Homer (not Simpson!) and the Sirens

There’s this scene in Homer’s Odyssey where the boat of our adventurer Ulysses comes near to the island of the Sirens. He tells his men to tie him fast to the mast of the ship so that hearing the Sirens’ seductive song he will be unable to fling himself into the sea toward them.

Dangerous rocks lay all about the island and to come too near meant certain shipwreck. It’s a great story (written 3000 yrs. ago). We call it “Greek Mythology”. Did it hap- pen in actual history? No. It’s a myth.

But is it true? Of course it’s true. Is there a “song” that if you listen to it you’ll be tempted to abandon your ship? You bet. Just ask the alcoholic whose friends invite him to a bar for “a couple of cold ones”. Ask the teenager (hormones raging) who knows of a website where “you can see it all”. Imagine the hoarder who hears about “buy one, get one free”.

We all hear the Sirens’ call. They know just the song to sing to each of us to have us sail toward that rocky shore.

So what do we do? (We’re talking about temptation of course.)

The first thing to do is be aware of the power of temptation. It has the uncanny ability to get under or around our desire to do the right thing. It needs to be respected for what it can talk us into. Be smart. Know how strong temptation can be.

Next thing. Be prepared. Know where you want to go. Know where you don’t want to go. Before the Sirens start “your song” be like Ulysses; take measures that will help you resist. You don’t have to tie yourself to a mast (!) but do something to help you resist.

  • Let your friends know in advance that “you can’t go there”.
  • Use your computer in the living room where others gather.
  • Let a trusted friend know what your temptation is and ask their help (if only to listen to you and encourage you to keep up the good fight.) Ulysses asked his crew to tie him up!
  • Pray daily for help to resist the Sirens’ song. God will come to your aid. St. Paul says if all else fails, your resolve is gone, “God is faithful and will not let you be tried beyond your strength: but with the trial he will also provide a way out.” 1 Cor. 10:13 (the Spirit gives you a good idea to do in that moment).
  • Lastly . . . . RUN AWAY!!! Fleeing is a great way to defeat the Siren’s song. It’s not weakness to run. It’s wisdom. Someone yells “Fire!!” It’s not cowardice to flee!

Actually Ulysses was pretty lucky. He could have messed up big time. You see he had his men put wax in their ears so they wouldn’t even hear the Sirens.

He however had heard how entrancing their song was and he wanted to hear it for himself. So no wax for him! “I want to hear them sing.” (It’s called the “near occasion of sin”. Don’t go there.)

Lucky the mast held him back and he returned to tell his amazing story.

We humans . . . . . . how patient God is with us.

Springtime blessings.

Fr. Tim