Monday, November 19, 2012

Pelleas and Pellinore

Principle figures in one's life bear the distinction of having been poised on the fulcrum between a past and a present. Some we recall easily. Others had a fleeting influence. Some merely gestured in the right direction after an enquiry, others entirely travelled with you a-ways, became friends, measured days, shared dinners. And then you or they moved on.

Time intervenes after the fact. Ten, twenty, thirty-five years. We become virtual strangers. Yet there is an essence of being that remains recognizable, no matter what new habits the other has acquired. Dress, hair styles, no longer a smoker, no longer a jokester, no longer single, no longer an outdoorsman, now an academic, then a trench digger, these are the things that differentiate our ‘now’ from our ‘then’, yet the essence of the being remains the same.

So too for Pelleas and Pellinore; both Arthurian creations. Faithful Pelleas. Wandering Pellinore.

Pelleas is purported to have lain his sword on the bed of his unfaithful love and her sleeping partner, rather than kill them. He is reputed to have been the most gentle of Arthur's knights, the most faithful. He stayed put in his place, worked for the good of the kingdom, and served his community with those five knightly virtues of courtesy, courage, compassion, fellowship, and frankness. His reputation and his honour remained steadfast. He was a pillar of the community.

Pellinore on the other hand, in his quest for the holy grail, wandered off and braved many a battle, saw several different lands, was embroiled in various adventures, did deeds here and there, and emerged finally out of the woods, creaking and battle worn and pleasantly dazed by the sudden end of it all, to retire in Arthur's court where he had little else to do but gaze out to sea, to spin his yarns, and to await the certain imperfections of his continuing glimpses of enlightenment. The Holy Grail, he finally came to understand, was not so much in what one does, but how one does wherever one is at. Everything matters and Nothing is really important.

Complex? Well, yes, but if it were simple every Knight and M'Lady would simply be invested with truth and honour and beauty and compassion and understanding at birth, as indeed would every serf and vassal and courtier and.... For we needs grow into such light as we find, rather than be burned all at once by too much of it, or indeed by all of it, ever. No wonder, even on one's death bed, there are corners of the mind and realms within the soul yet to be discovered.

So when Pelleas and Pellinore again found each other, after some thirty five years or more, it was faithful Pelleas who had remained in the same territory, who had contributed and made a life of rich dimensions in the same spot as when they both first had met. And wandering Pellinore, rather like emerging from the tangled forest in the musical, Camelot, comes blinking into the new light somewhat pleasantly surprised that he was ever there at all. In their swapped stories lies the interim. Neither is necessarily in contrast to the other, rather in juxtaposition. And for that much, how rich might be their old friendship so revived!

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