How Far, Icarus, How Far?


The story of Icarus is one that I've had as of late, very freshly in the fluency of thoughts. The story resonates an ongoing truth, analogously, about Man. We are that creature that will fly too close to the sun, regardless of how good a thing we have we will carelessly push passed safe and destroy even ourselves to savor happiness. At least that is my interpretation of the myth of Icarus applied philosophically to Man.

Found in any addiction, any vice or obsession, its the echo of Icarus' fall, cloud through cloud, ending in a death-pounding plunge into the Icarian Sea. He could not contend himself with flight, an achievement in itself so marvelous that following his father, Daedalus' instructions or precautions would have proven alone, a reward. The reward of flight. But Icarus took advantage, saw an opportunity and decided to withdraw the most he could from the experience. Of course, he paid with his life yet when he flew--Good God, how he flew! It could never be said that in comparison to Daedalus' flight, of the two it was certainly his son, Icarus who flew. Freely, with the confidence and command of a naturally winged creature, that is how Icarus flew; while Daedalus remained a human flapping wax wings and thereby remaining alive, survived his son.

Taking this myth and applying to it, one of the current and more obvious areas of human ingenuity to which Icarus may play as a perfect analogy, I find myself conflicted. Conflicted because upon reflection to Man's daring and careless innovation, I at times feel like a Daedalus rather than that plunging, screaming, wingless man falling his last seconds of life away. The good example of today's "wax wings" is found in technology. The wax wings themselves were a technology and Daedalus, known for his ability as a master craftsman (earlier, he had designed the labyrinth for King Minos to trap the Minotaur). Technology alone is not the harmful flight. Tools are helpful by definition and their utilitarian function has helped to in turn, define Man. We are after all, a tool using animal. But so long has passed between the wheel, fire, and spear to maglev trains, space travel, and atom bombs; we are approaching a peak to the Information Age. We are approaching Singularity.

And there my friends, is when the sun is too close and we heed not the previous warnings or the consequence of flying farther and faster with wax wings. In the myth, I side with Icarus. I side with the idea that no limits should hinder experience; that Man must push beyond, regardless of what consequence may result. Even if you expire yourself in the process, you at least lived a moment to its fullest and most possibly, dangerous potential. This being my stand, one would furrow their brow to see me swiftly transformed into a scolding Daedalus when Singularity is brought up. My position changes, I believe, for a very valid purpose. Singularity is so perverse, so destructive to the idea of what Man has been as, that its hard to compare it lightly to a pair of wax wings when its more analogously accurate to compare Singularity to a highly evolved suicide method.

Of course, my conflict is much deeper. After all, a man with wings is just as perverse as downloading your mind into a computer. I am farther removed from the Icarus myth to be at all shocked by it but I assume part of the thrill in the story was applying Man domain over an unnatural and therefore exotic tool (wax wings). There is absolutely no difference between wax wings and Singularity. And still I am a practical Daedalus who sees only a minimal mean to an end, while Icarian engineers see a new playground, a new opening to peek through the eyes of a god, a careless creator.

Try as I will I cannot be upset with the Icaruses of my time because there is no separation. There is no division of Man, where this side is Icarus and the other Daedalus. Man is a unified experience of the Universe, what one man creates, all Man creates; what one man is bound to do all Man is bound to exercise. There is only the collective representation. So it is logical that I include myself as part of that Icarus that happens to be 21st Century Man. Elemental as I am to this 21st Century Icarus, one can see why I understand. I can pardon the reasons--reasons, which I feel need not be apologized for in the first place--but I mourn. I prepare myself for that fall. I mourn for everything that came before that descent, all the heights and cleverness that lead to the creation of wax wings. I mourn for that falling creature who flew too close to the sun; who had a good thing before becoming curious about what was further up and unsatisfied with playing it safe. Falling the last seconds of his life away.

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