Dudes and Dudettes, we have reached the most critical chapter in part 1. Chapter 9 | The Highway is when Maskat is confronted with what every man has to do at some point during his journey: Break free from his parents/parent-figures in order to find his truths and his own individual path to the “Holy Grail”.
Before I get into this most important commentary, I want to point out that there are separate pages on this website where you can jump into the book, podcast or blog posts using the menu on the top. Here is a screenshot incase you haven’t noticed it:
The Story of Parsifal
Alright so, on the last Episode, Jean Marie spoke about the Greek myth of Tentalus who kept reaching for fruit and water but could not ultimately get to them. I resonated a lot with that story, and have been reflecting on what I am pursuing in life, whether I really believe these things are worth pursuing, and what success really means for me.
Today, I present you with a different myth, it is Arthurian in origin, and it is the myth of Parsifal.
The story goes as follows: There is a King who is wounded, and the people are suffering because of his inability to provide for the kingdom. Myth has it, that one knight will one day show up to the courtyard and ask him “the right question” that will heal is wound, and restore prosperity to the kingdom. It is the question that leads the way to the Holy Grail.
In a small town nearby, Parsifal is born. His father dies when he is only a few years old, and his mother takes the little boy into the forrest where she raises him far away from masculinity and the ways of men. On the day that he turns 15, a group of the king’s Knights pass through the forrest. Parsifal is immediately drawn to their ways, and he quickly decides to leave his mother to become a knight.
His mom is heartbroken.
Parsifal eventually becomes the King’s healer, but only after several failed attempts to ask the right question. Like Tentalus, Parsifal keeps coming to the King’s court, but failing to receive the success that he seeks.
Parsifal is only successful after he does three important things:
1- Overcome the Father Complex:
These are groups of ideas that develop in relation to the father or the father-like figure in a boy’s life. They can be either positive or negative.
Parsifal had to learn the ways of battle and kill several other knights as a rite of passage. (This is a but aggressive I know, but this is not a story about killing your dad folks, what this myth is saying is that we have to stand our ground and overcome the father’s shadow in order for us to find our path.)
2- Overcome the Mother Complex:
“At the core of any mother complex is a collective image of nourishment and security on the one hand, and devouring possessiveness on the other.” Daryl Sharp
Parsifal had to go through the agony of seeing his devastated mother who tried her whole life to save him from the pains of man. Parsifal has to let go of that motherly ‘armor’ in order to show up in life as his own self. That includes leaving his mother to cry behind, as he ventures out into the forrest.
3- Embrace his Inner Feminine: After Parsifal becomes an able knight and is free from his mother’s safe world/embrace, he then finds himself filling that void up with other female figures and his blockage becomes the distraction of sex and lust. The problem here is that Parsifal is now using his voracious appetite for sex to replace the validation that he used to receive from his mother. Only when Parsifal is able to truly embrace the feminine archetype within him, is he able to show up fro the King’s court and finally ask the “right question” to the “Holy Grail”.
So what is the point of all of this, Omar?
Well…there comes a certain point in our lives where we have to be our own selves. The pressure our parents apply to confine and pin us down to their dreams makes their suggested path the one with least resistance. However, I believe that finding our own way is the only thing that will make us find our own private versions of the holy grail. It is what Carl Jung calls the process of Individuation.
The point of this, is that if we do this early enough and with enough gumption and zest to be ourselves, then we will collectively improve our mental health. You do not want to have lived a long life for someone else, and realize that late in the game. If you feel like you are sacrificing your life for your parents (or for your parent-like figures at work), then perhaps you should reconsider what alignment looks like for you.
I cherish my family, and the moments I have with my parents, as well as everything they have provided me with. I understand that even in writing this post about defying parents, I am indebted to them. It is not about defying them though, I later realized, it is about finding what lights me up.
My Holy Grail
About ten years ago, I was on my way to become them. I was being groomed by my father to carry his name into practicing medicine, and I was shielded and protected by mother from all that was scary and dangerous in the world. Today, my life looks very different from theirs. Although it continues to be tough to discuss our different points of view, I am grounded in the idea that leaving the house, leaving medicine, and going on with my pack of knights into the forrest was the only path where I could live with integrity.
Overcoming my father complex meant making my own money and not depending on him (or having to report back to him). Figuring out money, immediately improved my relationship with him. Having chosen to find my own path, allowed me to have an equal seat at the discussion. Although he still feels responsible for me, I can now see it as his own wound. The discussion of money, career and what I should be doing with my thirties continues to be a sensitive and triggering conversation for both of us, but we are making progress. I do not take it personally anymore when he gives me advice that does not suit me. I think of him giving that advice to his inner child, and I salute them both silently.
Overcoming my mother complex was really tricky, man. The mother complex is much more subtle as I mentioned, and it is not confrontational or bullish like the father, it is warm, caring and loving. I remember a few months after I first moved out (only a few blocks away from my parents place) how my mom sat my once and cried for how little she knows about me and how much further apart we feel. Seeing that tore me apart because I’ve always been close to her, but also deep down inside, I felt a lot of resentment. I wanted to go join the knights in the woods Ma’, the king needs me to heal his wound Ma’ and the whole empire is on the brink of collapsing if I don’t Ma’! Ma’ did not understand immediately. Over time, I realized that she is also entitled to her opinion, and that it does not have to affect me.
This took years of watching and nerding out on my own thoughts until I can really embrace my mother’s anxieties as her own and learn that I do not have to react to therm. Overtime, my resentment towards her love, became better and much more manageable.
Finding my inner feminine, was (is) not as fun as it sounds. This will be the main theme of Part II of the book, so we’ll get into it and into Jung’s Anima archetype in depth with Season 2 of The Gumpcast. What I’ll say for now is that fascination with sex and pursuing sexual partners is a common part of our developing psyche, and it had certainly dominated my mind for a long time.
We grow up in a world that gives us every clue that ties our masculinity to how much sex we are having, and adolescent boys rarely have the resources to educate themselves about that. I remember being to ashamed to talk about sex, and therefore chose to educate myself (mainly through whatever pornography I could find and the opinions of other clueless kids).
That led me to chase my tail, in sexual encounters that were neither satisfying nor relieving, and I went in spirals for years living with that growing shame about my attitudes towards sex and towards my experiences. That was one of my biggest blockers towards my holy grail, and it kept the Parsifal in me asking the wrong question over and over again.
What is the right question you ask? Well that is not the point but you can read more about Parsifal and King Fischer for the full epoch which I will be going back to. For the movie buffs, there is also an excellent modern depiction of this done in 1991 by Jeff Bridges and Robin Williams (yup you read those two names right!).
I hope enjoy this chapter 9, as Maskat starts becoming the man of the house, and starts to find the knights and warriors of the forrest that will give him the first taste of freedom. Once he has his first sip, he will not be able to go back. This chapter is a key transition into the world of the unknown, the first step in the hero’s journey, and the first move towards every person’s journey towards what gives us meaning and what we cherish.