Tuesday, June 18, 2013

Escaping the labyrinth

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

-- Oscar Wilde

Polymer clay face with maple tree seed wings 6-18-13

“It seemed as if he had been falling for years.
Fly, a voice whispered in the darkness,
but Bran did not know how to fly,
so all he could do was fall.”

-- George R. R. Martin, A Game of Thrones

"If God wanted us to fly, He would have given us tickets."

-- Mel Brooks 

“Oh No! My wings are effed up!” 

-- Tammara Webber, Between The Lines 

If you haven't figured it out by now, I enjoy mythology.
Greek. Roman. All of it.
I read Edith Hamilton's Mythology in a high school world humanities class and fell in love.
Zeus. Hera. Apollo. Mercury. Icarus -- the danger, the adventure, the deception, the romance, the gods and goddesses whimsically exercising their grudges with each other by fucking with humanity.
I was the only student in the class who was totally into it, I think.
I was that kid.

I was an English major in college, but I took a heavy load of classics, as well. My final thesis was a comparison of literary styles shared by the Odyssey and the Aeneid, titled "Virgil's Dialogue With Homer: Artistry and Vision."
How pretentious does that sound?
Jesus, did I really do that?
There is something about those old myths that still gets me.
I think it is the truth.
The truth about human nature in relation to unpredictable forces beyond our control.
Like Icarus.
Icarus was the son of Deadalus. 
They lived on the island of Crete, ruled by King Minos. 
King Minos had an elaborate, inescapable labyrinth where he imprisoned the Minotaur, a deadly monster. He threw his enemies in there too.
Deadalus (with the help of a hot chick named Ariadne) betrayed the king by helping another guy, Theseus. He gave Theseus a thread so he could retrace his steps out of the labyrinth after killing the Minotaur.
Minos felt betrayed, so he imprisoned Deadalus and his son, Icarus, in the labyrinth.

Being a crafty guy, Deadalus knew the only way out was up. So he made 2 pair of wings from osier (willow) branches and wax, and taught Icarus to fly.

It worked. 
Deadalus and Icarus flew out on their new wings and escaped the labyrinth.
Deadalus warned Icarus not to fly too close to the sun, or his wings would melt.
But Icarus got so carried away by the amazing feeling of flight, that he didn't listen. 
And, well, his wings melted, and he crashed and burned.
Technically, I guess he burned and crashed, into a lake. 
Lots of ink has been spilled about what the lesson of Icarus is, much of it having to do with the consequences of youthful disobedience.
My question is, is it better to stay trapped in the labyrinth, with no way out, waiting to die someday?
Or is it better to take a risk and cobble together a pair of homemade wings so you can fly out of that fucker and feel freedom, even if it's only momentary?
So what if you fall?
You are probably already falling as it is.
For me, the lesson is simple. Get out. Whatever it takes. You might stick the landing.
But if you don't ...
I'd rather die free than imprisoned.
Whatever your "labyrinth" is, whatever imprisons you, whatever confusing maze hems you in -- depression, addiction, chronic pain, anxiety, insomnia, all of the above -- with the right people helping, you can get out.
They might sneak you the necessary thread.
Or they might just build you some wings.

Take the wings.
Don't worry about the potential crash.
Just fly.