King Arthur was carried away to Avalon Island to receive treatment for wounds he received from Mordred, his son or nephew depending on who’s telling the tale. He did not recover and was laid to rest on the island.
I wonder if Arthur thought back as his life slipped away on his many battles, on Guinevere’s faithlessness and the treachery of his friend, Lancelot. Did he question whether any of it was worthwhile in the end? Did he make the lives of anyone around him better by chasing after a cup, by trying to establish a code of honor, by seeking to unite Britain into one kingdom, by trying to reclaim his wife’s fickle affections?
I imagine that he attempted to evaluate his actions, to weigh his choices and consider what could have been done better or differently. We all do this at key turning points in our lives unless we’re narcissists or psychopaths delighting in all of our works.
I went to The Gallery at Avalon Island in downtown Orlando yesterday afternoon. No ladies emerged from a lake to hand out swords, however, and there weren’t any knights sitting around a round table drinking mead while their pages sharpened their swords. Instead a group of artists stood before their paintings and sculptures and shared their thoughts about their work and the process of making it.
As I listened to the speakers I noticed that each one had a reason for making art that had little to do with mere craftsmanship. Each of them appeared to be using the practice of art to try to find solace and meaning, to evoke thoughts and feelings. They hadn’t simply made decorative objects. They had made physical realizations of their internal dialogues, of their arguments and negotiations with God, themselves, human kind and nature. (One artist handed out scraps of cardboard and pens and invited us to doodle as a means of enticing us to take up this practice.)
None of the artists who spoke at the opening were facing a mortal situation like Arthur. But they had decided to engage in an assessment a bit earlier, to try to make sense in some fashion by making art. I hope that they find some solace in their meditations. And I wonder if King Arthur’s story would have had a less bitter ending if he had wielded a Crayon Excalibur more often than a sword.