Death And The Flight Of Icarus

In the last week we’ve seen a lot of posts and news about deaths. The non-believer blogosphere seems full of it at the moment. I guess the death of a well known person can do that. For the last 30 years or more thoughts of death like this have always reminded me of a painting I saw once. It was titled (I think)  “The Flight of Icarus”. If you know the story you  might be able to imagine. I tried to find a picture of it but even the Google seems to be lacking this painting.

There is a song by Iron Maiden about the flight of Icaru: Iron Maiden – Flight of Icarus and a bit from Wikipedia that might help explain a bit more, but really none of these are like the painting I remember.

In this painting the view point is from above Daedalus and Icarus just as Icarus is falling to the sea. The father looks in horror as his son falls. The son, Icarus, is smiling. Below them the world is shown as it always is: life goes on with no care for the plight of Icarus or Daedalus. Weddings go on, parties go on, farming goes on and so on.

Despite our gifts or talents or how the fates treat us, life goes on. It always has, it always will. In a meta-thought kind of way, the painting itself freezes that thought on the canvas as if the artist could be a professor in passing the lesson learned on to those who were oblivious to the plight of Icarus as he fell. The artist did not focus on the death of Icarus,  nor the casual observers on the ground. Rather the artist focused on the joy of Icarus in flight no matter that it was only short lived. The painting is not about all the things mentioned so far but about the joy of Icarus in flight. It’s not about his death or the pain of Daedalus but about the joy in the heart of Icarus. The artist did not paint his dead body washing up on the shore nor the tears on Daedalus’ face at the funeral. The lesson of the painting is in the smile of Icarus as he is falling. With the smile the professor-painter points the direction for us to follow on the path through grief.

Don’t focus on the loss or waste nor be oblivious to the finality of life. Always remember to celebrate the life, the joy. the experiences.

A celebration of another person’s life should be about their experiences and not about their end, for the end is always ugly for each and every one of us. Take no joy or grief in the ending of a life, for it means nothing if you did not take the same amount of grief or joy in that life before its end. Know with the greatest certainty that whatever you feel for the dead is felt just for you, it will not help the dead or make something more of their experiences. Celebrate their experiences honestly, openly, and with no tears on your face. Forget your fears of your own demise as you regale the history of another. Tell their tale with the gusto of a warrior, with the patience of a spider, and with the honesty of friendship. Do not make their story about your pain. Instead, make it about experiences and smiles of the dead person, the life they experienced. They, like Icarus, went smiling to their demise.

If anyone knows where I can find a copy of this painting.. please let me know. I want one.

Be, exist, experience…

:: UPDATE ::

I just found this quote by Ralph Waldo Emerson

To laugh often and much;
to win the respect of intelligent people
and the affection of children,
to leave the world a better place,
to know even one life has breathed easier
because you have lived,
this is to have succeeded.
– Ralph Waldo Emerson

That seems to be exactly what I was thinking and feeling and never knew he said the same.


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