Siren Songs and Siren Warnings

Imagine you are an ancient sailor. You’ve been out to sea for what seems like eternity. Maybe you are going somewhere. Maybe you are just drifting. Either way, it is a shock when beautiful singing suddenly fills the air. You know you shouldn’t but you just can’t resist altering course to seek out the source of the music. Then you crash on the rocks and die. The sirens lured you in with beautiful music, and led you to your demise.


“Eh. I didn’t really like that ship anyway.”

Now imagine you are a modern person sitting at your desk or walking along. Just doing normal stuff. All of the sudden you hear a horrible sound. A screeching, blaring, artificial sound that makes you want to run far away. Without thinking, you run out of the building. Everyone will say you were escaping the fire, but in truth you were just trying to escape the horrible sound. The fire siren drove you away with its noise, and saved you from a fiery death.

Apparently there are two different types of sirens. Sirens that lure you toward disaster, and sirens that warn you and send you away. In other words, there are sirens you are supposed to listen to, and sirens you are better off ignoring.

A Bunch of Idiots

“Yup, that’s the tornado siren, but don’t worry. It’s fine.”

We live in an era where the simplest things appear to be twisted around. Down is up. Good is bad. Honor is shameful. Weakness is power. And throughout this confusing world the sirens are blaring. Throughout the confusing world, the sirens are singing. How can we tell the good sirens from the bad?

Ancient people were easy to lead astray. Modern people are no different, but the methods of misdirection have changed a bit. It used to be easy to lure people with promises of comfort, but so many of us are comfortable all the time now. You don’t lure someone with what they already have. You lure them with what they want to have.

People who are comfortable want action! They want to save the planet, or make their country great again, and will follow anyone who promises them the ability to do those things. How could something that sounds so great be a bad thing? Such are the last thoughts of doomed sailors.

Bad Deal

“This deal sounds too good to be true…I’ll take it!”

Sometimes we are tempted without even realizing it. Someone who is rallying about the decline of society or the perils of the world might seem like they are giving you a warning. In reality, they are trying to get you angry. Angry captains crash their ships more reliably than calm ones.

People listen to the bad type of siren. Bad sirens make people feel good. If you listen to someone because they say everything you want to hear, and reaffirm all of your perspectives, then you are probably caught in a siren’s song.

What about the other type of sirens? Where bad sirens say, “come here and die,” good sirens implore us to go away, and live! It is vital to listen when a good siren makes its horrible sounds. You wouldn’t ignore a fire alarm, or a tornado siren? Or maybe you would. Lots of people do.

People ignore the good type of siren all the time, because good sirens make them feel bad. They are loud and scary and fill people with uncertainty. It is hard to heed warnings, and difficult to resist temptation. And if someone is already listening to a song they like, it can sometimes be impossible to get them to stop.

Imagine the jingle of an ice cream truck luring people over the edge of a cliff, like lemmings. You can see lines of people blissfully plummeting to their deaths, and there isn’t even any ice cream down there. So you grab one of them, shake them, and ask what they are doing. You are literally trying to save this person’s life. Chances are they would think you are being rude. They might think you don’t want them to have ice cream. You don’t want them to be happy! How dare you stand in the way of their destiny?

In reality, you just don’t want to see them led astray. It is a lot of work arguing with people who don’t know their own best interests, and all the while the ice cream at the bottom of the cliff starts to sound more and more appealing…

Patrick Henry

“Give me Ice Cream or give me Death!”

There are two types of sirens. Sirens that lure you in and make you crash on the rocks, and sirens that save your life by sending you away. If someone is making promises they can’t possibly keep, they are luring you toward disaster. If someone is saying things you don’t want to hear, things that make so much sense it makes you uncomfortable, then they are probably trying to save you.

We can’t all go around with wax in our ears. We must be able to hear both types of sirens in order to navigate properly. If you are the type of person who refuses to hear warnings, and loves the music of soothsayers, then you are better off tying yourself to the mast and letting someone else steer the ship.

Odysseus the Fool

Just because you’re clever doesn’t mean you’re not an idiot…