Casablanca’s Rick as Arthurian legend

SUMMARY: Ed Wilson looks at Casablanca as a type of Arthurian legend

One of my favorite movies is Casablanca, the story of an American café owner during World War II. Recently, I have been reading about King Arthur and the Knights of the Round Table. In particular, Mallory’s Le Mort De Arthur., but other books as well. This morning, it dawned on me that there are significant parallels. I may well explore this over a period of time, but for now, I am wondering what the story of Casablanca would be like, if it were told like an Arthurian romance? How about this:

Once upon a time, in a land far away, there was a Knight-errant named Rick. Rick, and his faithful squire Sam, were in Paris recovering from their travels, when they happened upon a beautiful Queen Ilsa. Queen Ilsa was hiding from evil dark knights when she rescued by Rick. Good king Victor was also on the run from the evil dark knights,  and was reported dead. Rick pledged his undying devotion and protection to Ilsa.

One day, Queen Ilsa was told that good king Victor had been rescued from the evil dark knights, but he was weak and so she fled the protection of Rick to be with her king. Rick thought she had rejected his protection and devotion, and went into a far away land of exile. He ceased to be a knight, and rejected his chivalric code.

But a knight is always a knight, even when he is in exile, and soon the people began to rally around the brave knight Rick. He hears about a young knight who is searching for the holy grail, and despite Ricks claim that he has abandoned his chivalric code, he agrees to help the young knight with his quest. When the knight is killed by the evil dark knights, Rick protects the holy grail.

One day, a young damsel comes to Rick in distress. The evil sheriff is attempting to hold her love hostage, and tries to steal her virtue. Rick rescues her from the evil sheriff, restores her to her love, and risks retaliation from the evil sheriff.

Good King Victor and beautiful queen Ilsa arrive in Casablanca and interrupt Ricks exile. The king tells Rick that he needs help to escape from the evil dark knights. The queen appeals to Ricks Chivalry, but Rick must first fight a demon to prove he is worthy to be of service to the king, and to protect the queens honor. After a long battle that lasts all night and all day, Rick emerges victorious and ready to be of service to the king and queen.

Now, he must figure out how to defeat the evil dark knight, and avoid the wrath of the sheriff. He comes up with a brilliant plan to turn the weaknesses of the evil dark knight and the sheriff against themselves. He decides to deliver the holy grail to the king and queen, and thus to return them to their rightful place.

To prove himself a worthy knight, and to return to his chivalric code, he must pass four tests. The first test, is he must outsmart the sheriff and hide the holy grail. Next, he must deal with tricky merchants and beat them in a battle of wits. Third he has to get the king and queen safely to their chargers, so they can leave exile at the appropriate time. Fourth, he must battle the evil dark knight in a fight to the death. and lastly, and perhaps the greatest fight of all, Rick must conquer his passions, and prove himself a worthy knight.

The good knight Rick delivers the holy grail to king, saves the queen, outsmarts the local merchants, kills the evil dark knight, and proves himself to be a noble and good knight. He resumes his wanderings, and once again seeks to defend the weak, help the helpless, and live a righteous life.

In a later article, I may look at specific elements of the chivalric code as they apply to Rick.

A few books that inspire me

SUMMARY: Ed Wilson talks about books that inspire

When I think of books that inspire me, it is hard to come up with a list – especially one that is in order. Blaise Pascal’s book Pensees is one that springs readily to mind. It is a collection of short thoughts, that is great for morning reading. I think I read it all in one or two sittings, and that is not the best way to read it, because some of the passages are pretty deep, and require reflection.

Another book that I have read many times, is Sun Tzu The Art of War, this classic book has been reprised by various business writing gurus, and others to the point that it almost becomes a cliché. But don’t let the popularity of the book diminish it. Again, like Pascal, this book is a number of short aphorisms and is well worth spending a week or more in reading and in contemplation.

