Posted by: James Wapotich | October 24, 2009

The Land and The King

When I first saw the movie Excalibur in the mid-eighties I found it to be an entertaining retelling of the Arthurian legend. However, when I returned from a six month stay in Kauai in the late nineties and checked out a copy of it from the local library, I was struck by several fairly coherent “teachings” or insights embedded in the movie.

The movie tells the story of Arthur Pendragon, beginning with his father’s failed attempt to unite England (or perhaps more accurately follows Merlin’s investment in Uther Pendragon as the man who could bring all of England together, and when Uther succumbs to less than noble enterprises, Merlin turns his attention towards Uther’s son Arthur). And so we follow the tale of Arthur Pendragon’s self discovery – from the drawing of Excalibur from the stone to the making of allies in his effort to carry forth this mission of unification, through the course of which he gathers his knights, including Lancelot, and marries Gwenivere and so on.

Excalibur King Arthur

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The first and clearest “teaching” embedded in the movie is the idea that the Land and the King are one. That is, both influence each other and are a reflection of one another. In other words if the King is well, the land is well and vice versa. If the King is ill it is seen in the land and vice versa. And so an exercise I offer here is take a look at your kingdom: what is the status of your realm? Are the people in your life happy, prospering, content? Are they heard by you, the King? And how is the King? Is he fit, vital, confident? Or is there malaise and discontent in both the king and the kingdom?

A way of approaching this exercise is to imagine yourself setting aside your crown for a moment, taking off the vestments and titles that go with being the sovereign and walk through your kingdom as a commoner. Mingle with the villagers in the market and town square and listen. What is it they would say about the kingdom and the king? What would their assessment be? And listen with the heart of the king; be compassionate with their honesty and yourself. As a sovereign, the truth – in spite of how it may first feel – is an invaluable commodity. And if you discover that there is room for improvement or the need for change, where would you look for that?

In the movie Excalibur Arthur’s kingdom falls into disarray and he falls ill. In response he sends out his best knights to seek the Holy Grail to bring healing to his kingdom and restore vitality to the king. And what I like about this movie is the idea that the Holy Grail, instead of being merely a physical object, is actually a forgotten idea or vision, something that has been lost.

And so, as you consider your own kingdom, what is the idea or insight that has been lost or forgotten that would bring renewal or healing, or generate greater prosperity and abundance? It may be something that you knew clearly as a child, something that seems so simple as to be easily overlooked or dismissed. Or it could be an insight that you’ve visited over the years but never fully adopted or embraced because it seemed impractical, implausible or perhaps even risky. Once you’ve found your insight, what would it be like to cultivate it and apply it in life’s situations as a way of healing and enriching your kingdom?

Other things to look for in the movie are minor roles by then unknown stars: Patrick Stewart, Liam Neeson and Gabriel Bryne. Excalibur (1981) is directed by John Boorman. The screenplay by Rospo Pallenberg and John Boorman is based Sir Thomas Malory’s Le Morte d’Arthur.


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