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Wednesday, July 11, 2012

Icarus/Ferdinand Paradox

by Casey Peterson (bio)

Image via *F~.

Icarus or Ferdinand?

Icarus was a figure in Greek mythology. Together with his father, Daedalus, he was held in prison. Then, Daedalus had a bright idea. He started collecting feathers that had dropped from the sky and glued them onto some twigs using beeswax. He made two pairs of wings.

Daedalus told his son, "Icarus, let’s fly out of here!" Initially, Icarus thought, "Yeah old guy, like that's going to work; a pair of wings!" But Daedalus said, "Believe me son, they will work, just try them." And so Icarus did so. He put on the wings and, cautiously, started flapping his arms. And, much to his surprise, he took off!

Icarus was flying, initially quite cautiously but gradually he grew more confident and started enjoying his flight. He started flying higher and higher. Eventually Icarus got so high that he started flying too close to the sun. The beeswax melted, the feathers popped out, and Icarus fell back down to earth.

This is what we call the Icarus Paradox. The same thing that had made Icarus successful, escape the prison and fly, is what led to his downfall. In his overconfidence, Icarus had become blinded to the dangers of flying too close to the sun.

Ferdinand was a young bull, larger in stature and more powerful than all the other young bulls. Yet while the others would run and knock heads, Ferdinand would sit under the cork tree and smell the flowers. Despite his physical gifts, Ferdinand’s interests and passions did not lie in physical competitiveness and ambition to be selected for the bull fights. Ferdinand’s mother recognized the kind heart and gentle desires within her large son, and understood and protected him.

Most of us have read the Ferdinand book and know the gist of the story. I find the dichotomous nature of these parenting/teaching styles to be most interesting. Who was right? Was it Daedalus, who taught his son to escape imprisonment and to create the ability to fly? Or was it Ma Ferdinand, who had the insight and caring to appreciate her son for what he was, though his talents and abilities lay in another area?

Furthermore, after a discussion in our home recently involving ability, interest, and potential, I wonder what Sister Daedalus thought of her husband’s encouraging endeavors that put her son at risk? Or I wonder what Don Ferdinand thought as the Senora coddled strapping young Ferdie?

We are taught as parents that we "have a solemn responsibility to love and care for each other and for our children. 'Children are an heritage of the Lord' (Psalm 127:3). Parents have a sacred duty to rear children in love and righteousness, to provide for their physical and spiritual needs, and to teach them to love and serve one another, observe the commandments of God, and be law-abiding citizens wherever they live. Husbands and wives—mothers and fathers—will be held accountable before God for the discharge of these obligations." (The Family, A Proclamation To The World, 1995).

The task of understanding how to achieve this sacred charge is daunting and difficult. Our loving Heavenly Father clearly knows when to help us to fly, when to control our flight for our own good, and as he did with King David, to not just look at the outward appearance, but on our hearts. I pray as a father to be able to do better in all aspects as I continue to explore my own Icarus/Ferdinand parenting paradox.

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