Percival and The Quest for Becoming Good

One could trust a bicycle. It’s a thing, but we can go through many scrapes and difficult situations with it and never suspect its motives. It’s a thing and therefore has no intention, not even to be mean. And then there are of course chipmunks: not everything cute and chirpy is toothless…

Which Would You Trust More?

Which Would You Trust More?

Draw a dividing, where zero would equal the neutrality of a trusty bicycle. Above that line would be all those human beings who have shown better intentions in life than neutral things. Below would be those whose sum total of intentions is less than neutral. The latter people might display benign motivations now and then, but overall they calculate and plan how to keep others in check, use them, defeat them, or simply get them out of the way. How many people, with or without power would one place above this line (remember the sharp bite of even the chipmunk) and how many would be far more comfortable at home below?

On balance, very few of us consistently nurture a kind heart, are intent on offering goodness with an open soul to others. Our most frequent kind of narcissism hides its ugly face from itself, and, unlike the original Narcissus, does not want to see its own reflection. We prefer to manufacture a picture of ourselves that is most effective in public, rather than looking into our nightmares, mirrored self, and even our childlike warmth.

In one of the most famous Medieval stories, Percival is expelled from the secret castle Munsalvaesche, on his quest for the Holy Grail of Goodness, because he does not ask the sick King a simple question: “What ails you?” His heart had “hardened” from the advice given to him along the way. The experiences gathered on his quest had changed him so much that the goal of his quest had become unattainable.



Aside from children, how many people do we really know who are still on that eternal quest for goodness – a goodness that can rise above all correct manners, right profit, the right judgement, and the enforcement of whatever prejudices are in vogue just now?

Perceval's Dream

Percival's Dream

Yes, on the surface we are comfortable with the good intention of our neighbors and colleagues – but underneath the surface? Who, in committee meetings, dares to have a warm heart? Who in a business transaction dares to let their guard down in simple trust? Who among the older people feels that it is safe to be on equal terms with the younger, and who among the younger feels comfortable around older people?

Underneath the civilized crust, how trustworthy are we ourselves around animals or our fellow human beings. I have known and do know a few. – How quickly do people turn cool and then cold when they feel power over another, even the power that comes from being trusted and having gained the loyalty of another? – All too often we take the sharp-edged advice to heart that it is more important to be smart than trusting, and that loud lesson we generously redistribute to others.

When will we humans embark on the quest for goodness in ourselves, a quest once depicted in the saga of Percival? Why are we so frequently hard at heart and deadly cold in our calculations, when we espy a chance to use, judge, ignore, or push aside fellow human souls? – Is part of the nasty greed and never-ending crises a thinly veiled attempt to keep other human beings in such a constant state of distrust and fear, that they do not feel they can afford to reconnect to their better levels of humanity. (“If we can drag you down, we don’t have to live up to your childlike goodness…”)

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2 Responses to Percival and The Quest for Becoming Good

  1. please help says:

    Dear Abby,
    I think I have a talent for hooking up with men like this, guys seeking goodness. Since I’m not that kind of person, life with them can be very trying. How can I screen for this difficult trait in future partners?
    Percie in Pittsburgh

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