Jacob Peter Gowy’s The Flight of Icarus (Source Jacob Peter Gowy – Museo del Prado, Public Domain)
The Ancient Greeks were wise and philosophical thinkers so they had a lot to teach from stories and myths about life that was passed down for millenniums. We can learn from these stories and apply them to our lives in this new age. You might have heard of the tragic story of the fall of Icarus, a Greek myth about the death of a boy who flew too close to the sun despite his father’s warnings.
The story revolves around Daedalus, a skilled craftsman in Athens, and his son Icarus. Daedalus worked for King Minos in his palace in Crete, Island of the Minator, a half human and half-bull monster. King Minos ordered Daedalus to design a prison to contain the feared Minator but instead of creating a prison cell, he designed a labyrinth so the Minator could never escape, but so won’t anybody whom sets foot inside the maze. Anybody who had entered the maze, were never able to leave.
After the completion of the labyrinth, King Minos locked Daedalus and Icarus in a tower to keep the existence of the Minator a secret. The innovative Daedalus came up with an idea to the island, not by land or sea, but by flight. So from feathers of birds, he glued them together with wax to form wings for him and his son. When the time came for him and his son to escape, he warned Icarus not to fly too close to the sun because if he flew too high, the wax holding together the wings would melt from the heat of the sun and not to fly too low for the spray of water from the sea would weigh down the wings.
I think we all know where this story is headed. They took off from the tower and escaped the island. Icarus felt the exhilaration from flying and forgot about his father’s warnings. He flew too high and too close to the sun that the wax began to melt and the wings felt apart, causing him to plummet into the sea and drown. Daedalus was aggrieved with his loss and named the spot in the sea where he fell, the Icarian Sea and the close-by island, Ikaria.
The traditional moral of the story that you will hear is that youthful carelessness will lead you to your downfall. However there are more lessons to be learnt from this tragic Greek myth.
Flying too high can be seen as being too arrogant and flying too low as being too submissive, both resulting in failure to achieve your goal. To find success, you’d have to find the balance between the two.
Perhaps being trapped in the tower for so long had lead him to want to seek freedom in not just the physical form, but freedom of the soul. He managed to escape from the tower but he wasn’t satisfied with physical freedom and wanted more.
Maybe he wanted to achieve something greater than humanly possible? In a world where gods and mythical creatures exist, being a human who could fly so close to the sun broke the barrier separating mortal beings and being a powerful god. He was so focused on his ambition that it made him forget everything else which ultimately lead to his tragic death.
Flying was revolutionary at the time. It was something only gods and the gifted were able to conquer. His flight inspired humankind to reach for the stars and maybe they’d land among the gods. Growth is only made by people who take risks and those who fail and fall only pave the way for progress.