A few days ago, a friend asked me what I thought about Icarus – the full story, not just the half that gets toted around as a warning not to fly too high. Everyone knows that half – Icarus flew too high, and the wax holding his fragile wings together melted. He plunged into the water and drowned, much to the distress of his father, who had warned him of the danger before they took flight.
I remember reading the story of Icarus often as a child, and I always wondered why people never quote the first half of Daedalus’s warning. Do not soar too close to the sun, nor too close to the sea.
Nor too close to the sea.
Daedalus warned Icarus that flying too high would kill him, and we’re all too happy to share that piece with anyone who would listen, but we fail to recall that Daedalus also warned Icarus of the danger in flying too low. That half of the warning has been lost over time. Maybe because, deep down, the thought of flying too low is somehow more frightening than the thought of flying too high.
It’s easier to heed that warning. It’s easier to avoid the heat of the sun than the salt spray of the ocean. Children are taught not to reach too far, not to exceed their limitations. There is wisdom in the warning – it’s the proverbial, ‘don’t bite off more than you can chew’ (something I learn and re-learn and re-re-learn). But there’s another side to the coin. In telling others not to fly too high, we’re effectively telling them to fly too low, and it’s dangerous because it’s easier. Instead of reaching for higher branches, we don’t reach at all. Instead of climbing, our feet remain firmly on the ground. Instead of soaring higher, our wings grow clogged and heavy with water.
There’s a certain discipline to dreaming, an art to knowing where you can fly, and what you can do where you currently are. There’s a certain discipline to reaching for something and remaining grounded enough to keep your balance. To use a personal example, my dream is to be a famous author. I mean, what writer doesn’t dream of this? I sent a manuscript to several publishing houses and got a reply from an Indie publishing house -a modest place, but they wanted it and I’m thrilled to give it to them (although the work is…well. It’s work). But I didn’t reject the offer because it wasn’t a multi-million-dollar deal or a huge, famous publishing house.
‘Dreams’ and ‘discipline’ might look like they cancel each other out, but the more I figure out this life thing, the more I realize dreams take more discipline than (almost) anything else. They don’t work without it. Since the beginning of the year, I’ve been working on a schedule. I’m getting more sleep. I’m getting more done, being more productive, accomplishing the things I’ve been meaning to accomplish. It doesn’t just happen – I need to make it happen.
I’m learning to fly between the sea and the sun. I’ll always be learning.