Back to our story - before they took off on their flight, Daedulus, who had constructed the wings, warned his son not to fly too close to the sun or too close to the sea, the logic being that the sun’s heat would melt the beeswax and the greater humidity down by the sea would weigh the wings down – sound advice as it turned out. In the story, they both got successfully aloft and were making their escape over the water. Icarus, however, got carried away with his new-found ability and flew too close to the sun. As had been predicted, the wax melted, the wings fell apart, and he fell into the sea and was killed. The message of the story usually goes along the lines of: “Don’t strive too high or glory in your own achievement or your foolish pride will strike you down.” The more religious types pick up on the angel resemblance and spell it out in big letters: “Don’t go trying to act like you're you know who, or he’ll smack you down and put you in your place.”
In the original story, Icarus didn’t make the wings. His father did. Daedulus is described as a “master craftsman”, a guy with skills who worked hard at what he did. He not only made the wings, but was very aware of their limitations. While Icarus got carried away with himself, soaring around yelling “I can fly, I can fly” as if he had anything to do with it, Daedulus stayed on course – not too high, not too low – and made good his escape, with, I suspect, some spectacular views of the sea and Greek Islands as he went. If poor Icarus hadn’t given the wings a really bad image problem with his famous fall, Daedulus could have made a fortune franchising them, not to mention opening the first flying school in Athens. The King who had imprisoned them in the first place would have probably given him a full pardon in return for a custom made pair and a couple of free lessons.
That being said, the real lesson of the story is “Before you use a new device, be sure to read the instruction manual.” Or, to dig a little deeper, “You can achieve a lot of things other people might think are impossible, if you understand what you’re up against and work within the limitations.” Advice the Wright Brothers took to heart, with considerable success. Not that progress is ever risk free – one of the Wright Brothers’ inspirations, German inventor Otto Lilienthal, achieved great success with gliders in the second half of the 19th century, but died following a crash in one of his inventions. Be that as it may, due to the contributions of the Otto’s and Orville’s of this world,we can fly. Icarus’ only contribution was in giving the real achievers a bad name.
And that’s the problem with Icarus.