Camelot Revisited

There are certain times in our lives when we fall into step with those around us in a rather extraordinary way.

We may not notice at first. We may meet at work, at leisure, in the same street or on holiday: in fact, in any walk of life.

For a very short time our steps are out of sync and then, imperceptibly, we all appear to be walking with the same stride in the same direction.

There is a state, says Claremont psychology professor Mihaly Csikszentmihalyi, when one has complete focus, utter creativity. At these times the world goes away and true creativity is born. He calls it ‘flow’.

Imagine, then, when a group of people find themselves sharing such focus. When people are all bound up in the same great river current of creativity: then, you have Camelot.

It is a myth which embodies the longings of men: a group of hand-chosen, charismatic, outrageously beautiful, talented people who were destined to subdue an unruly country and create beauty and order out of a grotesque kind of chaos.

The name is that of Arthur’s castle, of course, while it was the people who inhabited it whose deeds have reverberated through English literature. Bedivere, Galahad, Gawain, Kay, Lancelot, Percival and Tristran: these are just a few of the characters so colourful they have painted our stories for centuries.

Each had their strengths and their weaknesses. Galahad is chaste and honourable, Kay Arthur’s constant and loyal companion. Polite and courteous Percival has a heart so genuine he discovers the whereabouts of the Holy Grail.

And Lancelot, friend, hero and champion: the most glorious and most flawed of Camelot’s inhabitants. He defended the queen’s honour for so many years, and then ended up in an affair which cuckolded Arthur himself.

Every Camelot is flawed. Every Camelot must have its wondrous, hope filled beginning, and every Camelot must work itself to a broken conclusion.

Arthur’s golden court is a template for something we meet, rarely, in life. How shall I name them?  Jackie Kennedy recognised instantly her husband’s circle of knights, rudely ended with an assassin’s bullet.

I have often thought Apple began with a Camelot: inspired Arthur Steve Jobs and his knights Steve Wozniak and Armas Clifford “Mike” Markkula, Jr created something which is helping me write at this very moment; they conceived of ideas which others could only dream, and made them happen.

That Arthur fell in 1985, after a power struggle with the rest of the Round Table. But he came back to rule his Camelot again.

Hopping around linear time we come across the Bloomsbury Set, who set the literary world by storm; and the Beetles, who ruled the world, its music and its philosophies, for eight golden years before Arthur, Lancelot and their companions bade the world farewell on the roof of Abbey Road Studios.

We could go on.

Many of us have had Camelot times. They acquire a pearly lustre with time, though the end can often sear in the telling. Once I worked for an Arthur: a woman with boundless energy who collected knights around her. I suppose I might have been her Lancelot. But that, mercifully, is another story for another day.

Another time I can’t quite identify who the king was: Camelot was a haunted mansion and  its knights trusty theatre managers, gallant sound technicians and steely box office staff.

We hosted great ballet companies, strange performance artists, raucous comedy clubs and humble but stalwart bridge clubs. We walked in pace with each other, jousting with unruly bar visitors and throngs of theatregoers, no challenge too great for our ingenious brand of teamwork.

But every Camelot is flawed. Mainly because these things tend to go in cycles: A golden beginning, a long, expansive spell of success; followed by man’s inevitable fall.

For in some way, is Camelot not Eden? Certainly, it marries with John Milton’s words on the fall from grace in Paradise Lost:

“…Under his great vice-regent reign abide

United as one individual soule

Forever happie: him who disobeys

Mee disobeys, breaks union, and that day

Cast out from God and blessed vision, falls

into utter darkness, deep ingulft, his place

Ordained without redemption, without end.”

Camelots are part of life. They are a heady joy when they are there, and the most long lasting and searing of regrets when they are past.

But somewhere at the end of each Camelot is hope. Just as the story of Eden has a loophole in man’s redemption, so Arthur sleeps ready to wake one day. We storytellers cannot bear goodbye to be goodbye, but only au revoir.

