Saturday, August 25, 2007

Rethinking Sirens

After fleeing the terror of Cyclops Island, The Odyssey’s Greeks landed on a mysterious island that was ruled by the enchantress Circe. There they experienced trouble after trouble, and Circe turned the crewmen into pigs. The clever Odysseus, however, along with the god Hermes, devised a plan to rescue his men from the enchantment of the sorceress. After gaining freedom for his men, the king of Ithaca learned of another peril that he and his crew must at all cost avoid: the Sirens who inhabited a rocky islet that lay along their intended route. Sailors had been tempted to their doom by the alluring chorus of the Sirens, wrecking their ships upon the huge rocks. Their bones were piled high on the peak of the islet.

Odysseus warned his men to beware of the enchanted song and ordered them to put beeswax in their ears so they wouldn’t be enticed by the sweet harmonies of the Sirens as they sailed quickly past the rocky crags. Since he needed all of his senses in order to captain the ship, Odysseus ordered his men to bind him tightly to the mast so he wouldn’t become enchanted and steer the craft into the treacherous shallows or dive into the turbulent waters. Further, he ordered two of his strongest men, Perimedes and Eurylochus, to guard him closely in case he was able to break his bonds.

Because the sail could not be used in such a narrow pass, the Greeks rowed their vessel along the jagged coast. Without fail, the Sirens began their bewitching ballad. The sailors, their ears stuffed with wax, were immune to the singing of the Sirens, but Odysseus pressed and strained against his bonds. The Sirens sang mystical tunes that entreated the Greek king to think about the green hillsides of Ithaca, the warm embrace of his wife, and his longing for knowledge about the mysteries of the world.

Mad with desire, Odysseus broke the sinews that bound him to the mast and rushed to the edge of the ship. Fortunately, Perimedes, Eurylochus, and the rest of his unaffected crewmates were able to restrain the impassioned king in his crazed attempt to swim to the Sirens. As the ship passed the Sirens, Odysseus was finally able to gaze upon the creatures that had lured him with their silvery sweet voices. To his shock and dismay, the beings that so melodically aroused him into a torrid rush revealed themselves to be hideous beyond human comprehension. Each had the ugly, grasping claws of an osprey, winged bodies, and the heads of young women. They sat aloft a pile of human bones, some with the flesh still hanging off them. The disgust and loathing he felt when he looked upon the Sirens and the sudden realization of what they really were shattered the euphoric spell and freed Odysseus to continue on his long voyage home to Ithaca.

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Tuesday, August 21, 2007

Rethinking Temptation

Now the serpent was more crafty than any of the wild animals the Lord God had made. He said to the woman, “Did God really say, ‘You must not eat from any tree in the garden’?”Genesis 3:1

Why comes temptation, but for man to meet and master and crouch beneath his foot, and so be pedestaled in triumph?Robert Browning

Adolescents today face an ever growing array of temptation. Succumbing to these temptations can distract and derail a young person’s journey through life. Sometimes the consequences of falling into temptation last well into adulthood and affect future generations. We will use the rendezvous between Odysseus and the Sirens as a metaphor for understanding the issue of temptation and the hazards of yielding to it.

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Wednesday, August 15, 2007

Rethinking Our Fears

This past Sunday I participated in a triathlon relay event with two other men I had never met. Since I was a swimmer in high school and college, I did the 700 meter swim. When I was invited to be a part of the relay team, I felt a certain sense of unease. A thousand excuses filled my mind. I said I would consider it and let them know in a few days. Honestly, I said this so that I could come up with a good reason why I couldn't do it. Why did I want to avoid this experience? Well...I was afraid.

I was always a natural swimmer and eventually earned All-American honors in the 100 & 200 yard backstroke. When I was in my younger years, I always felt pressure to win and perform. The difference is that fourteen years ago, I was in the best shape of my life and felt confident that I could live up to expectations. Now, at thirty-five, I didn't have that reassurance, although I still felt the pressure. I guess I just didn't want to look bad.

