The Brother of Icarus
You recall the story of Icarus and his dad, Daedalus. Dad was a great architect and designer. He built wings for him and his son to fly away with the proviso that they not fly too high or the sun's heat would melt the wings' wax. Icarus flew too high, the wax melted, and he crashed to his death. The message of ego and reaching too high is the stuff of study. Last week I met Icarus' reasonable brother and he had a great lesson, too.
I don't know his name. He's from Bali and worked in Indonesia for years before coming to America. He's about my age. He now works as the evening site manager for a county community center. It was there that we engaged in conversation based on his opening comment, "You have nice boots." (Actually, there's not much to them and they're seven years old.) We quickly moved from my boots to his life.
He shared that his job had involved showing people around the sights and activities of Indonesia, and the company he worked for served many of the oil companies. He met many interesting people, including engineers, CEOs and most everything in between. He suggested that his humble life was far different from that of his clients in Indonesia, and the people who were gathering that night at the center, for that matter.
"But, I've had a good life," he said. "Maybe not as important as those others..."
"Who said you're not important?" I asked.
He continued as if I hadn't spoken. Maybe he ignored my mistake of equating his comment of being "not as important" with "being not important." Either way, he kept talking.
"I try hard. I'm happy. I've had a good life. You can only fly so high, you know. Like birds, right? I fly just this high and it's okay," he said as he gestured a flight level with his hand in a straight-line motion at his eye level.
My first reaction was to want to correct his perception, to let him know he could fly as high as he wanted. Then I paused in new awareness that how high someone can go is not the same as how high someone should go. Our society's notion that we should reach as high as possible at all times ignores the implications of danger and of discontent for never being "high enough."
The stranger from Indonesia taught me the other truth in the Greek myth about understanding the reality of limitations as a part of life and happiness.
Listen to Life is a free newsletter about learning and getting more from life by paying attention to our own stories and the stories of others, based on the presentations, writings, photography and workshops by Dion McInnis (www.dionmcinnis.com). Copyright 2009 Dion McInnis. All rights reserved.