“In the midst of the work and warnings, the elderly man’s cheeks were soaked with tears and his fatherly hands trembled. He gave kisses to his only born son. He would never again be able to do that. After he lifted himself with his wings and before he flew, he feared for his son–his travelling companion. Just as a bird which led its tender offspring out of the nest, he urged him to follow him and knowing his arts he moved his own wings and looked back at those of his son.”*
So Ovid tells the story of Daedalus and Icarus as they attempt to escape from the prison that King Minos has put them in. Daedalus has crafted wings of feathers and wax, and has fixed them to his son and himself. They will fly out of the prison to freedom.
As long as they take the middle way. The middle way is the way that avoids extremes. If you fly too low, you will approach the sea. The moisture will weigh down your feathers and you will drown in the sea. If you fly too high, you will draw close to the heat of the sun. The wax will melt and your wings will incinerate. With those instructions that have been given by countless generations of parents to their children–not too fast, not too slow, not too high, not too low–Daedalus kisses his son. The seer, poet, Ovid, though knows. He will never be able to offer those kisses again. The father knows this too, as he kisses his son, his elderly cheeks wet with tears.
This is one of the tenderest, saddest stories of parent and child that I have ever read. Any parent who has ever cared for a child knows the intensity and the ferocity of the heart that tries to instruct a child against the dangers of life. Those same parents know the anguish of the heart in letting that child go, in leading that child out of the nest, in allowing that child to fly.
Whether you have children or not, you know this moment–when something or someone you have tended comes to the point of flight. You may be proud. You may be terrified, but you let go. The alternative is a clinging unto death where life never has a chance. In letting go, life has a chance, and even if that life, like Icarus’, is short, it is life. The view, the flight, the exhilaration are incomparable to a life kept bound.
What or who must you let go today? Or, if not today, some day soon? Their launch into life requires you, and while it may wet your cheeks with tears, you will launch your love into life.