Bags packed, red leaves coming down from old trees, passport in Levis, hipflask in jacket - it's time for my early autumn wanderings abroad - friends to meet, forests to wander, lakes to swim, old stories to tell. Leaving my little family for even a little while is a tight hit to the heart, but means there will be traveling bags of exotic treasures on my return.
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The year program begins next month up on Dartmoor - there is much excitement between me and the crew about all sorts of new elements arriving whilst the strong initiatory skeleton holds strong. We need to hear from you TODAY to get your place at the fire. Visit
www.schoolofmyth.com and get in touch with nimble Tina as soon as is possible. We would hate you to be disappointed.Seriously, it happens, last minute won't cut it, get to that email!
Today is from my continuing work on the story of Parzival - the boys first encounter with Camelot - even without maybe knowing the story well i'm sure you can get what you need from the below and forget what you don't.
The Shield of Swift Insight
He encounters the Red Knight. Lust, grief and now anger (Jeschute, Sigurne, Ithir) – an astonishing trio of introductions on such a brief trip. Maybe in our lives it takes many years for this succession of encounters. The knight is a mirror of display, ferocity and skill. Parzival wants what he has. He is like the three knights in the forest but with even greater flamboyance. In our time, Parzival is in the front row at a rock gig, staring up at the brooding lead guitarist, he is in an empty movie theatre thrilled by the action hero. We all understand what this feels like. The Knights indigence and fury has created a hole in the psyche of Camelot that allows someone from the very edge, a fool, to stroll into its very centre. The boy does not find cosmos but chaos.
In the early examples of kingship, some Kings were never allowed to leave the tribal hut in case they witnessed the Sun, something that to their people they actually appeared to be. If the King was to behold its radiance, he would feel diminished, and the crop would fail. What an agricultural kingdom cherished above all was repetition and order, a defence against the seemingly random waxing and waning of crops, deer heavy forest, drought. It was crucial to have a consistent, vigorous sovereign at the very centre of the kingdom to mediate between celestial and earthy currents. It was clear that the universe was an antagonistic, unruly spirit, and it was the ritual of sovereignty that wrestled it into a cosmos.
At the same time this primeval consciousness understood that the fluid assemblage of boundaries between order and chaos was a crucial element for the nature of renewal, something absolutely essential to the nature of sovereignty, Arthur’s Knights are continually heading out into the forest. There is always a door to wild adventure at Camelot, Arthur often refusing to feast until an adventure arrives. This incanting between the Court and Forest plants a cosmology over the simply geographical, a mythology of relationship.
If it is true that myth is a collision of ruptures, then this image of Camelot amok can be seen on an immediate level as when our own foundational stones – health, identity, job, family are challenged. It is extraordinary how we build our castles in the sand, one sweep of the briny wave and over they go. It is another moment in the story telling us that the only sense of security we have is a false sense of security. As we realise that there is something red, angry and heavily armed waiting just outside the front door for us, the story suggests that it is only some marginal energy in us that can arise and take it on. Maybe the Parzival in us can only be born in the very second the wine is poured on Ginover’s dress.
Some problems are way beyond our storehouse of knowledge or lived experience. There’s nothing in our assorted memory’s that can prepare us for it. A world inflamed by climate change. As I write this a tsunami is dominating all news as it breaks off the coast of Japan. It is times like these that we look to the edges, the otherly borders, and the genius that abides there. It is from there that the 'fool' comes, like David with his sling, on the back of a donkey, green as grass.
Some things in our lives cannot be solved by looking at them directly. By always following a literal thread.This is again a problem with Western forms of addressing challenge. We need a shield from where we see around corners, not staring directly into the face of Medusa less we be turned to stone. Myth gifts us this. The answer that is a slow opening spiral rather than a rapid arrow. Otherness is our guide.
The shield of swift insight is the drop out of the rational altogether. It is catching the story of the peregrine and the breeze, the myriad interplay between constantly erupting mythic forms, the erupting bricolage that chaos and cosmos breed when thoroughly tangled at the boundary line of the kingdom. Brilliance abides there. It is the lucidity of rupture, mesmeric threads of leafy illumination and loamy cunning.
Many of the lasting images in myth come from this granary of otherness. They were not rattled off by an act of will, but land un-bidded when we drop down and underneath ‘normal’ thought and language altogether. At some point they break up and into the dry plain of vocabulary, shaking the syntax with sparkling drops of morning dew. These are the images, the stories, the insights that last. The words that have roots attached, or that leap, like rash ponies towards stars at the very edge of our vision. This is why the poets matter.
We court chaos when we brick up a wall between Court and Forest, establish a fictitious divide between wildness and discipline. The greater our ‘forgetting’, the more immersed in the literal, then the shields insights become harder to access. Like any muscle or sense, it requires daily exercising, stretching, expanding.
Allowing yourself time to settle into a Russian fairy tale is to help that muscle memory establish itself. Figuring out, on a daily basis, who’s temple do we most frequently visit? We’re all worshipping something. What stands behind my compulsions, my work, my home arrangements? This is the beginning of developing a slyer eye for the big picture. The next time you are roused to argument check out what is speaking through you, what collision of deity and imagined hurt are colluding to provoke you? These are all blurry images on the shield of swift insight. The more it’s polished, exercised, the clearer the scene.
A poetical imagination is not really about writing anything down, or composing sonnets. It is a way of seeing, and the most natural result of any truly mythic experience. The greater the challenge, the more crucial its sideways, underneath, round the back view. Big hitters like Jesus and Buddha seem to take themselves to trees and deserts to really get soaked in this.
Martin Shaw Copyright 2011