Posted by: Monkey | March 10, 2012

Mermaids and Integrity

I remember the Greek mythological story about a hero and the mermaids. I forget which character it was and where he was going and yet somehow the story has stuck in my head and recently it has came up again as a metaphor for in my own journey in embracing the masculine parts of myself and learning how to be with feminine radiance. All the important aspects that I can identify right now as being relevant to me are present as metaphor in the story, or at least in my memory of it, and are there and easy to take apart and investigate.

My intention in this article is to write a version of the story from my own memory while elaborating (and maybe adding in, as I can’t remember the original) upon it and to then go ahead to break it down and think about what the story tells us about stepping into and fully embodying our masculinity as evolving males.


The ship was crewed by the finest sailors and warriors around and captained by one of the bravest heroes of the time. It was setting out on an important mission, a mission of discovery, of exploration and of great peril. Many dangers awaited the Captain and his crew on this journey and they had been preparing themselves for months in anticipation of their departure.

Finally the day came when they were to leave and the port was full of people cheering and celebrating, the whole town had turned out to see our brave heroes off on their adventure and wish them all the success as the fate of the entire town depended on it. There was fanfare and music, dancing and drinking and merriment all around.

The time came and with a burst of fireworks the crew threw out the ropes for the ship, rowed out of the port, raised sails and entered the next phase of this journey. After all their preparation now it would be put to the test time and time again in the months and perhaps years to follow.

After many adventures already and some months later that the crew began to enter a place where their biggest test yet was to take place. Mermaid rock!

The mermaids were known for their incredible beauty and singing. Their singing was so enchanting that sailors would lose themselves in the song and steer their ships to dash right upon the rocks where the mermaids would then drag them to their death down in the depths of the ocean.

The Captain of the ship knew this and had made preparations regarding this part of the passage. He handed out to every member of the crew some cotton and wax to stuff in and seal their ears thus cutting off the lure of the mermaid song and to wear masks at all times except for when steering the ship. Being very well trained crewmen he was certain they could obey these orders. He then instructed the crew to tie him fast to the mast and to not untie him until they were well and truly safely away from the threat. The crew asked him why he would not stuff his own ears to avoid the inevitable suffering that not being able to follow such blissful sounds would bring, to which he replied that he must know what it is like to experience such radiance, such beauty at least once in his life. The crew agreed and lashed him down firmly with the final instructions not to untie him no matter how much he begged or pleaded.

And then they were upon it. A small isle in the middle of the ocean surrounded by the white foam of crashing waves… and there they were; more than a dozen incredibly beautiful and distinctly different women. There was a stunning blonde, a ravishing redhead, a fiery looking brunette… black hair, curly hair, short hair, golden brown tanned, milky white skin, black chocolate and all of them so beautiful that the Captain found he had difficulty breathing. Already he was feeling the urge to go to them, to be near them, to behold their beauty from close.

And then… they began to sing. The first few notes drifted gently from the ocean being filled out as more and more of the mermaids joined in on the song. The words made no sense to the Captain and they didn’t need to, he felt their message. He began to struggle at his bonds, to pull and tug, to shout and plead for his deaf and blind crew to release him. He raged, he sobbed, and he laughed madly and all the while tugged and pulled at the rope tying him to the mast until his wrists and arms were bloody. There was only one thing on his mind… he had to be near such beauty, his whole being cried out for it, every cell of his body resonated with their song. It was like he was on fire, the sweetest fire he had ever experienced, a fire of pleasure and longing and torment all at once. He must have them, at any and all costs he must be near these women, these exquisite creatures of immense beauty.

The ship continued to sail its course, passing the isle by and slowly the song grew weaker and weaker and the Captain’s struggles began to weaken. Finally as the last notes drifted out of earshot the Captain sagged against his ropes, his head falling to his chest as he wept openly.

It was some time before the crew felt safe enough to remove their ear plugs and masks and when they finally did the Captain immediately asked them to release him. The ropes were chafing his body and uncomfortable he needed to be free. The crew, however, sensing something was amiss told him no, not yet that he must wait a while longer as he may still be under the enchantment of the mermaids song. At this he began to rage and curse his crew, to demand that they release him as their Captain they must obey. The crew was well founded in their suspicions that the time was not yet right and continued to keep him bound despite his seemingly unending anger. He shouted at them that they did not love him to which they replied that they were keeping him bound out of love for him.

After a time the Captains ranting grew less and less and finally trailed off as he stood staring into empty space. The crew came to him and asked if he thought he was ready to be released yet to which he replied that he was not sure and apologized for his behavior in the past few hours. It was at this point the crew knew yes he was ok and he was ready to be untied and they did so.