Perhaps a Camelot awaits you around the next corner.

Or perhaps it is here and now.

48 thoughts on “Camelot Revisited

  1. Interesting, although I wonder how this perspective changes when you take out the more modern Arthur and replace him with the medieval version, not a man, really, but a static symbol surrounded by the men who did his fighting, conquering, organizing and lawkeeping for him. Even in more modern retellings, still the weakest link–not Lancelot, but Arthur, for his sins.

    I suppose the strength of Camelot still holds, but when it comes right down to it, the point of Arthur? Less sharp.

    The stories were always about the knights, on their own, and away from the Table.

    1. Happy to arm wrestle you over this one, WP. It has always been thus: the person who brings a group of people together and allows them to shine will always have their flaws brought out in bass-relief. Very few talented managers are feted as they should be, because they don’t do the glorious stuff: they stand back to let others shine.

      I, like you I’m sure, have been under good managers and bad: and the bad cause chaos and stress, while the good orchestrate something amazing. Often, even with a good manager, we only hear about the bad times. To organise a group of disparate super-egos to achieve a unified England: that’s what I call quiet, unassuming, hi-self-esteem genius.

      1. I present that Arthur and Camelot are about establishing human rights and human dignity and justice and peace and unity as a foundation upon which to build a post Roman Britain. A Britain that would retain the very best of pre emperor Republican Roman patrician integrity and respect for institutions and family.

  2. The ‘golden glow’ of memory can turn a good experience into a wondrous memory.

    If one is lucky one retires from the Camelot while it is still functional, and goes off to remember it fondly.

  3. Have read 2 in Jack Whyte’s Camulod Chronicles: The Skystone and the Saxon Shore. Have started The Pendragon by Catherine Christain. In both, the authors give the characters such heartfelt humanity as the characters are stoic despite the restrictions on their ability to influence events because of the time period wherein forces of nature and kings determines their living. They are of special interest to me as a historian because I gain insights to the particulars of daily living such as food, clothing, mindsets and cultural protocols. They are written in first person with main character as narrator. I can’t believe how skillful the authors are in transporting themselves into that time to narrate with such authoritativeness and they certainly transported me as reader.

  4. So Camelots come and go and we continue to venture forth always thinking that we are still part of the best of times while knowing in our hearts that the down cycle is before us. This could be said of many nations over the years, it seems inevitable and we each do our best to make the life around us our own Camelot.

    Dickens has captured the essence of the dichotomy:

    It was the best of times, it was the worst of times, it was the age of wisdom, it was the age of foolishness, it was the epoch of belief, it was the epoch of incredulity, it was the season of Light, it was the season of Darkness, it was the spring of hope, it was the winter of despair, we had everything before us, we had nothing before us, we were all going direct to heaven, we were all going direct the other way – in short, the period was so far like the present period, that some of its noisiest authorities insisted on its being received, for good or for evil, in the superlative degree of comparison only.

  5. I think you’re right, Kate. These so-called Camelots do arise in many spheres of life and because of human weaknesses, fail in the end. It takes great strength to rebuild a failing empire, but it has been done. Trump is a case in point, I seem to remember. Maybe I’m wrong…

  6. Camelots come and camelots go . . . Personally, we have the here and now, love, and hope.

    Per Wikipedia: Hope is the emotional state, the opposite of which is despair, which promotes the belief in a positive outcome related to events and circumstances in one’s life.[1] It is the “feeling that what is wanted can be had or that events will turn out for the best” or the act of “look[ing] forward to with desire and reasonable confidence” or “feel[ing] that something desired may happen”. [2] Other definitions are “to cherish a desire with anticipation”; “to desire with expectation of obtainment”; or “to expect with confidence”

    I am no Pollyanna but, despite this crazy world we live in, I will choose to build my own Camelot, live lovingly and peacefully within it as best I can, doing good where I am able, and surrounding myself with as many kindred spirits as possible.

