2006-06-02 3:48 AM

The Wailing Siren of "Easy"

I was going to talk about birds hatching from eggs and butterflies struggling out of cocoons and how “helping” them actually kills them. Then I decided on less cliche and more thought.

After generating the title (and enjoying the ambiguity) I pulled up a definition for siren, mostly to make sure I had the correct spelling for the mythological mademoiselles. I was surprised by more than the usual Webster’s definitions.


SIREN, n. One of several musical prodigies famous for a vain attempt to dissuade Odysseus from a life on the ocean wave. Figuratively, any lady of splendid promise, dissembled purpose and disappointing performance.

I initially blew off Ambrose Bierce’s rendition as not nearly as pithy as his usual and too similar to the “real” definition. Then I reread the entry and set aside my prejudices (as much as possible). I still threw away the first sentence as being too mundane, however the second sentence became another gem in the rough.

A common form of “easy” is winning the lottery. At least one study shows that a majority of lottery “millionaires” end up overextended with a high rate of divorce. So many buy into the hype of what it means to have money and have no way of dealing with the reality. Most had not learned the skills necessary to manage their money even before their windfall. I have occasionally said that the lottery is a “math tax” levied against those who don’t understand statistics. Now I can add economics, finance, and/or psychology.

Another example that comes to mind is “unauthorized collaboration” in school (plagiarism of some form). There seems to be an increasing trend of students turning in assignments that are not their own. We will ignore for the moment the typically voiced theory that plagiarism “doesn’t hurt anyone.” Most students seem to think this is the “easy” way, and assuming they don’t get caught it may even appear that way. The trouble comes later when they find themselves in the “real world” and discover that they can’t turn in the next machinist’s work as their own. Even within their academic career they may find an exceptional teacher who expects them to know something about the topic on which they wrote a paper.

But it was easy!

“Easy” can quickly become Bierce’s “lady of splendid promise, dissembled purpose and disappointing performance.”

Some food for thought:

  • What keeps us so focused on the “easy” as opposed to doing “work”?
  • What was the last worthwhile thing you did that was easy?
  • How quickly will you separate the frustration or boredom you may feel from the actual tasks involved in achieving your goals?

Let “easy” be a warning siren rather than beckoning your ship onto the rocks.

Posted by Wayne Buckhanan No Comments »

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