The Captain stumbled to the side of the ship gazing over the side at the rock now long out of eyesight and then dropped to his knees and wept. Some of the crew came to him and asked him what he wept for to which he explained that never had he experienced such beauty before, that every cell in his body longed to be with it, that in those moments he forgot his purpose, he forgot himself and would have gladly given everything up for just another moment embracing the radiance.

And so the ship continued on its expedition, meeting and triumphing over many other perils as the important missions of every member were played out in their endless journey.


This is the story of the perils of the mermaids and again it might not fully reflect the original Greek story and yet I find the metaphor within to be profound and appropriate when looking at the challenges of being an embodied and spiritual masculine man.

There are three layers of metaphor in the story that I would like to explore and consider in my own life and offer up for you the reader to look at in your own.

1. The mission
The Captain and his crew are on an obviously important journey or mission of discovery or whatever else. The details of their particular mission are not important, the important fact is that they are on one and completion of it is important to everyone. For we who resonate most with the masculine it is this mission or sense of purpose in life that drives us on, fills us with passion, lights up our hearts, brings fire into our eyes and makes us who we are. Be it work, music, writing, website design, physical exercise, gardening, construction, fighting, etc… it is not the specifics of it, it is that we as men have this drive in our heart and are living in line with that.
David Deida in ‘The Way of the Superior Man’ says it like this: “The ‘mission’ or the search for freedom is the priority of the masculine, whereas the search for love is the priority of the feminine.”
There is no doubt that for the masculine that without this we become a shadow of ourselves, we will feel empty and lost, wandering. This mission is our lifeblood, even though it may never be completed, even though it may change many times in our life… because it’s not about the accomplishment, it’s not about waiting for that day when one day it will be finished and we can ‘start’ our life… no it is about that daily challenge, that daily grind, that daily stretch to be better than we were and to continuously grow. Our lives depend on it, and so too does those of our loved ones.

2. The song of the mermaids
In the story it is the radiance and beauty of the mermaids and their song that cause sailors to lose their sense of self and drive their ships into the rocks smashing themselves to pieces in an attempt to own that radiance.
This is the feminine and this is how radiant feminine energy can feel to the masculine. The experience of being in the presence of a fully radiating woman can cause a man to forget everything, to forget himself, to forget his purpose and mission and to dash himself to pieces trying to be near her, trying to possess her. Even though a man may enjoy this beauty for a brief moment, if he tries to hold it and leaves his purpose behind in the end it is his death that will occur, or at least the death of his passion and when that happens a man might as well be dead as his life will become a misery and that radiance he so desired will disappear from him. The radiance of the feminine only shines for a man deeply involved in his sense of purpose.
The mermaids do not sing for the sailors who already dashed themselves to death on the rocks.

3. The crew and the rope
In order to both be able to enjoy the beauty of the mermaids and continue on his mission the Captain needed the help of two tools. First he needed the willing participation of the crew, his brotherhood, his circle of male friends who can hear his desires and hold him accountable to them no matter how much he wishes to go back on his words, no matter how much it might hurt in any moment. The masculine is empowered by being with more masculine. Together men can share their sense of purpose, even though their missions may differ, and can hold each other to their word. Men can offer support to each other and, when truly loving one another, offer that tough love that will call bullshit on something they can see is not serving their friend. As men we need this and too often, especially when falling into the embrace of a woman, we forget this and the result is loneliness, isolation and that loss of purpose, fire and drive. As men together we can be so much more than alone. The result is greater than the sum of its parts.
The second tool was the rope that lashed him to the mast, to the very core of his purpose. The rope is our integrity, it holds us to what we know is right and true, even though that may change with the winds of time. With a strong enough rope, or anchor, the masculine can be grounded in his purpose enough that he may fully enjoy the sweet song of the feminine. It may be torment at times as the allure is so strong that for moments he will want to give up everything just to be with the feminine, and it is likely he will fall into it more than once. Yet with a strong enough rope and a solid crew he will always be able to regain his sense of purpose and continue standing at the bowhead with the wild winds whipping at his hair, laughing in the face of challenge as he sails his ship through whatever storms may arise. And it is within this space that the mermaids, the feminine, will willingly swim by his ship and surrender in the strength of his love which encompasses her and more… she will never stop singing her sirens song and there will never be a day that her man will not be tested to give it all up for her. She wants to feel his strength moment by moment and that is the dance… that is what brings us both to life in that endless intertwining of the yin/yang.———————————————————

