Icarus

icarus-1944Icaro+by+Fernando+Zobel

I’ve always had a fascination with the Myth of Icarus. I submitted this piece for a magazine and it unfortunately didn’t make the cut. Some may call that a failure but I believe Icarus would feel differently. Here’s a snippet of that flight.

… Now, more than ever, I think about my fascination with the Myth of Icarus.  It’s so strange because even as a kid, I felt drawn to the story and to the image of this boy flying into the clouds and plummeting into the sea. Later in middle school, my teacher showed us the painting of Henri Matisse’s Fall of Icarus. Again this image of this single body falling from the sky greatly affected me. I never understood why until I read Portrait of the Artist by James Joyce, in high school. We had to scrutinize the work for all the different allusions to previous works, one of them pointing to the Myth of Icarus.

I remember thinking what a strange coincidence. I was already enjoying the book because it was chronicling the genesis and evolution of a writer, much like I had imagined I would write about my life. The more I read, the more it hit closer to home.  The protagonist, Stephen Daedalus is torn between appeasing his family by going into a ‘regular’ job, or following his dream to be a writer. His entire life is about his struggle, this ebb and flow between what he wants and what he has to do.

My last and most powerful encounter with this myth was quite recently.  I was staying at a friend’s for the weekend and was paging through a book of artwork by Filipino artists.  I came across the sketches of Fernando Zobel, one of them entitled Icaro.  I stared at it for a long while.  To anyone it could look like scribble, but again, something drew me to it.

Icarus’ father, Daedalus, fashioned the wings from wax for Icarus to help them escape from prison. Daedalus instructed his son not to fly too low, or the water would wet his wings, and not too high, or the sun would melt it away.  Icarus had to fly just at the right height, lest he fall.  But how did Icarus decide to take that flight?

Enthralled by the thrill of flight, he went higher and higher, closer and closer to the sun.  His desire, to go beyond what others could see, was his ultimate downfall.  I long to write, but if I do dedicate myself to this, will I suffer the same fate as poor Icarus? Will the desire to follow my passion melt all sensibility and have me fall away? I look at this story every which way and can see it as nothing but a tragedy. But what would Icarus say?

I’d only ask Icarus one thing, “Was it worth it?” I’d like to think he’d smile and say yes. His story is immortalized as tragedy, and that is how history remembers that flight.  But how would Icarus recount his own journey? I imagine and can only hope that he’d look back on it as a victory. He did what no one would dare to do.  And in doing so, he got to fly through the clouds and see the world like no one else would.

I believe that one moment of freedom could outweigh a lifetime of imprisonment. I believe that one moment of being who you are, could easily outweigh a lifetime of pretending who you aren’t. If all I have is one flight, one moment- let it be this. Let it be every single moment after this. Icarus has made himself known to me ever since I was a child, the image of his flight forever emblazoned on my mind. I’ve spent a lifetime denying who I am, my passions, my beliefs, the only tragedy is not that I plummet into the ocean like Icarus. The tragedy is that I never realize who I am and I never even take that leap of faith.

No one remembers a lifetime. People only remember moments, little spaces of time that change the entire course of their lives. If I can only have this moment to change, let it be this.

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