The Grail Code 

Archive for September, 2006

Spam, spam, spam, spam

Sunday, September 24th, 2006

As soon as people hear that I went to see Monty Python’s Spamalot, they ask me the inevitable question: “So what did you think of its portrayal of the Grail?”

Well, I thought it was silly. It’s supposed to be silly. Spamalot is an uncompromisingly silly show. It doesn’t have an agenda; it doesn’t have characters you can care about; it just has jokes and songs. And the songs are all jokes, too. It’s actually a good bit sillier than the movie from which it was “lovingly ripped off”: where the movie had occasional moments of stinging satire, the show substitutes more silliness.

Still, it’s impossible to mention the Grail without meaning something by the word, and I suppose we could try to analyze what the word Grail means in Spamalot, It sounds like a silly thing to do, but there must be something appropriate about that.

Silly or not, I think we’ll discover something about our culture here. One of the big numbers is “Find Your Grail,” a parody of those inspiring anthems that infest less silly Broadway musicals. And there we have it, right in the title: you’ve got your Grail, and I’ve got mine. That’s what the Holy Grail means to us—what it means to us automatically, when we aren’t even trying to figure out what it means, but when we’re just trying to come up with enough silly rhymes to fill out a three-minute production number.

At the end of the show, all the characters have found their Grails. One has found true love; another has discovered that he’s gay and found a nice young man for himself; another has discovered that his real calling is musical theater, and so on. It’s a perfect silly ending for a silly show.

But it does point out what we really believe about truth. The Grail is supposed to represent the ultimate truth, but there’s a different ultimate truth for each one of us.

Just yesterday I went to a Buddhist wedding, and I was reminded again of one of my favorite Buddhist sayings—one that we quoted in The Grail Code: “Earthly desires lead to enlightenment.” Christians say “Grace builds on nature,” which is much the same thing. The longings we all feel for earthly things are a step toward understanding our real longing for the greater things.

Our problem—an almost universal problem in our age—is that we stop at the earthly desires. For us, earthly desires are enlightenment. We want true love, or a good career, and we get it—and that’s it.

Except that it’s not.

After we have everything we think we want, we still want more. Why are there billionaires in the world? A hundred million dollars would buy me everything I could imagine wanting. But I wouldn’t stop there, would I? I’d want more. I’d need more.

Maybe the answer is that there’s really only one truth. Maybe all the lesser things we think we want are pointing toward it.

That’s the real adventure of the Holy Grail. That’s the revelation that waits for us at the end of our quest.

Meanwhile, if you have a chance to see it, Spamalot is a very funny show.

(C) 2006 Mike Aquilina and Christopher Bailey