Fabulous word, Quest, isn’t it? Takes one directly to Arthurian legend via Tolkien through to almost any modern fantasy literature or even electronic gaming. It is one of those words that is so evocative that hearing it can send one off into a full daydream all on its own.
Now comes the embarrassing part. I am so old that I used to be a Games Master in War-hammer in the days before figurines, video games or anything other than bits of paper (character sheets) and my cardboard screen behind which I hid when rolling my Ds (I still have a fancy tin somewhere with all my D4s up to D100 in it). My job was to send my role players off on a quest and then be the rest of the world to them. Not only did I have to describe the world around them (you arrive as the market is closing and the ground is strewn with rubbish, roll your dexterity – oops, you just slipped on a rotten cabbage leaf) but I had to play all the NPCs (non player characters) with whom they had to interact. For someone with a Drama School background this was just a wonderful opportunity to show off. From the fat drunken landlord of the Greasy Ladle Inn who kept a wicked pet monkey to the imposing Gravine de Frankhauf (Margaret Thatcher with a Catherine of Aragon hat on) … they were all me.
However, I’ve come to realise that most Quests aren’t heroic. We are not all off to find the legendary treasure, or potion ingredient. Nor are we all going to be rewarded with a prince’s undying gratitude or oodles of jewels. Most of us are on a much more exciting quest.
We are looking for our way in the world. We are looking for ourselves, what we referred to in Wicca as our True Self. It is a concept found in many religions under different names but let’s accept it as “the best self we can be”.
Some say that we start out in life as our True Selves but as we begin to grow (and certainly by adolescence) we have become warped and twisted out of shape, trudging along like a sea creature with barnacles and other excrescences growing on our outer shell. The process of stripping these away is the quest we embark on through spirituality. While our War-hammer thrilling episodes were usually over in two or three nights, this real-life quest takes just that – a lifetime and it is up to each one of us to decide what particular Holy Grail we are seeking.
That is the true delight of this quest. We are Games Master and main character at the same time, we are directing and starring in our very own movie. What could be more fun than that?