Find Your Second Master [Seer Crawl day 46]

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I just used this image but it seemed appropriate for today’s post. This is WEEPING MAN

This is how I have been reading books lately. A few paragraphs at a time. Maybe a page or two. To really read and not just consume. Recently, I decided to re-read my book in the same manner. So, your thought from The Seer to ponder for today: a slow read through THE SEER. Day 46. [all material from the book appears in italics]:

 

29.

When my business failed my confidence collapsed. Like Parcival’s sword, everything that I thought I knew was worthless and lay in pieces all around me.

I stayed in bed wallowing in my misery for a week with my blankets pulled over my head. When finally I realized that I had nothing else to lose, I got out of bed and called Elizabeth. My business was gone, my pride, my reputation, my intention, my identity. I was pinned down and had no fight left in me. I surrendered. And that was when I found Virgil.

It seemed that the Parcival story was a braid strand entwined with my life story. Was I following the story or was the story following me?

Parcival’s sword exploded. The pieces of his power lay all around him.

The panther, the warrior of the earth, stood above Parcival poised and ready to strike the fatal blow. Parcival was pinned down by the weight of his armor. Laying on his back, he looked up into the warrior’s eyes, surrendering himself to death. He closed his eyes thinking, this is going to hurt. Nothing happened. Parcival opened his eyes and the warrior, like the castle and the maiden, was gone. Parcival managed to roll onto his knees and something broke inside him. He wept.

After the warrior vanished, Parcival retreated deeper into the woods. In his five years of searching he had become intensely self-reliant. He couldn’t go back to court. He had no idea how to get home. The source of all his power had just been shattered. His life was not unfolding as he had imagined that day long ago, when he first bumped into the knights and confused them with gods and he decided that he, too, would become a knight.

While Parcival was deep in his despair, he was discovered by a hermit. Now, it’s harder to be discovered by a hermit than you might imagine. A hermit, by definition, likes to be alone and generally avoids contact with other people. However the hermit found Parcival just as Gornimant had found him. Because Parcival was ready for his next life lessons, his teacher emerged.

That’s the same story I tell myself about for Virgil. I was ready and he emerged. Elizabeth had given me Virgil’s contact information a few months before I emailed him. I wasn’t ready to learn until I experienced the collapse of my business. Just like Parcival, I needed to lose my sword before I was ready for the teacher to find me.

Parcival was sitting on a stump, helmet off, weeping – which was why he retreated deeper into the woods because he didn’t want to be seen. It was the perfect time for a hermit to come along. I think the sight of a knight in full armor, sitting on a stump having a barking-style cry got the best of the hermit. It piqued his curiosity.

Hermits are notoriously quiet so Parcival didn’t hear the recluse sit down on the stump next to him. You can imagine his surprise, after his cry had run its course, when Parcival heard a crackly old voice say, “That’s a hell of a giant you’re fighting in there. What’s his name?” Parcival yelped and jumped from his stump. Keep in mind that this story is happening in the days when forest spirits showed themselves to mortals. Parcival wasn’t sure if he was about to be spelled or cursed. When he jumped up, he landed sideways on his foot and, being in full armor, he made the sound that a stack of cans in a grocery store makes when a cart bumps into it. He kind of looked like that too, as he crumpled all the way to the ground.  

The hermit chuckled and said, “Simmer down boy. I’m not going to turn you into a frog or nothing. I’m a hermit!”

That was not very comforting although it did help Parcival relax a bit. The hermit helped Parcival out of his armor so he could stand. The hermit looked him over, and invited Parcival back to the cave for some stew. Parcival went with the hermit, leaving his armor behind.

He broke his vow not to stay two nights in the same place until he found the Grail Castle again. Parcival stayed with the hermit for a night, then two, then he lost count of how long he’d been there. You’ve probably guessed by now that the hermit was his second master. The first master teaches craft. Second masters are the midwives for the birth of the heart.

 

 

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Lose Your Gift [Seer Crawl day 41]

 

 

This is how I have been reading books lately. A few paragraphs at a time. Maybe a page or two. To really read and not just consume. Recently, I decided to re-read my book in the same manner. So, your thought from The Seer to ponder for today: a slow read through THE SEER. Day 41. [all material from the book appears in italics]:

 

 

This is what happens to illusions:

On a famous day, while riding through the forest, out of the trees rode a warrior like none that Parcival had ever seen. The warrior didn’t wear armor, his skin was dark, and he somehow belonged to the land. He was an enormous man. He moved like a panther, beautiful, easy, fluid, and confident. He sat atop a black stallion. He squared himself to Parcival and drew his sword for battle.

