The myth of Icarus and Daedalus: Knowing When to Stop

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I first found out about Icarus when I heard Bastille’s track, “Icarus”.

Icarus is flying too close to the sun
And Icarus’ life it has only just begun
This is how it feels to take a fall
Icarus is flying towards an early grave

An original story straight out of Greek mythology, the story of Icarus is one parents have used to caution their kids and, if you have listened to this song, one that friends have used to caution their wild friends. Bastille’s interpretation of this apparently popular myth, is that a person flying too close to the sun, is basically being arrogant and thinking they’re invincible. On reading about the story the first time, my interpretation was that people should not be disobedient. Another interpretation focuses on the skill and creativity by which some people can create inventions out of necessity. Some even choose to look at it from the angle of not being explicit enough when giving warnings. However, after a personal experience, I chose to settle for “knowing when to stop.” Hopefully, you’ll be able to find your own interpretation after learning the story.

Here’s the abridged story of Icarus and Daedalus:

Daedalus found work as an architect to King Minos of Crete. He has always been known for being creative and smart, so he had access to a few secrets the Kingdom. In the process of working for the King, he fell in love with a mistress-slave of the king named Naucrate, and had a son – Icarus. The King of Crete, in the palace of Knossos, now had a need to trap a creature known as the Minotaur (We’ll talk about this later) and needed Daedalus to create a maze to trap the beast.

Daedalus built a proper Labyrinth that is said to have been built so cunningly and twisted up that anybody or thing trapped inside would not find its way out. To protect his secret of the existence of the labyrinth, the King imprisoned Daedalus and his son, Icarus in a high tower with no way to escape. After a long period, Daedalus thought about a plan for their freedom. He got the wings of birds and joined them with wax for both himself and Icarus. With that, they were able to fly out of the tower. However, Daedalus warned his son, not to fly too high or the sun will melt the wax on his wings and not to fly too low so he doesn’t get weighed down.

However, Icarus got carried away with the joy of flying, that he ignored (or forgot) his father’s warnings and flew too high. The heat of the sun melted the wax on his wings and the wings fell apart. Icarus fell into the sea and drowned. The river he fell into was named the Icarian Sea and the nearest Island was named Icaria in his honour.

No doubt, Daedalus was a genius for thinking of that escape route when the necessity arose, but the story and lessons are usually focused on Icarus. He was disobedient. He didn’t take caution, and he dug an early grave for himself. However, since I’m choosing to look at it from the angle of knowing when to stop, and knowing your limits, here’s what I think.

You see, many people have failed to live life because they have been overly conscious. You’re not going too low, or too high, but staying right in the middle where it’s safe – embracing mediocrity. What is life if risks aren’t taken? More so, Icarus was held in captivity for quite a while. On release, he savoured in the moment of pure joyful escape and basked in his new found freedom. Inasmuch as it is okay to live life, be a little crazy, be spontaneous, take a few drinks, and have fun; it is important to know your limits – know when to stop. There is only so much you can take until you fall straight to your doom. Living on the edge is certainly pure delight, the adrenaline of speed is something we probably need to enjoy a few times in our lives, but never ever push it to the limits. If you do, you would burn the wax that holds your wings in place, and you will fall and probably never rise up again. What’s your own take?

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Ejiro Lawretta Egba is a young chartered accountant and writer from Nigeria. She holds a degree in Accounting and is a qualified member of the Institute of Chartered Accountants of Nigeria. She is currently a Financial Analyst for a private equity firm in Nigeria, a ghost writer, and a writer/contributor for a number of websites and platforms, both home and abroad. With an immense passion for knowledge acquisition, she seeks to contribute her own quota to the African community and beyond. For info and inquiries, contact via: lawrettawritesbookreviews@yahoo.com

2 COMMENTS

    • Perhaps. But, life is a risk in itself. There is only so much you can do to stay safe. Sometimes, it pays to go all out. Just know when to stop.

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