'the King's Speech' And Soul-friendship

In Melbourne I saw streets lined with elm trees that have long-since died of disease in Europe. In Geelong I saw 'The King's Speech', at which I cried and the audience clapped. It reveals the life-changing potential of a kind of soul-friendship. The Duke of York, who wrote himself off as a hopeless stammerer, who unexpectedly became king when his selfish but glamourous brother renounced the throne, when that ego-maniac Hitler's eloquence swept all before it, and when Britain's ill-prepared Prime Minister resigned, who was required to be the voice of a vast, tyranny-resisting empire in a radio broadcast that had to be live, could not speak for fear. Formally qualified doctors proved powerless to cure him. So his wife Elizabeth sought out an unlikely person, the Australian Lional Logue. He had no doctors' degrees. He did, however, know a great deal about anatomy and muscle therapy, and the power of friendship to enable trust to replace the roots of fear. His unorthodox methods had been honed while treating 'verbally locked' and shell-shocked soldiers returning home to Australia from the First World War. He suspected the problem for stammerers was not simply physical, that there was something, usually a trauma, around the age of four or five, that created the condition. Logue suspected that the Duke's speech impediment might be connected to his domineering father, George V, who had, among other things, forced the left-handed prince to use his right hand. So Lional insisted that they meet as equals, as friends, using first names, meeting at his place, not the palace. In his presence the prince became free to swear, to sing, to develop self-awareness, to find in Lionel a friend whose warmth and understanding in the end melted a man frozen by fear of his peers from an early age. One could say that soul-friendship unlocked his real greatness. His heroic struggle against his problems enabled him to connect with the millions and give voice to their struggle to overcome tyranny.

This theme of unlocking another's greatness through soul friendship is part of the Aidan and Hilda DNA. As Saint Hilda unlocked the song locked up in the shy cowherd's heart; as Lional unlocked the greatness locked up in repressed Bertie's soul, so we always look for the key that may unlock another tied-up person. That, above all else, is the role of the anamchara, the friend of the soul.

Posted at 13:02pm on 11th January 2011
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