Parcival surprised himself; he did not want to fight this man. He felt a deep sadness and was suddenly very tired. He told the warrior that he would not fight. He asked the warrior to stand aside and let him pass. The warrior stood his ground. Parcival said that he had no quarrel and would not draw his weapon. The man said nothing and stood his ground. Slowly Parcival drew his sword, thinking that once his sword was seen, the warrior would recognize Parcival and retreat. The man saw the sword and stood his ground.

Parcival felt as though he could not breath. They stared for a long moment, sizing up each other, and then, silently, as if in agreement, they suddenly rode at each other. Their swords met with a ferocious clang that echoed off the trees and hills. The impact knocked both men off their mounts. Parcival landed hard. Like a turtle on his back, pinned down by the weight of his armor, Parcival looked up and saw the warrior, the panther, standing over him, raising his sword to strike. Parcival raised his sword in defense and found he held only the hilt of his weapon. His sword, the Fisher King’s gift, had exploded into a thousand pieces.

Whether you recognize it or not, this is a great business (as well as personal) metaphor. What happens when your gift fails you?

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Find Your Worth [Seer Crawl day 40]

Your thought to ponder for today: a slow read through THE SEER. Day 40. [all material from the book appears in italics]:

26.

Parcival failed in the Fisher King’s castle because he did as he was taught to do. He heeded Gornimant’s advice. He lived within the code as the only way to fulfill his heart’s desire. Like me, he stopped seeing. Like me, he cut himself off from his nature.

The Fisher King gave Parcival a sword. The detail of the story that I play over and over in my mind is the maiden coming out of the woods and telling him his name: Parcival the Unfortunate. She also warned him that the sword, the gift from the king, would fail him when he most needed it.

I wondered what was my sword? What was my destiny? How had my sword failed me when I needed it most?

Parcival was confused and ashamed. Remember, he immediately sought Arthur’s court for help and guidance. He entered the court wearing his shiny new armor and carrying a new sword. And before he could ask anyone to explain what had happened in the castle, the loathly damsel entered, denounced him, stripped him naked before the whole court, and blamed him for the horrors to come.

Parcival was more confused and more ashamed than ever. He left Arthur’s court with all eyes avoiding him. He left vowing never to rest in the same place for two nights until he found the Grail Castle again and set things aright.

He kept his vow, too. For five years he searched for the Grail Castle. He was, as they say, completely in the field of action. He was a knight. A warrior. He rescued damsels. He defeated dark knights. He conquered ogres and giants and dragons. He liberated villages from curses and cretins. And during those five years, despite his best efforts, the crone’s prophecy still came true. Many knights died. The land became barren. People starved. Children were orphaned. Widows mourned their losses. It seemed that the more Parcival searched, the harder he looked, the more he tried to prove his worth, the more independent he became, the more devastated and empty was his world. Which made him fight harder to prove himself worthy. He thought that if he sacrificed himself he could keep the land alive.

Have you ever been so good at something and wanted to succeed so badly that you unknowingly compromise your self? Your work becomes about proving yourself instead of serving others? You find, one day, that everything you’ve strived to create is empty and you are living out of balance. That’s what happened to me. I was working so hard to prove myself that I forgot why I was doing what I was doing.

Parcival also forgot the object of his quest. He forgot that he was searching to find the Grail Castle. He became filled with a kind of fervor, zeal. Every act became an act of redemption. Every action was an exploit to prove his worth.

No one and nothing could defeat him in battle. He became famous! People talked of his sword, this magic sword, and after awhile even he came to believe the sword was the source of his power.

The parallels between the story and my life are startling! That is why stories are so useful: learn to see the patterns and read the metaphors and you will see yourself in them. The metaphors open when the story takes you. This is what I see: in my business, every action was intended to prove my worth. And, like Parcival, I invested my power, my safety and my security in an illusion. Parcival came to believe his sword was the source of his power and I came to believe that my intellect, my knowing was the source of my power. My knowledge was my sword and I wielded it like a weapon. Tim had tried gently to explain why our primary client dropped us: I was the reason. I was too much the expert. I became a fixer, an answer man who had no time to hear the client’s story.

Stories often turn on the moment when the main character learns how drastically that he has separated himself from himself. Trying to prove worth is an act of separation. Investing in an illusion like a magic sword or sharp knowledge is an act of separation. It reinforces the belief that our power is external to us. Worth is not something that can be proved or attained. It is in us all along.

 

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Lose The Code [Seer Crawl day 34]

Your thought to ponder for today: a slow read through THE SEER. Day 34. [all material from the book appears in italics]:

A long one today. I started to edit the story segment but thought better. It’s worth reading through. The details matter. The meditation for the day matters. Pay attention to the tension of a natural gift and learned skills.

