Icarus: the Obligation to Feel Good

Bruegel_IcarusWhy Icarus?

O no, she’s at it again with her Icarus! Yes, I’m at it again, but this time to make a little re-view of “why Icarus?“.

Poems_Icarus_BrughelMy interest in Icaruses constitutes a “heuristics”. How I interpret this legend generates texts that gravitate around  the pity and fear, catharsis, I experience as I recollect and collect Icaruses. Of course, by Aristotle’s standards, in his theory of tragedy, Icarus would not be material for a tragic hero. If at all, the tragic flaw or error is not Icarus’s but his father’s, Daedalus. A case for the fault of the fathers falling onto the sons can easily be drawn from the legend: Daedalus murdered his nephew Talus, so his own son must die. That makes Icarus a mere instrument to punish Daedalus, measure for measure. Icarus, therefore, can’t be a tragic hero, neither can Daedalus, having premeditated his crime. And yet, though not prototypical, I hold that the story of Icarus is a tragedy apt at purging the passions, catharsis. The consensus for Icarus being a mere casualty of youth, a reckless son, the moral theme of the legend, is too simplistic and dismissive. There must be more to it. Artists (poets and painters mainly) are more ambivalent about Icarus’s ambiguous character. In my Icaresques and Icarus Lessons, I share this ambivalence. 

I am still exploring …and in search of female Icaruses, like Amelia Earhart, coming soon.

Icaruses Can’t Help Themselves But They Can Help Us

640px-'The_Fall_of_Icarus',_17th_century,_Musée_Antoine_VivenelAs a coach, I obviously promote ‘a can do attitude’. So what’s all this Icarus heaviness for?:

The right to feel bad… from time to time. Simply that.

On one level, Icarus’s legend is a story about learning and an education that failed with its dire consequences. People learn from experience, from trial and error, from hindsight, theirs, provided they get a second chance, or others’. Not Icaruses. They are the exceptions that prove the rule.

The Obligation to feel Good


On another level, every good story can provide insight into our own époque. Icarus’s fate and relationship with his father can be a metaphor for our times. We’re brainwashed to pursue happiness, dominant ethos of today’s West. However, in spite of tremendous (compulsive) growth outward, there seems to be utter dissatisfaction inward. The obligation to be happy and succeed ( these 2 are now interchangeable) can bring with itself a sense of guilt, at least inadequacy, when one does not “succeed to be happy” that lead to addictions of all kings, suicide, embezzlement, depression or just slacking of, etc… No wonder that there are more and more rebels with or without a cause. And how, I ask, to be happy , when the standards for happiness have been set by others than ourselves (the metaphor of the father/Daedalus)? I have nothing against “happiness”, however who’s that father figure that imposes the standards for happiness; can “he” be trusted?
We certainly need an ex-ducation (out-path) in happiness, outside of the beaten path, for our youths or it’s Brave New World, the proverbial dystopia.
This starts by a reflection on what truly matters to each and every one of us, regardless of prestige or money, too often the decisive “values” in our life choices. For my part, I find that “how free to be?” is a better question than” how happy to be”, because it fosters the establishment of a reality check on the type of fears and limitations “the collective mind” holds, that may prevent us from becoming a victim of its collective whims. That’s  growth (personal, interpersonal or even transpersonal), that’s  autonomy, that’s participation, leading to a life by design, not by default.
Today’s Fool’s Message
It’s O.K. to feel bad when you feel bad… Or go to the theater for a purge.

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