Flying too Close to the Sun: Hubris
Are you familiar with the myth of Icarus?
The boy that wanted to fly?
He constructed wings made of wax and took to the sky, he wanted to challenge the gods.
And, you know what?
It worked. For a time.
But then he got cocky and he flew higher and higher. So high that he lost where he was. He flew past his village, over the mountains, and out to sea. Higher and higher until he flew so high that he could touch the sun. And in that moment, his wings made of wax melted. A young Icarus plummeted, screaming, into the ocean.
The story teaches us about hubris. About what happens when we think we have it all figured out. Hubris takes hold just when we have succeeded. It is the universe’s way of punishing us for taking just a little too much. Have you had this experience?
Have you gotten everything you’ve always wanted and then tried to take a little more? Have you been shocked by the results? It’s happened to me plenty of times. Just when I finally pat myself on the back and get comfortable life throws me a curve ball. Almost as a reminder, “you’re not done yet.” The constant reminder never to let up, and let my guard down. To think that I somehow “made it” or that I’m better than others. I’m reminded daily of how little I know and understand about this world. I am humbled in every moment of confusion.
Stress comes from the meaning that we attribute to things, not from the things themselves. The things themselves are inherently empty – that is, the things themselves do not hold any value or meaning. They are neither good nor bad, they just are. Do you understand this? This is so fundamentally important! But we, as humans, try to make meaning of the world around us and more often than not we turn it into stress. There is something so strange about the human animal in that it seems to thrive when it is challenged.
So hubris is a type of arrogance, it is the belief that you finally made it. It is complacency of the highest order. We are made to grow, to change, and to adapt. That is our purpose on this planet. We were not designed to sit in leisure or to consume endlessly – media, food, comfort. We are created to invent, build, and express. In moments of hubris we forget this.
Now, I’m not saying it is wrong to rest. Not at al! Rest and recuperation are incredibly important. But what I am saying is: that is not the goal in life. This is counter to what our culture tells us. Western culture weaves the story that “if we work hard enough will finally get to relax.” It drives us, ceaselessly towards an imaginary payoff. This is a lie. There is no payoff.
In fact, this belief encourages hubris. It makes it the goal. Look around, you can see it. Elders who have finally “made it” but have lost their purpose and their meaning. They got the golden ticket but couldn’t get in. It’s a shame really, that we trick people into believing it’s all about the destination. So often we miss the path. We don’t get to enjoy what it feels like to fly.