Cynicism: an open wound in the public parts

October 5, 2010

It begins with the king as a boy, having to spend the night alone in the forest to prove his courage so he can become king. Now while he is spending the night alone he’s visited by a sacred vision. Out of the fire appears the holy grail, symbol of God’s divine grace. And a voice said to the boy, “You shall be keeper of the grail so that it may heal the hearts of men.” But the boy was blinded by greater visions of a life filled with power and glory and beauty. And in this state of radical amazement he felt for a brief moment not like a boy, but invincible, like God, so he reached into the fire to take the grail, and the grail vanished, leaving him with his hand in the fire to be terribly wounded. Now as this boy grew older, his wound grew deeper. Until one day, life for him lost its reason. He had no faith in any man, not even himself. He couldn’t love or feel loved. He was sick with experience. He began to die. One day a fool wandered into the castle and found the king alone. And being a fool, he was simple minded, he didn’t see a king. He only saw a man alone and in pain. And he asked the king, “What ails you friend?” The king replied, “I’m thirsty. I need some water to cool my throat”. So the fool took a cup from beside his bed, filled it with water and handed it to the king. As the king began to drink, he realized his wound was healed. He looked in his hands and there was the holy grail, that which he sought all of his life. And he turned to the fool and said with amazement, “How can you find that which my brightest and bravest could not?” And the fool replied, “I don’t know. I only knew that you were thirsty.” Wikipedia

— “Parry”, played by Robin Williams, in The Fisher King (1991)

To the Grail Castle: Just down the road a little way, turn left and just over the drawbridge

April 29, 2009

fisherkingThe Fisher King.

I recommend the movie and the myth.

The King provides directions for everyone’s healing:

…a place of comfort and safety is not far away. The specific instructions are to go down the road – whatever road one is involved with at the moment – turn left, which is to say go toward the unconscious or the world of imagination an fantasy, cross the drawbridge – the division between our conscious world and the inner world of imagination – and one will be in the Grail castle, the miraculous place of healing…

A detail of the story is encouraging: Parsifal need only ask the question; he is not required to answer it. Once the question is asked the answer comes from a source greater than his store of personal wisdom.

You get to visit the Castle every night when you sleep.

– – The Fisher King & the Handless Maiden: Understanding the Wounded Feeling Function in Masculine and Feminine Psychology, Robert A. Johnson

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