The Question Healed the King...

I went running with a friend who said she made a big personal discovery after being asked the right question by a wise woman. Another friend told me how she was moved by the simplicity and innocence of her 8 year-old-son's question to a rival tennis player/classmate: "How did you get to be so good?" Milan Kundera, in a book I read ages ago, has a character acknowledge a lack of love through a lack of questions asked.

And why do we go to our therapists, counselors and advisors? So they will give us the questions that will lead us on the right path and discoveries--into our selves, others, the world.

Which leads me to...
The myth of the Fisher King. There are many versions of the story.

Quick take: it's a quest story, after the holy grail, and it involes the young innocent "fool" named Parsifal (Wagner made him the star of an opera) who, on the search for the wounded Fisher King, finally asks him the question(s) that heal him--the questions are simple-- along the lines of "How are you?" "Who are you?" He did so, finally, after thwarting advice from his teacher: that he not ask questions and spare looking stupid.

Sound familiar?

So, I'm thinking about the power of a well-placed question.

I'm thinking of the friendships, relationships, dates that have been completely dulled by one of us lacking to ask questions. So--for more:

Here are some films and other arts & cultural references that pulls in this Quest/ion Story.

Eric Rohmer's Perceval le Gallois (1978), a fairly faithful rendition of Chrétien's Conte del Graal.
The Fisher King (1990): The humorously rendered story of Perceval is recast in a modern setting in the film

A couple other arts references I didn't know--not suprising: Quest stories are everywhere:
T.S. Eliot made extensive use of the Fisher King legend in his poem The Waste Land.
The character appears again in opera in
Michael Tippett's The Midsummer Marriage, partly inspired by Eliot's poem.
The Fisher King appears as "Pop Fisher" in the novel and film
The Natural.
Matt Wagner's comic book series Mage.
Joan Didion compared U.S. president Ronald Reagan to the legendary king in her critical essay "In The Realm Of The Fisher King," published in 1989.

Here's a poem I wrote about a year ago that winks to all this...


love the right person:
relax. You’ll be alone shortly.
But first, smell the waves sex in
on the electric bill as you turn
your back on morning. Return to the school
you erased, say hello to the girl in headgear, see
if the smoking section still exists. Say hello to
the homeless fool on the bus. Don’t
be so blind. Or are you too busy? Busy
writing the alternate ending to the dinner
where he told you about the beauty with the nose ring and a PhD?
Here’s what you do. Read the myth.
What is the right question
that will break you, make you free?
It was the question that healed the king.