The interesting thing is that during the time that I was supposed to come up with a reason why I couldn't compete in the triathlon, something deep down inside was telling me that I had to face this demon. Something within me wanted to push against my fears and limits. I ended up calling to let them know that I was in.

I had only three weeks to train for an event that was considerably longer than my longest swim in college. If any of you have children, you will understand that finding time to train with a four and two year-old at home can be challenging at the very least. After three weeks of training at odd hours and in twelve yard hotel pools, my big day arrived. I couldn't really sleep the night before.

Family and friends came to cheer our relay team on. The swim began with a chaotic rush of splashing. During the halfway point, I had to fight this intense urge to just quit. It wasn't that I couldn't finish, for I had swum the distance numerous times over my three weeks of training. Rather, it was that I knew how far I still had to go. Once I pushed through that barrier, runners call it a wall, I knew I was on the downhill run. I finished the race, jumped out of the water, and sprinted the hundred yards around the pool. A good friend who I swam with at Grove City College finished about the same time I did. As we ran around the Olympic size pool, we high-fived each other.
Rounding the bend and heading for the parking lot where our team biker was stationed, I felt a wave of absolute exhaustion hit me like a ton of bricks. It was at that moment, that, seemingly out of nowhere, the runner on our team appeared by my side, and ran the rest of the distance with me. Staggering, I handed off the timing band to the biker and I was finished. Our team ended up with our best time and finished fourth overall!

So what did I learn from this experience? I learned that sometimes you can finish fourth and still win. I had my best time in the 700 meter swim. That is winning. I pushed through a wall that could have stopped me dead in my tracks. That is winning. I had the chance to struggle and overcome alongside a friend who was experiencing the same thing. That is winning. When I felt like I couldn't go on anymore, a new friend ran alongside me and gave me the strength to keep going. That is what friends do. That is winning.

What demons do you need to slay? What do you need to face and stop running from? When you drive against your fears, your life will become richer in so many ways!

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Tuesday, August 07, 2007

Rethinking Bullying X

Mythic Connections

The “Cyclops’ Cave” is an excellent story to use for connecting with students regarding the issue of bullying and harassment. The chapter from The Hobbit that tells the tale of Lake Town and the dragon would also be another good reading for this purpose. There are also some great movies that address this topic in a way that is engaging and relevant. An older one that portrays bullying in a manner that is still pertinent today is My Bodyguard. Other movies (theatrical release as well as TV) include Ever After, The Odyssey, Big Bully, The Karate Kid, Back to the Future, Napoleon Dynamite, and The Hobbit.

Discussion Questions
• Which character in this story do you identify with most?
• What intimidating situations did the character(s) encounter?
• Have you ever felt intimidated or bullied by someone else like the character(s) in this story did? Do you feel that way now?
• How did you handle this situation? Did you tell an adult? Friends?
• How has being intimidated or bullied changed you or changed the way you feel about yourself?
• What can you do to take control of the situation? Is there someone you can turn to for help or advice?

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Wednesday, August 01, 2007

Rethinking Bullying IX

Follow Up

Don’t try to mediate a conflict between a bully and a victim. Conflict mediation should be reserved for peers who are having a disagreement about a particular issue. If mediation is carried out between a bully and a victim, it can cause a great deal of stress for the victim and can expose him or her to further bullying. This is not a situation where each party is partially to blame; rather, the victim should know that they do not deserve to be treated in this manner.

A victim of bullying may carry deep scars in her heart from the tormenting she endured at the hands of another. Let the victim know that you will be touching base with her over the next few weeks or so, just to see how she is doing and to ascertain whether or not the bullying has in fact ended. The student who was victimized by a bully will need the opportunity to share her
feelings about what has transpired with a trusted friend or adult. You should arrange for such venting to occur whenever possible.

The damage bullying has caused needs to be faced to experience some real healing and restoration. Tears can be therapeutic. Sometimes a letter written to the bully but never delivered can help the student understand the depth of his pain and release it, as well as to see the person responsible for it. Professional counseling is very helpful in this regard and is strongly encouraged.

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