Saturday, January 24, 2009

Daedalus' Envy

I favour Bullfinch's classic collection in mythology as a source work, mostly for the side tales and other fables of interest connected to the familiar myths, so often lost in a contemporary retelling.

In the myth of Icarus, his father Daedelus who designed the labyrinth of King Minos, loses the king's favour and they were both imprisoned in a tower above the sea. Daedelus gradually collects feathers and one by one builds the wings with wax that carry them to their escape.

We know Icarus' fate, but his father survives and later becomes the mentor to his nephew, Perdix, who becomes the great inventor's apprentice. The apprentice begins to outshine the master. Daedelus becomes so envious of Perdix's precociousness that he takes a momentary opportunity to push Perdix from a high tower. The goddess Minerva, protector of the inventive, saves Perdix by turning him into a bird, now called the partridge which nests in hedgerows rather than lofty heights, mindful of that fateful fall.

The hubris of excitement felled Daedelus' son. The envy of his successor's successes, which outshone his own, disclosed the master's true nature. In ingenuity there is to be won great praise, but in its service to humanity, there is also great caution and humility required.

The reality is we never complete the knowledge we create, only provide stepping stones to those who will follow. If we are not working for the knowledge to be held by humanity that comes after ours, who is it we are really serving?

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