Friday, October 16, 2009

Up, Up, and Away!

We all watched the balloon hurtle across the Colorado skyLike nearly everyone else, I found myself following the story of “balloon boy” yesterday. Have to admit, during the first couple of seconds of seeing that weird, Earth vs. the Flying Saucers-looking, silver bag hurtling through the Colorado sky and having the possibility of a six-year-old boy riding along inside suggested to me via the news outlet I was viewing, my first response was not to be horrified.

Rather, thought I, how cool! What a ride! To be six years old, and just fly away like that! Neat-o!

Then, of course, my more mature, sober, realistically-inclined adult mind took hold to correct such silliness, and from that point forward I felt nothing but anxiety and dread about what was happening. In the end, the fact that all was resolved via a sitcom-like revelation of a misunderstanding -- the kid was in the attic! -- made dealing with whatever stress or anxiety the incident and its reporting had caused a relatively simple matter.

'The Fall of Icarus' by Peter Paul RubensAnother story that I couldn’t help thinking about during the time I was watching the balloon and the hour or so afterwards when we were still awaiting news of the boy’s fate was that of Icarus and his father, Daedalus. Back in ancient Greece, the two were exiled on Crete -- Daedalus having been punished for having committed a transgression against King Minos -- and the father came up with an escape plan.

Daedalus built a couple of pairs of wings out of wax for himself and his son, but when Icarus tried them out he ignored his father’s warning and flew too close to the sun, causing the wings to melt. Icarus thus plummeted from the sky into the sea, and like Prometheus and the Tower of Babylon became a much referenced symbol for human presumption. Leave flight to the birds, the story suggests. Know your limits. Don’t climb too high, or risk a mighty fall.

That we were all led to believe the boy was apparently flying along in a contraption engineered by his father only further suggested the Daedalus-Icarus parallel. And perhaps ominously suggested the tragic dénouement that for a time seemed sure to come.

Most poker players are familiar with the experience of having ambitions rudely dashed in Icarus-like fashion, a frequent consequence of our repeated attempts to “take shots” at higher stakes. I know I am. My most recent such fall occurred in pot-limit Omaha, where some time back I’d moved from the $25 buy-in game to the $50 game, and had enough success there to start entertaining thoughts of yet another move.

That’s when my wings began to melt and after feebly flapping around for a week or two I decided it best to take a break from PLO altogether and settle down at the low limit hold’em tables. Have been back at PLO25 for a while now, where once again I’ve climbed upward enough to inspire thoughts of moving to a higher altitude.

Can’t help but think I’m held back a bit, though, by my lack of childlike wonder -- that is, my inability to enjoy flying higher (how cool!) because of adult-like worries about the consequences should I fall. ’Cos really, I’m closer to Daedalus than Icarus. That is to say, I’m more likely to issue warnings about such things than to try them out myself.

Have a good weekend, all. And fly safely.

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