23.

Parcival, sitting on his mule, having just demanded to be made a knight of the Round Table, met Arthur’s glare with a glare of his own; he didn’t know any better. Luckily for him a lady broke the deadly silence. She probably saved his life by declaring, “My lord, I believe this young man will become your greatest knight.” Galahad added, “Perhaps. If he lives long enough.”

Arthur took a breath. He stared hard at the young man. He recognized him. He was, despite his clownish get-up and his boorish behavior, from noble blood. Arthur could see it. In a very quiet voice, Arthur told Parcival that a man must prove himself worthy by adventures, service and by doing good acts. He told Parcival that he must first learn the code of conduct of a knight. When he had done these things, when he was trained and knighted by a worthy teacher, he would be welcomed back to the court and become a knight of the Round Table.

Parcival wanted nothing more than to be a knight. I wanted nothing more than to be an entrepreneur, a successful businessman. Knight. Entrepreneur. Both are roles. In Virgil speak, both are ways of locating within a story. Parcival wanted to be a knight because, to him, they were godlike; angels shining in their armor, sitting high on their warhorses. I wanted to be an entrepreneur because, to me, they are creators. From nothing they bring forth something that serves people. I had not recognized that as godlike until this story took me. Now, I recognize that I thought entrepreneurs sat above others, shiny in their minds, all seeing.

Somewhere along the path I stopped seeing. I left school with some book knowledge and a bit of life experience. I stormed into the world thinking I could do anything. No door was closed to me because I had no knowledge of closed doors. There is a freedom that comes from not knowing. When I started to believe that I knew things, when I started believing I was an expert, that I had a sack full of answers for all comers, I slowly stopped seeing. It was what I was taught: be an expert. Stand above others and “know.”

I loved this part of the Parcival story because I lived it.

Parcival understood what he had to do. He wheeled his mule around and rode out into the world to prove himself. There are many descriptions of his adventures and they are delicious. He proved to be a redoubtable fighter. No one could best him, and not because he was so highly skilled – because he certainly wasn’t – but because he was so loutish, so out of control in combat that he frightened every dark knight and every dragon or beast that he confronted.

He was a wild boy who knew no fear because he’d never been taught much of anything. Think about it, he had no real armor – most opponents saw this goofy boy wearing dirty broad stripe pajamas and a welcome mat for a breastplate. His trousers fell more than once. His opponents had a hard time taking him seriously. Which was a mistake.

He also had this habit, when juiced with adrenaline, of talking non-stop. He was a talker when calm but amped up considerably when under stress. For instance, whenever he would find a lady held hostage in a tower by an evil knight, he’d start talking. He’d go on and on and on – talking about recipes, hat making, brands of shampoo, about how best to scale a dragon or fish or a mountain. It’s very hard to fight when your opponent won’t shut up. Most foes either felt sorry for him – which was a mistake – or they got so irritated at his chatter that they lost their concentration – which was also a mistake.

His natural gifts took him far, just as my gifts took me a long way into business. I’m a natural networker. When I first started I didn’t know whom I should fear and whom I should respect. And, because I typically did not do great research, I bumbled into some nice clients who mistook my naiveté for honesty and respected me for it.

One famous day an old retired knight named Gornimant was out for a ride when he happened upon Parcival who was engaged in combat with a giant. Now, giants are tough. And apparently, Parcival and the giant had been circling each other for quite some time because, Gornimant later told folks the giant had this desperate look on his face, the look of someone who is trying to sleep while a mosquito is buzzing around his ears. The giant would swat and Parcival would comment on the giant’s combat technique or his choice of club or the giant’s posture. Or he would speculate about what it must feel like to have that much hair on his toes. Ultimately, at least this is what Gornimant said, Parcival never struck a blow. He didn’t have to because the giant, in desperation, sobbed and surrendered. Parcival actually had to stop the giant from clubbing himself.

Gornimant could recognize potential when he saw it. He’d actually heard of this chattering champion because Parcival was becoming quite famous in the outlands with his trademark chatter. So Gornimant invited Parcival home and promised to teach him the ways of a knight.

The master was good and the student was hungry. Over many months Gornimant taught Parcival the proper use of sword and lance and shield. He taught him the care and feeding of a warhorse, the proper treatment of damsels, which fork to use at the table. But most important, he taught him the code and conduct of a knight. Specifically, he taught Parcival to control his chatter, which, up to that point, had been his greatest asset.

Finally, after many long months of study, he presented Parcival with a proper suit of armor, with weapons and a magnificent warhorse. And then Gornimant knighted Parcival in the name of the king.

