Cat From The Mat

At the Risk of Sounding Rid-Icarus

"Find life experiences and swallow them whole.  Travel. Meet many people.  Go down some dead ends and explore dark alleys.  Try everything. Exhaust yourself in the glorious pursuit of life."
~ Lawrence K. Fish 

The Greek myth of Icarus is about taking flight and striking a balance between compliance, complacency, and hubris.  As one version of the story goes, Icarus' father and master craftsman Daedalus designs a labyrinth for King Minos to imprison the Minotaur monster.  After infuriating the king in helping cohorts escape this prison, Daedalus finds himself held captive within his own creation, along with his son Icarus.  Fleeing by foot or by sea are not options from the island of Crete.  Daedalus therefore decides to escape by air, making two pairs of wings out of feathers and wax for the two of them.

Before leaving the island, the father warns Icarus not to fly too close to the hot sun or too close to the humid seawater, for both extremes will destroy his wings.  The young boy is elated by the newfound freedom and soars into the sky towards the bright sun.   The heat melts the wax of his wings, and as expected, he falls to his death into the sea. The typical moral of the story is to be wary of the demise that comes from being too self-assured.  However, often lost is the other message: if you aim too low in life then you might not reach your highest heights.

How high will you fly?  This is the over-arching theme of Seth Godin's book "The Icarus Deception." He argues that the main difference between creating a commodity versus art is the presence of risk.  Art is a risky business.  If you do not allow vulnerability, then perhaps you are playing it safe.  But that doesn't mean to fly recklessly high.  The goal is to express your greatest potential while not getting in your own way.

Are you a creator or a consumer of life, or perhaps a mix of both?  I think it depends on how much your heart is involved.  Being vulnerable can be scary.  It's an extrinsic expression of an intrinsic strength.  Contentment is about leading a fulfilling life that still has room in which to explore both the known and the unknown.

British actor Patrick McGoohan traded in his James Bond-type popularity by taking a huge leap in creating The Prisoner, a TV show so ahead of its time that only a select audience "got" at the time.  Musician David Byrne walked away from his Talking Heads rock star status in order to live up to his dreams, rather than up to his fans' expectations.  Both "successful" artists wanted to continue to push their passionate edges and carve out unmarked paths.  This takes courage.  To me, delving into uncertainty seems less scary than living a predictable life.

Yoga is a practice of integrating your curious mind, empathic heart, and intelligent body.  It invites you to live a skillful, artful, and meaningful life.  If you don't establish a strong self-connection, then you might be pleasing everyone but yourself.  And if you do not feel connected to those around you, then you have lost the common thread that ties our humanness together.  

As Seth Godin suggests, "Fly closer to the sun.  Become naked and vulnerable in front of those you give your art to, and seek connection."  Like Daedalus and Icarus before you, create your own myth.  Take risks.  Take flight.  See where your wings bring you, in the glorious pursuit of life.  

Happy Flying!


Cat From The Mat

May 2015