Sunday, January 24, 2010

A Fool's Errand

Hong Kong China Disneyland sword in the stone ...
I've never had a vision. You know, one of those stop dead in your tracks, clouds parting, sun rays gleaming through-type things. Not a one. Not even a burning bush. I love the line spoken by Graham Greene in Thunderheart, "A man waits a long time to have a vision and he may go his whole life without having one. Then along comes some instant Indian with a (bleeping) Rolex and a brand new pair of shoes. A (bleeping) FBI to top it all off, and has himself a vision."

Isn't that how it always goes? The last person you expect to be "the One," is. I'm not talking about anything grandiose or messianic like The Matrix. It's simpler than that. It's Wagnerian, if you like. Parsifal revisited, the Grail Legend. Indiana Jones would be licking his lips.

Parsifal was an innocent, a fool, the young boy about whom it was thought, "He won't amount to a hill of beans." He's the fellow who comes along at the critical moment and does what the powerful and influential cannot. In the film Independence Day, Parsifal is a drunken pilot portrayed by Randy Quiad, who has PTSD resulting from alien abduction. Ridiculed as crazy and absolutely the last guy you'd depend on, he arrives on the scene in the final seconds of the final battle to save the day.

These stories blow away our expectations and therein lies their beauty. Massive overpowering might falls victim to hubris and victory comes about when David is sent on a fool's errand to meet Goliath. All the great men of the kingdom were unable to pull Excalibur from the stone, while young Arthur draws it forth effortlessly. Lt. John J. Dunbar, in Dances with Wolves, alone has the insight to view the life of the Lakota without cultural blinders.

All of these characters are plagued with some sort of painful baggage. Either it's a literal wound or the burden of being dismissed as inconsequential. In any case, none of them have experienced the acclamation and affirmation associated with success. Situated on the periphery of their society, they are positioned as transitional figures, in touch with the world we see and the one we can't. To put it another way, they represent the line between conscious and unconscious realms. They simultaneously reflect who we are and what we can become.

Connecting with the inner Parsifal is a spiritual exercise in the sense that it entails letting go of conscious reliance on our strengths and allowing those things we may regard as weaknesses to come to our aid. Admitting powerlessness in the presence of events beyond our control hurts our pride but it saves us from beating our heads against a wall that has no intention of moving. Solutions can come from the oddest of places but to see them we have to call a halt to charging ahead full steam. It may defy reason, but since when is that always a bad idea?

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