Tuesday, October 16, 2012

The questing beast

In T.H. White's The Once and Future King, there is a funny parable about quests.  Sir Pellinore is always searching for the Questing Beast, a mythical creature whom his family has sought for generations.  No one has ever caught it, and the only evidence of its existence is fewmets, that would be a rather old fashioned term for poo.  Stop and think about that for a second.  This poor knight is spending all his time looking for the scat of a possibly nonexistent creature.  In the course of the story, Sir Pellinore is persuaded to give up his fruitless quest and be, well, normal.  In some respects, this is a much healthier choice than traipsing around the country side looking for poop. It seems like the tale should end here, right?  Wrong.  The questing beast, which apparently did exist, is ailing due to the lack of attention form Pellinore, and he hears that the poor creature is sick. He drops everything, finds the creature and nurses it back to health and resumes his family's quest to find the beast.

For me, this is a strange and somewhat difficult story to digest.  I'm not really into pointless quests, despite what my writing might occasionally seem to be hinting at.  I can't see myself dropping everything  running off and devoting all of my energies to a quest.  In Sir Pellinore's case, I am torn between seeing him as an idiot and seeing him as someone who does what needs to be done.  What would the world have been without the great quests of literature?


I am not much of quest-er  I worry too much about two things to truly devote myself to any quest: what happens if you are searching for something that may not exist, and what do you do if you find what you're looking for? What happens if a person real does find their Holy Grail?  I believe life to be a journey that takes us to many places and through uncharted territory, but if we can't tear eyes from our goal, how can we see what's happening in the here and now.

I don't quest.  I set goals, and I work towards them until they are accomplished or prove to be unhealthy or unattainable.  I don't think this is a bad thing for me. Of course, it could also be construed as being lazy, flighty or indecisive  For those people who can devote themselves to a true quest, good luck, but keep your eyes open for signs of danger. For everyone else, who like me is wandering the world, not lost, but not found either, enjoy the journey wherever it takes you.

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