Sunday, August 5, 2012

And Questions Not Asked

After gleaning a few big questions yesterday, a postscript floated by: and what about those that go unasked?

Parsifal looms up huge.  In that variant of the Holy Grail legend, as I remember it, Parsifal alone of all knighthood was granted admission to the grail castle, only to err grievously.  He failed to ask the question.  This champion of righting wrong, the tournament master, the paradigm athlete, clung naively to his mother’s injunction to ask no questions.  Some versions allow redemption, the long journey into questioning.

Strange, isn’t it, what get adopted as the unforgiveable sin, and whence grace.

On the one hand, we have this voice commanding politeness, courtesy, respect, humility; and, on the other, comes the challenge: Sin boldly.  It’s the high-wire act.  Or the razor’s edge.  A bit less dramatically, it’s the challenge of riding dressage: charge up impulsion and hold it in collection.  It’s called True Unity.

In writing this post, I’m thinking I should add Parsifal to my Good Stories course--not the whole story, but the part developing the consequence of unasked questions.  I want to push gently against the college student culture that sits silently in lecture halls, that limits dynamic engagement to texting.  Can they see themselves in Parsifal, the knight of power, the mama’s boy?  He might foreshadow being devoured by the great mother, an uncontested submission to the leash against freedom.

The truth of paradox, of course, demands attention also to the Arthurian tale I love most: “The Weddynge of Syr Gawen and Dame Ragnell.”  This one revolves around a question upon which Arthur’s life depends: “What is it a woman wants most?”  And, while I won’t give away the exact answer here, the essence of it is freedom.  Some interpretations of this story say that the threat to Arthur is really a conspiracy to lead him to this realization.  Freedom and unity are paradoxically the same.

We must question.  We must err in order to go right.

Arthur’s challenge, like Parsifal’s, contains the unasked question.  What does the other want most?  And in this quest rests the destiny of the realm.  Whether man or woman, whoever is in command, must submit to interrogation; without such examination, authority cannot be authentic.  Human and divine sanction depend on working at the edge of consciousness where there are only questions.  Perhaps it’s the place out beyond ideas of wrongdoing and rightdoing.