The cautionary tale of Icarus, the young man who rashly flew too close to the sun, is of course known by all. In fact, the image of this tragic figure of myth, who by way of his ill-considered actions doomed himself to a watery grave, is so deeply etched into our collective imaginations so as to have become a universal archetype of impetuous youth overreaching its limits.
What is not dwelt upon, quite so much, however, in the telling of this tale, is the fact that Icarus can alternatively also be viewed as having been one of the world’s first test pilots. For, quite literally, he boldly went where no man had gone before.
From this viewpoint, then, Icarus can be seen as having possessed the “right stuff”. He tested the boundaries of physical human endurance and paid the ultimate price. A price that any test pilot worthy of his wings is more than willing to pay, in pursuit of “pushing the envelope”.
In its symbolic sense, the myth of Icarus, I believe, is so compelling to us artist types, precisely because of his fearless, trailblazing attitude. For, simply put, there can be no creation of breathtakingly new and original artworks, without one’s first flying in the face of tradition.
The danger, obviously, is that the artist will next suffer a tragic fall, like Icarus himself did, if he or she should try to overstep the limiting boundaries of societal consensus and norms by too much.
But, then again, I would argue, there exists those kind of days, as an artist, when you just need to suit up and say, “Stuff it, set the controls for the heart of the sun”. Those make or break days, when all thoughts of failure are dismissed as irrelevant. Those days, when you feel you must — even though it goes against your better judgement — reach into the fiery crucible of the sun and drag forth a molten ray of destiny and claim it as your own.
I call them Icarus Overdrive Days, and I can only pray whenever they crop up that I’m able to find the write stuff within me to ride them out. I suppose, half the fun in a myth, though, ultimately lies in its making…wouldn’t you agree?