Icarus Fell. But First He Flew.

The Greek myth of Icarus, who tried to escape from Crete by flying on wings made of feathers and wax, is often used as an example of hubris and failed ambition. Icarus is warned by his father not to fly too close to the sun. He disregards this and the wings collapse and he falls back to earth. But the lesson from this myth might be about taking chances and following your heart in spite of the risks.

I started thinking about the story a lot while I was in Paris last December. I thought perhaps I'd seen a painting of Icarus in one of my museum visits -- and somehow it had crept into my waking dreams. Then I went through my photos of the trip and found this image (top photo), from a ceiling in the Louvre museum. It depicts Icarus at the moment of his fall. But the part of the story I started to ponder most was his flight before the fall. It seemed an appropriate metaphor for the coming new year -- to pursue the best and most joyful life. To try for flight -- even at the risk of falling.

Fresh City Life is hosting a tribute to the spirit of this story: a staged reading of the play written by Edwin Sanchez entitled Icarus. It is set in the present and Icarus is now a paraplegic man in a wheelchair who dreams of escaping the bonds of his handicap. A beautiful, award-winning play performed by some of Denver's talented actors and actresses. Reserve your seat at this free event. 

If you'd like to explore your own flight on the subject of Icarus and his heroic journey, check out Icarus in the library catalog. The story has inspired works of fiction and nonfiction, as well as music, dance and film. There's something about Icarus and the power of his flight. Oscar Wilde summed up my response to the Icarus myth perfectly:

Never regret thy fall,
O Icarus of the fearless flight
For the greatest tragedy of them all
Is never to feel the burning light.

I'm willing to entertain the idea that we are meant to pay attention to the flight of Icarus instead of dwelling on his descent. Maybe taking flight despite the risks is connected to the profound meanings of life. Maybe the fall is just a footnote.

Bon Voyage and happy landings!

Written by Chris on April 30, 2013


Anonymous on May 1, 2013


Beautiful words. Thanks.

Check out the song Iscarus Ascending by Dan Fogelberg. One of my favorite songs of my favorite artist.


Will do! Thanks for the recommend -- and for checking out this post.

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