Another of my favorites is The Analects by Confucius. This is another one of those books where every page is loaded with not one gem, but an entire strand of wisdom. I have read The Analects several times, and each time I walk away with a new appreciation.

I also like poetry. For example the poems of Li Ching-Chao are beautiful. In fact, reading about her life itself is an inspiration. But one can draw inspiration from other places as well. For example, Christopher Marlowe’s play The Tragical History of Dr. Faustus stands as a stark warning to those who pursue knowledge with no inhibitions or restraint. A similar message is also provided by Mary Shelley’s Frankenstein.

Biography can often provide sources for inspiration. For example, I spent about half the time I was reading Ray Monk’s Ludwig Wittgenstein: The Duty of Genius highlighting passages. I came away with a realization that the book was not only talking about Wittgenstein’s duty towards his genius, but also the duty of others towards him in helping him to utilize his genius.

I got a different message when I was reading David Fraser’s Kinights Cross: A life of Field Marshal Erwin Rommel. In this book, I was struck over and over again how one person in horrible circumstances had to constantly wrestle to balance his perceived duty with is personal sense of honor.

A history book, not a biography, The Cruise of the Sea Eagle by Blaine Pardoetold the story of Count Felix von Luckner during World War I. He was called the Gentleman Pirate, and he typified a person of honor trying to behave with honor in horrible and challenging circumstances.

Why do you read?

SUMMARY: Ed Wilson talks about different reasons for reading

Recently, I was asked on Facebook to suggest some books for a person to read. He said that apparently I read a lot, and therefore would like to see some of my suggestions. I thought about replying directly with a list of some of my favorite books, but even that task would be somewhat daunting. Then it dawned on me that I cannot really make a suggested reading list until I know a persons motivation for reading.

What are my favorite books? The reason that question is tough for me is that I read for many different reasons, and while I may read a great book, for a particular reason, it may not even mean that I even enjoyed the book, or that I would recommend it to someone else. Reading, after all, is an intensely personal activity – and it is one reason that a persons library reading habits should be protected by privacy laws.

So before I can even begin to think about a reading list, I must first examine reasons for reading. I read for the following reasons:

1. To learn things. First of all, I am a learner, a student, someone who is addicted to learning. I learn for the fun and for the pleasure of learning. My interests are varied and wide in this area. I am not just talking about how-to manuals such as How to make hand cut dovetails, or how to use adobe Photoshop. I read philosophy, psychology, math, science, music, art. history, archeology, and yes the ubiquitous how-to books as well. I have recently been reading books about celestial navigation – it is a fascinating subject, and one that I have nearly no hopes of ever being able to use in real life. But to think that there are highways mapped out in the sky is intriguing.

2. To be challenged. Reading provides one with an excellent chance to step outside of ones narrowly defined shell of comfort, and to confront a wide world of strange, and different ideas. Rousseau, Locke, Sartre, Russell, Kant, Wittgenstein, Heidegger and others all form an interesting chorus through which one may wish to set about attempting to harmonize ideas. I like to do the following: pick a writer. Read about the writers life. Read their seminal works. This becomes really important for people such as Wittgenstein whose philosophy was so closely intertwined with their life experiences. To understand the writing it is important to understand the person. At times this also extends to reading a history book or two about the times in which the person lived, although a good biography will bring in some of that type of information.

3. To be inspired. Reading literary friction is a great way to be inspired. Reading biographies of great people is also a great way to be inspired.

4. To be entertained. Reading is a great way to be entertained, to escape from the drudgeries of ones day to day life. It is a great way to see new places, to experience new things, and to walk in the shoes of another character for a few hours. This entertainment can be pure escapist, or it can also teach, challenge, and inspire while also entertaining. If it does that, then it is great literature.

So why do you read? In the next few days I will talk about books that I have read in each of the above categories. In the meantime, if you want something fun to read, try “The Butcherbird” by Geoffrey Cousins an Australian writer. It is a fun, fast paced book set in Sydney (one of my favorite cities in the world).