Words like Waxen Wings: The myth of Icarus (LFEF 3.10)

27 08 2010

Every time we speak, we become like Icaraus: We are called to ascend, but also to remember that our wings are made of wax.

Any time we look at the world, or at our lives, and see darkness, nebulousness, or disorder, we are called to use bold, courageous speech to bring shape and order to creation, so that God’s will may be done on earth as it is in heaven.  Sin is to be called sin.  Righteousness is to be called righteousness.  Beauty and disorder, goodness and evil, truth and falsehood are all to be called out as such.

I first fell in love with the Icarus myth when this game came out in 1987. It's a great game.

This calls for great wisdom and practiced skill.  We are called to poetry as well as prose; language that is scientific and technical as well as language that is common and colloquial.  All of them have their place in shaping God’s creation.  (Indeed, can you think of a single discipline of study in which words do not play a central role?)

I am not saying that we are called to some simplistic game of name-calling – though this is how many proponents and enemies of religion often occupy their time.  We are called to something much deeper, much more complicated.  We are called to find words that – somehow, though it often seems impossible – encapsulate the boundless realms of meaning and mystery hidden within everything upon which our eyes come to rest.  And we are called never to suppose that we have “spoken the last word” about anything, knowing that a full understanding of even the simplest of things is always beyond our grasp.

There are rumors of a new Icarus game for the Wii being in development... but I don't know if it's true or not.

In this matter, you will know that you have found the right attitude when the utterance of even a single syllable feels like a grave presumption, as if your words were Icarus’ waxen wings, with which you are daring to ascend to realms fit only for gods to inhabit.  You will recall with fearful humility that warning given to us by the Logos himself: “I tell you that men will have to give account on the day of judgment for every careless word they have spoken” (Mt 12:36), and you will place a trembling hand over your lips.  And it is only a recollection of the glory to which you have been called that will give you courage to again remove that hand, daring again to speak.

p.s.: Here’s a song by one of my fave bands, Brave Saint Saturn, in which the myth of Icarus is used as a metaphor for human limitation and brokenness:

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