In the Greek myth of Icarus and Daedalus, Icarus is given wings made of feathers held together by wax. His father warns him: don’t fly too high or the sun will melt the wax in your wings, and don’t fly too low or the ocean will soak the feathers. Icarus forgot this warning, he flew too high, and his wings melted. Icarus fell into the sea and drowned.
The only thing I really remember about this story from when I first heard it is the warning, “Don’t fly too high.” It’s a warning against hubris, excessive pride, arrogance, or over-confidence (perhaps even forgetfulness). It’s Icarus’ over-confidence that got him killed.
In writer Seth Godin’s book, The Icarus Deception, Seth also points out the other part of the warning: don’t fly too low. As Seth says in this blog post, “The Icarus Deception argues that we're playing it too safe, hence my need to go outside my (and your) comfort zone.”
That point has fortified me with a certain amount of confidence to start stepping into uncharted territory in my work as a teacher and in my dreaming about what's possible in education. What restraints can I loosen to impact students and teachers more succinctly, more broadly, more creatively, and more wholly? And where I’ve most stepped into this idea that yes, I can fly higher and still be safe, is in my self-expression and willingness to align myself more and more clearly with my commitment to the well-being of all life.
But there’s still a sun up there, and I’m still wearing wax wings. In any exploration, we’re not alone, and not using our communities for support and guidance, and then even acting in contradiction to repeated messages or others' expertise, is hubris that gets us too close to the sun.
Icarus probably had a few moments of warning where the wings didn’t work exactly right. He should’ve listened and dialed it back, dropped in altitude. And when it became too late, when the wings became dysfunctional, I’m sure he had a long moment of terror as the truth hit him: his arrogance and self-righteousness had done him in.
There's terror in falling from that height. It's sometimes tough to know what the actual impact will be at the bottom of the fall, or even when the final impact has actually occurred.
Icarus drowned in the sea that eventually bore his name, but most of the time we don’t actually die after we’ve fallen. It may feel like we are dying, we may at times in some way see death as possible relief, but the fall doesn’t usually kill us.
At the end of this Easter weekend, however, the story that gets my fingers moving along the keyboard is the story of redemption. In the northern hemisphere of our magical planet, we’re stepping into the rebirth of life in this brightening, colorful, and warming season of spring.
For those of us with a Christian background, Easter as a religious holiday is also the promise of rebirth. Growing up, I thought that Easter was only meaningful for our death, that Jesus was promising an afterlife of glory to make up for this challenging and sinful life. However, the religious holiday of Easter now seems so much more than that. It's the promise of redemption and rebirth, here and now in this life, from whatever falls our arrogance, mistakes, or iniquities lead us to experience.
No matter the harshness of winter around here, Spring arrives. When our own inner Icarus flies too high, let's not forget the renewal promised by our own inner Jesus. Then it's time to pick ourselves up, dust ourselves off, and start all over again.
Thanks so much for spending time with me. ❤️
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