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Tuesday, 10 April 2012

I is for Icarus

I am very fond of Greek Mythology and one of my absolute favourite stories of Icarus, the son of talented craftsman Daedalus.

The basic upshot of the story is his father creates him wings out of feathers and wax to escape from Crete and the clutches of the evil Minotaur. Despite warnings from Daedalus not to get too close to the sun or water, he inevitably flies too close to the sun (or in some stories, the sea) resulting in the wax melting (or becoming too heavy with water) and drowning.

This stories is generally accepted to be a symbol of getting too big for your boots. Now I am very torn with the message of the story (at least as I understand it) because I believe we should aim for the difficult things and should aim high as that is how we progress. I don’t believe we would be anywhere near the technological level we are at now if we were not ambitious.

Having said that there obviously has to be caution and common sense involved. I think the key part of the story is the fact that Icarus ignored warnings. Humanity is defiantly an Icarus type symbol. A few years ago now there was a big fuss about the particle accelerator at CERN being switched on and I read a couple of blog posts (I’m trying to find them to give you the links, I’ll update if I find them) that compared this act of ‘stupidity’ to the flight of Icarus.

I don’t think this is a fair comparison because common sense has been used. The most intelligent men on the planet work for CERN and I’m fairly sure those men wish to live, which makes me think that there was no risk involved with the particle accelerator.

What we should be careful of is the fact that our current human lifestyle is being warned against by scientists. Time and time again they warn what permanent damage we are doing to our planet by destroying rainforests (and more importantly disrupting ocean life such as Algae) and releasing pollution. Yet we still do it (I am just as guilty).

This mirrors more the flight of Icarus to me.

What does annoy me, is it isn’t the average man’s (see what I did there...) or woman’s fault, our society and mere survival is based around the whole network of the world which relies on this pollution. We have no power to change things, we can do small things in our communities but unless we can convince everyone to do the same it will be futile. It is the powerful people, the leaders (ish), who we need to change the world and help us change our lifestyle before our wax melts.


P.s I will try and write a happy blog post during this... I’m really not usually this much of a pessimistic git.

1 comment:

  1. Great topic. The story of Icarus always makes me sad, but I agree that people do miss the point. There's nothing wrong with striving toward great achievements, trying new things. After all, Icarus was flying. Just that act could be termed, "to big for his boots." But you have to take precautions and respect limitations.