This article, as anything I write, is written for myself as much or more than for anyone else. It is a reminder to me, to remember my purpose, to hold to my integrity and to find and encourage a strong group of male friends who I may support and be supported by in return.
I have experienced the fall, the crash upon the rocks, and the feelings of being lost and lonely as I surrendered to her. As I gave up myself for her and as the passion and drive in my life slowly drained out of me I have felt that sense of loss, that frustration and depression. As I was so astounded, so overwhelmed by her beauty that all I wanted to do was sit in it every day, every moment I have experienced it fading when I stopped doing what I truly wanted to, even though I was ‘doing it for her’. That when I saw her smile I would forget everything else that was important to me, that I would willingly sit and look into her eyes, look at her smile even when I knew there was something else more important I should  be doing. I would do anything just to see her smile, just to hear her laugh and unknowingly that everything, which she never really asked for, included forgetting myself. In the end there was sadness and heart break, both unnecessary. She lost her respect for me; my word meant little as I could not even tend to my own life purpose, so how could I truly care for her? How can a woman love a man who has lost himself?
A woman develops feelings of love for a man who is passionate and driven, what happens when that fades… even though to him it might be that his passion is now for her.
It’s not enough and for me it took heartbreak and loss to realize this. That pain was enough to say I never want that again and there is no other time to live my life the way I always desired, the way I always said.

So this is a reminder to me to give to myself, to care for myself, to feed my own fire, to tend to my own garden, to follow my passion, to find my purpose and live it daily… To develop and strengthen that rope of integrity so that I may hold to it in those moments when I would gladly let go and jump off my ship to dash upon the rocks at her feet.
This is a reminder to live with an open heart, even when it hurts.
So that one day I may experience the true radiance of the mermaids song without losing myself in it.

**Note: The story is of Odysseus… although the details are not that important for this article.



  1. Hi Shadow

    Very long article, but very poignant. Worth reading. There must be many men that can resonate with that said. And I agree fully. Maybe one has to have experienced such a tale to understand it’s meaning, to maybe learn from it to.


  2. Hey man!

    I enjoyed your article here, Damien. The writing flows well and I find it captivating to read. I too am fascinated by Greek legend and mythology. There’s so much juice in there – I love it.

    I enjoyed reading about the metaphors and notice that I feel there’s more to be explored around your take on the rope. You say this is symbolic of the purpose – and still he left wounded by it. Do we as men get wounded and bloody by following the purpose? And if so, why is it like that? And must it be? I’d love to see you explore that more.

    I look forward to reading more of your work,

    PS! I couldn’t comment without logging in. I think you’d get more comments if you changed that.

  3. Eivind, thanks for your reply and taking the time to read the article.

    That is something I didn’t pick up around the rope, that while it binds him to his purpose it is also a source of torment leaving him, as you say, wounded and bloody.
    And I think that metaphor fits right in also… I will reflect on it and explore that more and immediately my intuition says: yes as men we will be wounded and bloody by following our purpose and, as much as it sucks, I think it has to be that way.

    It is actually very real for me right now as one layer of ‘torment’ comes up around me following my purpose and moving more in to the “do what I say I will” embodiment in that sometimes what I have said I will do is not as glamorous as it seems in my dreams. The torment is in the seeming drudgery or the process of learning and laying a foundation for growth (literally and metaphorically) and the pain in breaking through the egoic tendency to stay with what is ‘safe’ meaning where I was before I started. The resistance to change… and that is the rope… and if I let go of it… swept into the ocean of feminine, and as I believe you have pointed out in writings also the feminine takes shape in many other forms than just a person. It is the sensuous nature, the seduction of being lost in fantasy books or movies, of eating and delights and all that fun stuff, including women, that can so easily become a distraction from ever achieving anything worthwhile in this life.

  4. Cool! I’m glad you shared a deeper cut of what this means to you. I’m not sure I get it 100%, but I can certainly appreciate the things you write and resonate a lot with much of it.

    Would you care to explaing this a bit more “The resistance to change… and that is the rope… and if I let go of it… swept into the ocean of feminine”. Is the rope the resistance to change? That doesn’t fit for me. It can mean many things I’m sure, but that interpretation can’t co-exist with the rope being a man’s mission.

    My take on this is that the idea needs to germinate a bit more in you and then something even deeper will emerge from that place. I’m looking forward to seeing the flowers of that process. And already enjoying what is appearing through you right now.

    One thing I like to say is “In order to manifest the actual, I need to sacrifice the potential.” Does this mean anything to you right now?

  5. No I meant the rope is what can hold us into the integrity of doing what we say we will, of living out our dreams as opposed to dreaming out our lives.

    The rope is what holds me in me while there is that ocean of feminine around me and the siren song waiting to sweep me into the rocks to dash myself to pieces and drown in the feminine ocean.

    I like your quote, it means something to me for sure and I also need to sit with it a little longer to make any comment on it.

  6. I’ve always loved this story — never seen it so vividly and heart-wrenchingly told before. Thanks for this Damien!

  7. Thanks for checking it out Bryan!

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