As Parcival, now a man, prepared to ride away from his master into the world, Gormimant offered his final words of advice. He said, “Talking too much, saying whatever comes into your head, is rude. It is behavior unbecoming of a true knight. Remember, it is impolite for a knight to ask questions, it is rude – even sinful – to speak without consideration of what comes to your mind.”

Having received that final bit of advice, Parcival, thanked his master and set out for Camelot. But, on the way, he wanted to go home to show his mother what he’d become. And, it was only a few weeks later that Parcival came upon the river and was invited into the Grail Castle by the Fisher King. Now you know why Parcival failed to ask the Fisher King about the grail and the lance. For the first time in his life, Parcival failed, because he did exactly what he had been taught to do.

Through the story and Virgil’s guidance I began to understand that I’d failed for the same reason. My businesses collapsed because I did exactly what I was taught to do. And, because I followed the code I’d been given, I stopped seeing people and what would better their lives. As the expert, I lived to service my needs and completely forgot about the needs of my customer.

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Imagine Yourself Capable [Seer Crawl day 23]

Your thought to ponder for today: a slow read through THE SEER. Day 23. [all material from the book appears in italics]:

Three snippets about story, not knowing, and the power of inhibition:

Children don’t know what they can and can’t do so they imagine themselves capable of all things; it’s “not knowing” that makes all things possible. Parcival’s story begins with the freedom of a child’s mind and the uninhibited action that comes from not knowing. Reclaiming this freedom in adulthood is the point of many stories. It is essential to the entrepreneurial mindset.

***

I didn’t catch it until now that Parcival is left standing alone in shame three times in the story: once at the Grail Castle, once in the great hall of Camelot, and this time, the first time on the parade grounds with his pants down around his ankles. This time, the first time, he does something completely different. He does not acknowledge the shame. He does not participate. He does not seek to understand what he did wrong because he doesn’t see anything wrong. He stays on his intention. It’s beautiful.

***

He felt no shame. He experienced no inhibition. He pulled up his pants, caught his mule, mounted and rode straight into the great hall where all the knights were eating lunch. He didn’t know any better. He didn’t know this was considered at court to be a declaration of war. How could he have known? His mule crashed through the massive wooden doors of the great hall. The knights leapt to their feet, swords drawn as Parcival astride his mule rode straight toward the king. Only Arthur’s signal kept the knights from slicing and dicing the boy to death.

Parcival, sitting high atop his mule, stared straight at the king and said, “I demand to be made a knight of a round table.” As you can imagine, the blood of rage rushed into Arthur’s face. No one, not even a clown, demanded anything from the king.

Parcival, not knowing any better, not aware of any shame or reason why he shouldn’t ask for what he wanted, stared back at the now angry king and said, “Well? How do I do this?”

 

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Accept The Sword [Seer Crawl day 10]

a slow read through THE SEER. day 10. [all material from the book will appear in italics]:

Parcival’s story is the Fisher King story. It is a Grail story. It leads through the wasteland. Guidance comes in strange clothing. What looks like a gift is actually a curse. What looks like a disaster is often, in the end, a blessing. What we hold as truth is revealed as deflection, a mask. A role. It’s why I love paradoxes. It’s why objective truth is hollow without intuitive knowing:

 

Parcival thanked the fisherman and, sure enough, about a mile up the road, was a magnificent castle. He was greeted at the castle gates by lords and ladies, almost as if they were expecting him. They excitedly whisked him into the great hall to meet their king, and much to Parcival’s surprise, the king was the fisherman! Only now, instead of wearing the clothes of a poor fisherman, he wore rich robes of the finest silk and luxurious furs. Parcival saw, too, that the king was crippled. The king was in great pain and lay on a couch before a warming fire.

Parcival’s mind raced with questions. He’d been taught that it was impolite for a knight to ask his host for explanations. A proper knight must always appear “to know.” As a new knight he didn’t want to embarrass himself in front of this great king.

The king motioned Parcival to sit beside him, and then he presented Parcival with a beautiful sword. The king looked at Parcival and said, “This sword is destined for you.”

If you understood the patterns of story you’d shout at Parcival, “Watch out! Be careful! You do not know what you hold in your hands!” In a good story, when the main character thinks that he knows his destiny, especially when, like me, he has confused himself with a role, the lesson will come with great force, as it did to me. You think you are the recipient of a simple gift, this sword that you hold in your hands. You think you know how to use it. What you don’t know is that this gift will use you. What you don’t know is so much greater than what you think you know.

 

Don’t you love this about life: What you don’t know is so much greater than what you think you know. Accepting this little thought-gem is the key to opening to greater and richer life-experiences.

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