Daedalus was a brilliant inventor, the Thomas Edison of his day.

Unfortunately, he angers King Minos, the ruler of the island Crete, and he is thrown into jail located at the top of a building on an island.

Desperate to flee the island, Daedalus uses wax to build some wings for himself and his son Icarus.

Daddy Daedalus warns his son: don’t fly too close to the sun. If you fly too close to the sun, your wax wings will melt and you will fall and perish.

Icarus heeds his father’s advice for a bit, but then he gets cocky.

He is having so much fun flying that he forgets the warning and flies too close to the sun.

Sure enough, his wings melt, and Icarus plummets into the sea and drowns.

Daedalus is devastated by his son’s death, but the show must go on.

He flies on to Sicily, where he mourns Icarus and builds a temple in honor of the god Apollo.

The story of Icarus is fascinating from a cultural perspective. It has been around for a thousand years.

This story has been used to teach us to obey what our parents says, and also not to fly too high, because there is a danger in “flying too high.”

Except that’s not what the story really says in the 17th hundreds years.

As Seth Godin says in his book The Icarus Deception, they changed the story. The story also said:

“More important, don’t fly too low. You fly too low to the sea, the seawater and the midst will dampen your wings, and you will surely perish.”

This part of the story about the dangers of flying too low has been omitted for a long time.

They took this part of the story out because people in power [the industrialists] want us to fly low.

Because according to them, if you fly too low, it is easier to ignore us.

They want us to follow the rules so that our behaviour becomes predictable, that way they can ignore us and still know that we will continue to be do what we are told to do over and over again.

When we fly too low, it is easier to get a factory job and fit in.

The industrialists don’t like people who have the desire to dream something bigger, who want to change the status-quo.

It is the industrialists who invented the public school because they didn’t have enough obedient factory workers.

So public schools were invented to produce obedient factory workers.

For a hundred years, we had this wonderful system: go to school, do what you are told, go to a place called a factory or office, do what you are told there for 50 years, thereafter they give you a watch on your retirement, go home watch TV, buy enough stuff with your money, and then…. die.

We have been trained to prefer being right than learning something new, to prefer passing the test than making a difference, and most of all, to prefer fitting in with the right people, the people with economic power.

This deal was straightforward and worked on both sides, the industrialists and the workers.

But this deal, this formula is broken in the past 20 years.

The problem is that people are still seduced into thinking that what they are supposed to do is to fit in more.

Social Media has made this is worse because there is this packed mentality of: “how do I fit in more”, with little small bursts here and there of: “Here is one quick tip for a flat stomach” or “Here are three different ways to get rich” or “You can pay R200 into a WhatsApp scheme and be a millionaire tomorrow.” None of which works.

The combination of wanting to fit in more amplified by social media means that people are starting to feel broken and bitter because none of these promises are not kept.

So, you have a choice, a choice between three things:

  • Either, you are replacement cog in an industrial machine and get paid as little as possible; or
  • You become the industrialist, the person who owns and runs the machine; or
  • You become this person we can’t do without, this person whom we miss when you are not around. The pathfinder, the one who figures out what we should do next.

Instead of being the first option, the industrial cog, you could choose the second or third option.

You could dig deeper into emotional labour, not the physical labour of digging a ditch, but the emotional labour of sitting when you feel like running away, of whispering when we feel like shouting, of listening when you we feel like talking, of being patient when you feel like rushing, of holding on when you feel like letting go.

It is what we wrestle with every single day. The intersection of comfort, danger, and safety. The balancing act between vulnerability and shame. The opportunity [or the risk] to do art. The willingness to take responsibility for caring enough to make a difference and to have a point of view.

You could dig deep and say: In this moment, I’m going to choose to be the best version of myself and seek possibilities.

It turns out that that’s a life.

You can build an entire life merely doing that.

And then what happens more often than not, is that they world responds by inviting you to play in the bigger stage.

This is not about hustling, I’m not a fan of hustling, of scrapping through.

I’m fan of someone who says: How I can do things in the world to leave a better trail and help other people, not how do I do things so that I can get my share of more money.

The world responds well to people who make them better far more than hustlers who wants to make a quick buck.

The worlds responds well to people who take responsibility and give away credit.

Don’t worry about your stuff. Worry about making meaning instead.

If you work for an organisation that does not respect that, guess what, there is another organisation that wants you.

People want to work with people who make a difference.

You get to keep making art as long as you are willing to make the choices that let you make your art.

Now it is your turn to stand up and stand out.

Don’t fly too low.

2 thoughts on “The Icarus deception

  1. Interesting I was thinking of the same thing especially for the black community it’s really hard to shift the mind set to give and selflessness. The social setting is fighting against that people have got responsibility before they even exit tertiary and the idea of doing things to better other people while they struggling to make it themselves.

  2. The story is an old story as you said have never considered the philosophic aspect of it,
    Today it becomes an eye opener.

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