Gilberts’s Icarus: Reframing Failure

Failing and Flying

by Jack Gilbert

Everyone forgets that Icarus also flew.
It’s the same when love comes to an end,
or the marriage fails and people say
they knew it was a mistake, that everybody
said it would never work. That she was
old enough to know better. But anything
worth doing is worth doing badly.
Like being there by that summer ocean
on the other side of the island while
love was fading out of her, the stars
burning so extravagantly those nights that
anyone could tell you they would never last.
Every morning she was asleep in my bed
like a visitation, the gentleness in her
like antelope standing in the dawn mist.
Each afternoon I watched her coming back
through the hot stony field after swimming,
the sea light behind her and the huge sky
on the other side of that. Listened to her
while we ate lunch. How can they say
the marriage failed? Like the people who
came back from Provence (when it was Provence)
and said it was pretty but the food was greasy.
I believe Icarus was not failing as he fell,
but just coming to the end of his triumph.

– See more at:

I obviously still have Icarus on my mind since poems and books (soon) come to me, now, as if I had an inner search engine set on an Icarus tag.  I am onto some other project(s) but, again, it doesn’t seem that I’m done yet with Icarus, far from it, an important theme in this blog, besides the related fool archetype and journey. I realize I have to let Icarus have his say so that I can move on with these other projects that I have to heart. So be it. I am not disappointed with the result. The poem by Jack Gilbert and Elizabeth Gilbert’s take on it in the video above bear great insight as to the fool’s journey, reframing failure and self-compassion. As Gilbert says, during this interview, with the twinkle in the eye so characteristic of her sense of humor, when she ‘opens up her mouth and her mother walks out and speaks’ :

…Please remember… later in your life, [whatever you decide today]that, subsequently, information may arise that makes you realize you made the wrong decision, but please do not abuse yourself for the choice you made when all you knew is what you know today.

[Paul Holdengräber: and enjoying what we have decided now]…I can see no other path. Right? Otherwise you’ll just be afraid … you’ll just be a consumer and you’ll never do anything again…

Then she goes on with her personal experience of her failed marriage, echoed in or rather in correspondence with [the other ]Gilbert’s poem, that lead her to her search for identity related in Eat, Pray, Love with the worldwide success this book encountered for soul searching.

There’s a lot more about the two unrelated Gilberts [Liz on Jack]:


Today’s Fools’s Message

…anything worth doing is worth doing badly.

Jack Gilbert

Subsequent history and subsequent information may make me challenge that decision and all other decisions but we can only do the best with what we have right now and our knowledge and then forgive ourselves in advance for what we didn’t know as it was happening.

Elizabeth Gilbert

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