and instructs his sailors to clog their ears with beeswax that they might not succumb to the music. So desirous and curious is he to hear their song, that he first has his men bind and gag him. In this way he hears the allure of the song and almost goes mad, yet does not met his death with them because he has prepared.
Desire. Weakness. Awareness. Preparation.
Desire and weakness are key components in which the call of the Sirens tempt us, leading us to our demise. If we allow it. What is the frailest part of yourself? What do you desire that seems just out of reach, creating in you a weakness when the Sirens call? If you are not aware of the all-consuming wish in the depths of your heart (that which you want more than life itself), how then do you prepare for the Siren’s song?
Take, for example, a desire for love; to a larger extent for acceptance, or to an even greater extreme, to simply stop feeling rejected. The weakness here arises when a history of rejection (real or imagined does not matter as all of it it is Truth in that person’s mind) is all-consuming, causing feelings of unworthiness. Only in that full awareness of the weakness within that desire can one prepare to overcome the temptation and move forward.
The blog Hacking the System explains that Odysseus, “decided to take action to protect his future self, from, well, himself by creating a system that made failure impossible.” This stems from the idea of precommitment, by Daniel Askt (author of We Have Met the Enemy).
What does this say? This puts destiny in our hands. As co-creators of our lives, we have choices, if only we are aware.
I will use myself as an example:
- I desire to be love-worthy. For me, that means being heard. When someone listens to me – truly listens to me and not only expresses empathy but also encouragement – I feel worthy of being loved by that person.
- My weakness is in feeling “less than.”
- Awareness is only present insomuch that I remember my weakness before the Sirens sing.
- To prepare I must first, of course, recognize that my worthiness does not depend on others. I also must not place more value on the particular song the Sirens beckon me with (a seemingly good listener) than on trusted and valued friends.
Response to Possible Objections
- But I have no friends/they have let me down!
- I must recall those that have been there before. Of course they have let me down (but it is not all about me!); the point is that history has proven they are trustworthy and the temptation to garner a listening ear from just anyone could lead me to the ‘confirmation’ of that fear anyway (that I really am not love-worthy).
- There is no Sirens’ song in my life; what are you talking about?
- Do you remember the last time you let someone take advantage of you just to fulfill your desire/need? Do you remember that it left you feeling raw inside, used, and worse than you felt before? The song that beckons you is not your friend; it is your obsession.
- Okay so I have a desire but I’m not weak about it!
- I am so happy to hear that! I truly hope you remain so strong!
- Awareness? Yes, I know I weak and want ______ too much, and let others run me down just for a brief second of partial fulfillment. Now what?
- This is a very important step! Recognizing potential temptation guards yourself against that song that is so (falsely) alluring.
- Preparation? I can’t prepare! I don’t know when the temptation will arise!
- You’re right; we never know when the facade of realizing our wants will arise. That is precisely why we should prepare for it. Review how Odysseus prepared as he entered the waters where the Sirens sang their song. We need do nothing so extreme to prepare ourselves, thank goodness!
- The thing I desire most, that I can only get from others, is ___________________
- The thing I will do almost anything for (my weakness), is ___________________
- I am aware that the truth of the matter is ________________________________
- I can prepare for the song of the Sirens by ______________________________
It takes courage to admit a weakness. It takes throwing out the lies of your experience to see the Truth. And it takes preparation to stop the cycle. Stopping the cycle does not mean we no longer hear the seductive song of the Sirens, beckoning us not to the realization of our dreams, but to our death. Rather, it means that once we learn to live at peace with our own selves, in our own right of who we are, just as we are… the song becomes less seductive. Why is that? It is because in that continuing awareness of who we are (not the fleeting thoughts), the all-encompassing need/desire recedes yet at the same time, I think, is actually met.
Experience is our teacher. As rightly it should be. Still, one must acknowledge that emotions greatly determine our remembrance of an event. What seemed terrible at 6 years old and left a sense of abandonment can now be seen through adult eyes. As perception changes and matures, our feelings of having unmet needs diminishes. Yes, we also have hurts that perception will not change, no matter how ‘mature’ we become. Hurts that anyone can readily see and agree with you on. BUT WE DON’T HAVE TO LET THOSE HURTS RULE US. And that’s very difficult, to move from a wounded person to one who has let the open wounds heal, still carrying the scars but moving forward. And, really, moving forward is HOW those open wounds close.
In our weakness, surely each one of us has been beckoned by the alluring songs of the Siren. Most, I would wager, have succumbed to the seductiveness of desires fulfilled, and ended up with our souls ravaged on the rocks as the waves wash over us. And yet we have not been destroyed. Could it be that the one experiencing the onslaught is “…elevated to a higher plane, like the escapees of Plato’s cave, so that man’s insanity is heaven’s sense?” While this quote refers to “Lethal Text,” so called that it was believed to destroy the reader, I include it here because the song of the Sirens was considered Lethal Texts, among others.
I leave you with this quote to ponder, and to decide for yourself you need to gird up against your perceived weakness, or embrace it to move forward (I welcome your comments!):
“I suggest that the lethal text [*blogger’s note: or the Sirens’ song/the seductiveness of the enemy/your word here] may not in fact destroy the mind, but rather cause it to move up to a higher level of consciousness, which would seem “weak” to the people left behind. He might have a direct apprehension of Plato’s world of Ideal Forms. Instead of having been destroyed, such a person might simply have transcended the body and no longer have need of it. (Such a fate is implied in Macroscope.)”
**Because rejection seems to be such a huge factor in our society – the way we relate, the desires we have, the loss we feel – I have included some information on that as well.
Being the Beloved constitutes the core truth of our existence.”
― Henri J.M. Nouwen
“Nothing others do is because of you. What others say and do is a projection of their own reality, their own dream. When you are immune to the opinions of others, you won’t be the victim of needless suffering.” – Don Miguel Ruiz, New Age Author
“In so far as one denies what is, one is possessed by what is not, the compulsions, the fantasies, the terrors that flock to fill the void.” – Ursula K. Le Guin
“Reject your sense of injury and the injury itself disappears.” – Marcus Aurelius
“So many are in prison because they won’t accept themselves. So many are so gifted and talented, but they won’t express themselves because they fear rejection. They fear man. They fear what people will think.” http://www.joycemeyer.org/articles/ea.aspx?article=do_you_feel_rejected