Icarus Keeps Flying

“Go! Run!” And off we were, in the air, barely higher than the side of the mountain we had glided off, but already I felt closer to the sun. Many people recite the story of Icarus as a cautionary tale, and yet there is something to be said for soaring, climbing higher and further to touch the face of gods. What altitude is acceptable for a fall? Beyond a certain height, everything is the same and we are but scattered particles in the ever-changing, immortal dust. Floating above the world but under the clouds, I thought that there is no greater lie than “The higher the climb, the harder the fall.” What struggle is judged by its descent, what joy by sadness, what life by its death? And if indeed there are some such cases, why? To take up another cliché, “Don’t cry because it’s over, smile because it happened.”

And I sat there, smiling, laughing as a sensation of pure — and yet not great — but simple joy; it was an innocent joy, a marvelous joy, not the whooping delight of victory nor the exultation of success, not the quiet tide of contentment, not the ecstasy of passion, but a childlike exuberance whereupon the slightest detail seemed beautiful, and wholly deserving of my endlessly rapturous gaze. However, I woefully mistreated the countless objects of my darting eyes, as being so high up I felt as if the world was at my feet and I, I could not possibly be the equivalent of those tiny specks of humanity that were peppered across the valley; no, I was, if only for a few minutes, in a moment of pure egotism, closer to the gods. Perhaps if I’d looked up, I too like Icarus, in my ultimate self-delusion, could’ve grazed the bottom of the sky, and if I’d had the foresight to keep brazenly rising up, past the highest mountain peak, past the cold, cloudy, empty air, to where every breath is costly and precious, perhaps I could’ve held onto the edge of the Earth, and opened up the sky. And for a moment, I would see firsthand the oldest battle in the universe — of light versus dark — and think, “The battle is not yet lost.” But I did not; my gaze looked down, as man so often does when placed above, so quick is he to feel superior and unique even in the face of overwhelming evidence to the contrary. And yet, even as I set myself apart as different, as special, I realized that everyone is an unmatched peculiarity. There is not a single individual on this precious planet that is in any way identical to another. And yet. If we are all unique, then we are all the same. I am no more or less unique than Edgar Allan Poe, the Queen or the garbage man across the street. I am not special; no one is special. How strange, however, that in writing those words, my entire being felt wronged, and some hidden voice violently protested against the injurious statements I am making against myself and humanity at large. But it cannot be otherwise, for as I gawked around at the valley below me, I was constantly aware of the unshakeable seniority these mountains — and many others like it — have on me and humanity in general. Who are we — who am I — to glide impudently between these massive edifices and worse yet, to dream?

I landed quietly on the grass, now highly aware of my status as a simple, wretched peon of life, condemned to dream but always wake up. And yet, as I stared passively at the top of the mountain, I was just able to make out some glinting buildings — beacons of light and hope amid the sunset and the darkening sky — and above, a single white sail gliding serenely above the mountain crest.