    1. A really beautiful comment, Karen. We can strive towards Camelot. I sit in the ruins of one, missing the meeting of minds in a place where the castle walls are still there. One does feel bereft: Arthur’s fall was not of my choosing. But as you say,I can make a continual choice to live lovingly and peacefully within the walls as best I can.

  7. What a fascinating thought. And one that will have me thinking all day as i work my way around the farm! Having a team in sinc together does happen, I have had it and it is wondrous.. until the crash! But how much we achieved! c

  8. Wonderful thoughts and comparisons woven within this post, Kate.

    I’ve been in “the flow” at times . . . there is nothing better. The world falls away and there is only THIS moment . . . extending from Here, Now to Here, Now to Here, Now:

    There is a state, says Claremont psychology professor Mihaly Csikszentmihalyi, when one has complete focus, utter creativity. At these times the world goes away and true creativity is born. He calls it ‘flow’.

  9. I also love the idea of creative projects as Camelots – with all the dreams and hopes also around each corner, maybe as one ends, another begins in some shape or form and it is all cyclical

  10. So, Kate, all good things come to an end… well, until the next good thing anyway! 😀
    I have a feeling I’m in between Camelots at the moment; but I may just not be looking at things the right way!

  11. “Ingulft.”

    God, I love Milton for that.

    I sort of hope I don’t know when I’m in my next Camelot, or that I’ve gained sufficient perspective not to hobble myself anticipating the fall.

    1. I wonder if we have to cultivate self deception, Cameron. If we blue-sky-think our way through the good times to the bit where everything changes and Camelot falls, maybe there are the seeds of something new waiting at the end.

  12. I believe in Camelot, believe in Arthur, believe in right over might and all the romantic notions of this legend. It breaks my heart everytime I read or watch anything to do with Arthur or Camelot.

  13. Oh, it’s heady! A time of great invincibility and many soirees forward. I wonder what would happen if it didn’t end. Would we all burn out?

    Think I’ll name my next Camelot “Csikszentmihalyi”…do you by any chance have a pronunciation for that? And the secret to embedding first names in last names! 😀

  14. Please pardon the tardy comment today. I read this at 4am and have been busy doing my day job until now. Drat the need to make actual money to feed my tastes for finery and the need for putting a roof over my head.

    Camelot, for me, is wherever I am. Not me, literally, but wherever I find myself. That way, it never ends, at least, until I expire. Life fuels the best stories, and I cannot get enough of them. Living is my Camelot.

    1. Andra, that you come here at all is a privilege. Your blog is extremely demanding in its own right! Just lovely to see you when you do pop in. And I sort of knew that would be your take on Camelot because you have something of Arthur about you. People flock around because of your unique attitude to life. Perhaps you run one of the first Cybercamelots, but I know for a fact that your concrete life is just as vital. And I sense you choose your knights even more carefully than Arthur did.

  15. Camelot happened for me too, Kate.
    At that time, a great step forward in the field of Radio receivers!
    But people come who have greater and more modern gifts, and one is cast aside.

    The whole process is Life, Death, and Resurrection, a never ending cycle.

    Love Dad

  16. You said it so beautifully that it brought tears to my eyes, Kate. Really lovely! I hope everyone has at least that “bright and shining moment that was Camelot” to remember, and then maybe even believe it will come again. I surely have my own, too. And it is awfully hard when the cracks begin to show and so often we begin to see the flaws in the Knights we admired.Still worth it! I feel like something very deep triggered this post today, and I am so glad. Debra

    1. Debra, once again a beautiful comment which helps me clarify things in my own mind. Thank you. I heva learnt that when my knights turn out to have had clay feet it makes them no less extraordinary: in fact, it makes them more exceptional.

  17. I’ve been in Camelot, and it was absolutely wonderful. Mine didn’t end because of betrayal, but only because of life circumstances moving with the slow cruel grace of tectonic shift. One day, it was just over. Tentatively building another, I think…

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