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“sit with it #5 (sirens singing the truth about…)”

The working title was equanimity/ataraxia and I pulled from a Greek vase painting (probably the one vase painting people will recognize if they recognize any at all) and a quote from Homer’s Odyssey about the Sirens’ song.


“Siren Vase” 470 BCE

What the Sirens sang about dropped out of most of the siren stories after Homer; sirens got sexier and sexier and their song was “seductive” and sailors so depraved and thirsty I guess that they’d drown themselves, and that actually made sense to people… Dr. Emily Wilson discussed this in a wonderful Twitter thread. 

It is the sort of thing that is of interest to Zen students who vow to carry all beings across: what would hook Odysseus and his sailors so hard they’d heave themselves overboard and join a mess of broken corpses? (When I found out what the Sirens sang I felt personally accused, as in known.)

Here is Dr. Wilson’s deceptively simple translation.

Now stop your ship and listen to our voices,

All those who pass this way hear honeyed song, poured from our mouths.

The music brings them joy, and they go on their way with greater knowledge,

since we know everything the Greeks and Trojans suffered in Troy, by gods’ will;

and we know whatever happens anywhere on earth.

And Troy is every trauma and tragedy and evil anywhere on earth.

In the vase painting (and in my painting) a Siren passes, plunges into the waves and dies, whenever anyone hears the song and is not overcome by it. I hope to be able to take the bait— to hear a honeyed song and take it all the way in— and still let it go, let it dissolve into the waves. More knowings constellate for further investigation and that’s afaik how this works.

Circe can have the final word. She tells Odysseus how to get past the Sirens:

…your men must fasten you to your ship’s mast

by hand and foot, straight upright, with tight ropes.

So bound, you can enjoy the Sirens’ song. 

But if you beg your men to set you free,

they have to tie you down with firmer knots.

I will not give you definite instructions about which route to take

when you have sailed beyond the Sirens. Let your heart decide.