I was eavesdropping on a discussion about criticism on a Facebook group I enjoy, and the image of Odysseus came to me.
The famous hero of Homer’s Odyssey had to go through a waterway, where Sirens sang their sweet song, leading men to their doom. I have heard different versions of what the doom entailed–they forget to mind the tiller or the sails, and the boat crashes in the churning rocky waters; or, they dive off the boat and drown; or the Sirens, which have a woman’s body on top and and a bird’s below, eat them; or, they just go mad.
Odysseus managed to avoid this seemingly inevitable fate, by putting beeswax in his men’s ears, so they could not hear the sound. He could not, himself, resist the temptation to listen, so he had his men lash him to the mast, with orders to never release him, no matter how much he might beg or threaten them. Thus, they passed through these dangerous waters and came out the other side, to sail home to Odysseus’ long-suffering wife, Penelope.
Today we think of a siren song as something that beckons to us. But if we follow it, we are doomed.
May we all have the patience and courage to listen to criticism, and yet, somehow, shield ourselves from it, so that it never vanquishes us.
If you should bristle at critique,
If callous words should cause you pain,
If some find fault with your physique,
Or your most cultured views disdain;
If you should wince, at odd remarks
That, raising others, drag you down,
If they make mincemeat of your heart,
And laugh at you, as at a clown;
If you are pilloried and mocked,
With rotten apples thrown your way,
Ignore their frippery! Embark
Upon your journey, come what may!
For though a soothing siren’s song
Of gracious words and compliments
Might ease your heart, relax your mind,
And make less pressing, your intents,
To triumph o’er the roughest channels,
And reach, again, familiar shores,
Strap yourself to the mast of Destiny
And all such Sirens’ songs, ignore.
Copyright 2021 Andrea LeDew
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