Out on a lonely island sits a group of women. Their song is so heartbreakingly beautiful that the mere sound of it is enough to override basic survival instincts. The moment that song reaches mortal ears, the listener throws away all restraint and flings himself into the sea in a mad desire to reach the singers. Only too late do they who are stricken realize that the island cliff’s are unassailable. All who swim for the Sirens drown, accompanied by the beautiful music of their own seductive funeral dirge.
How did one resist these singers? Well, Odysseus strapped himself to the mast and plugged all of his sailor’s’ ears with beeswax. Even still, he nearly tore the mast down in a desire to reach the strange birdlike women. The Argonauts? Jason recruited Orpheus. The skillful musician was able to drown out the Siren’s song with music equally beautiful from his lyre. Butes, however, heard the song and leapt into the sea. Only the divine intervention of Aphrodite kept him from becoming another victim.
The Sirens and their song have long been used as a teaching tool. Usually, we apply it internally. We ask ourselves “What is my Sirens’ song?” “What calls me away from productivity and forward momentum?” “What keeps me from moving forward and realizing my full potential?”
Those are all excellent questions, and it can take a lifetime to find the answers. However, that is a discussion for another day. Instead of thinking about our own Siren’s song, I would invite you to ponder the Siren’s call to others. In lieu of taking the Odysseus route and tempting fate by immersing ourselves in the seductive sound, let us consider Jason’s solution.
If we are Jason and our readers are the Argonauts, what are the Siren’s songs? Video Games? Electronics? Toys? Sports? Social Media? Yep, I’d have to say that those are definitely things that I compete with to win and keep readers. Are there more? Of course. Those are simply the songs that hit closest to home.
So, now I ask, What can be my Orpheus? Well, to be frank, I haven’t found a permanent solution yet. In competing with video game/social media/one-click downloadable app market, I am losing horrendously. Honestly, since those Siren’s also sing to me, I can’t really blame the readers. More than ever before, we are flooded with cheap (and not so cheap) entertainment. It is easy to be enticed by the song of a quick game of Clash of Clans, a dip over to Netflix for a binge movie watching session, or a late night game-a-thon.
As parents and teachers, we can help influence young potential readers. If we want to make our own songs heard above the cacophony of sound, we have to start with those we can influence. I know that I am preaching to the choir here. It is because of people like you that pleasure reading has not already been completely drown out with the more mind-numbing Siren songs. I can still remember reading days and read-a-thons in schools.
Perhaps they are still happening, but kids don’t seem to rave about them the way they did in the past. Maybe if we encourage and support similar events in the schools and even our own homes, it will increase the chances of seeing a teenager flip open a book during ten minutes of downtime instead of plugging away on a phone to check Facebook, Text Messages, or the latest app. Who knows, maybe one of those books will even have been written by an Emblazoner.
As always, thanks for taking the time to read!
J.R. Simmons (Author of the Ragesong Saga)