Thursday, May 03, 2007

‘Lost Horizon’ Versus ‘Camelot’ — #4: Fie On Goodness!

Fie on goodness, fie!

When I think of the rollicking pleasures
That earlier filled my life

Lolly lo, lolly lo

Like the time I beheaded a man
Who was beating his naked wife

Lolly lo, lolly lo

I can still hear his widow say
Never moving from where she lay
"Tell me what can I do, I beg, sir, of you
Your kindness to repay"

Fie on goodness, fie!

Knights of Camelot

What the heck is going on here?

It’s worth remembering that “Camelot” is not a parody or spoof like “Springtime For Hitler,” or like, in fact, “Spamelot.” “Camelot” was created by Lerner and Loewe, two very big names in American theater. It was based on a well-thought of non-fiction book, “The Once And Future King.” The decision to treat topics like this in song and dance, like this, was done with eyes wide open. It’s difficult to say exactly what kind of thinking was going on behind those wide open eyes, but it’s fun to speculate.

First of all, there might be nothing going on with the weirdness in “Camelot.” It may be just an artifact from the 50s (well, 1960), with no deeper meanings than, say, “I Was A Teenage Werewolf.” (Although, let’s face it, I could talk about that movie for a week, too.)

However, “Camelot” has many elements which suggest it is worthwhile to think about.

Camelot” is, in folklore terms, an origin story. It recounts the origin of the modern world in the destruction of the idyllic kingdom of Camelot.

It might be argued that it is an origin story about Britain, but for a couple of reasons I think were are safe to speak in much broader terms. Lerner and Lowe, of course, were Americans and Broadway is in New York, not London. The King Arthur mythos, though British, exists within the Grail Romance genre and that genre appears in France, Germany, in fact all across Europe.

What makes “Camelot” intriguing as an origin story of the modern world is that it treats the characters who destroyed Camelot as heroes and heroines. It presents Camelot as oppressive and boring.

In early Protestant culture, it used to be very popular to ‘interpret’ pagan myths and legends in light of the received ‘truth’ of Biblical history. Nowadays, of course, Biblical history is regarded—by academics!—as just another myth. And ‘interpreting’ any myth in terms of another is regarded as culture imperialism. But such comparisons and interpretations can be fun. And enlightening. And, of course, if Biblical history eventually is found to be, in fact, received truth, then those early Protestants and this kind of thinking will be vindicated.

At any rate, in this line of thinking, all origin stories are re-tellings—in one manner or another, for one purpose or another—of the Christian origin story of Adam and Eve getting expelled from the Garden of Eden.

Christian legend, however, does not cast Adam and Eve as hero and heroine. Or as villains. Rather they are just two humans, a woman who was deceived by the devious Satan and a man who made the choice to disobey God. And all history has been consequences.

But from the time of the children of Adam and Eve there have been two ways of reacting to their expulsion from the Garden of Eden. With grief and sorrow and regret, typical of modern Christians and the child Abel. Or with pride and passion and self-assurance that humans neither need nor want God, typical of modern secular people who quite willfully and happily see themselves as descendants of the child Cain.

Writing of the origin of Greek myths, Robert Bowie Johnson, Jr., puts it like this:

Ancient Greek religion, what we call mythology, tells the same story as the Book of Genesis, except from the point of view that the serpent is the enlightener of mankind rather than our deceiver. Zeus and Hera, a husband/wife and brother/sister pair, are pictures of Adam and Eve. Athena represents Eve also—the reborn serpent’s Eve in the new Greek age. She and the Parthenon and the entire ancient Greek religious system celebrate the rejuvenation and re-establishment of the way of Kain (Cain) after the Flood. Though on one hand Greek idol-worship contradicts the teaching of the Word of God, on the other, if properly understood, it reinforces the truth of the Scriptures.

The Parthenon Code

See also: Solving Light Books Website

What the Greeks did thousands of years ago has never stopped happening. The past is forever being re-told. Our past, as embodied in our thinking about it, is forever in flux. Those who would shape our thinking are forever re-telling the stories of ancient times. Whether they do it consciously to manipulate thinking or simply as an expression of the way their own thinking has been shaped is an open question.

However, some modern expressions of the past are so bizarre it’s difficult to think the creators weren’t laughing at least with one or two diabolical snickers.

Here’s Guenevere singing about the ‘joys’ of being a young woman:

Where are the simple joys of maidenhood?
Where are all those adoring daring boys?
Where's the knight pining so for me
He leaps to death in woe for me?
Oh, where are a maiden's simple joys?

Shan't I have the normal life a maiden should?
Shall I never be rescued in the wood?
Shall two knights never tilt for me
And let their blood be spilt for me?
Oh, where are the simple joys of maidenhood?

Shall I not be on a pedestal,
Worshipped and competed for?
Not be carried off, or better st'll,
Cause a little war?
Where are the simple joys of maidenhood?

Are those sweet, gentle pleasures gone for good?
Shall a feud not begin for me?
Shall kith not kill their kin for me?
Oh, where are the trivial joys?
Harmless, convivial joys?
Where are the simple joys of maidenhood?

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