Friday, October 4, 2013

What quality brought people to their knees in his presence?

My novel explores the life of one of the most fascinating characters in our culture: David. Here he is, pondering how to become larger than life:

I often wonder, what was it in Saul, what quality brought people to their knees in his presence, even in the early years, before he was anointed? What was it that made so many of them follow him, to the point of risking their lives? I have turned this question over and over in my mind, and the more ways I look at it, the more I find it baffling. There must be more to leadership than wearing a crown.
For now, this is what I have come to believe: people will follow, if they perceive that their leader is larger than life. 
For Saul, this is easy. He is so damn tall! 
But stature is only a part of his power. To make his authority even more visible to his subjects—and discourage anyone from doubting it—he adopted some manners, some symbols of high ranking. Which he must have learned from the hieroglyphic stone carvings of foreign war memorials. 
These symbols include not just this court, but the walled gardens, too. Looking at the waterfalls pumping here continuously I have to remind myself that it is not the stronghold of some royal dynasty, dominating the Nile delta or the Babylonian Tigris and Euphrates. Set against the view of the poorest sun-stricken desert in Canaan, where water is scarce, this palace seems like a foreign place. 
And looking at the center of all this, at the King himself, I have to pinch myself. He is a striking figure, and not just because of his royal garb. Just like painted icons—those of the god-kings of Egypt, and of the high priests of Akkadian empire—he has a magnificent beard, the likes of which I have never seen on another man before. 
It is carefully groomed, oiled and dressed using tongs and curling irons to create elaborate ringlets and tiered patterns. Often dyed reddish brown with Henna, it is plaited with an interwoven gold thread. And in place of the ornamental scepter of the Egyptian monarchs, Saul holds the next best thing: his weapon. A spear.
I collect these details in my mind and examine them at length, all the while growing more restless. It is hunger for success, hunger for what he has, that turns in my guts. 
No longer do I ask, what was it in him that allowed him to become who he is. Instead I wonder, whatever it might be, is it in me? Do I have what it takes to become a leader? A King, even? 
And on my way up, how do I overcome my shortcomings? How does a kid like me—who is too young to grow even a single hair on his chin, let alone a fancy beard like his—find a way to project himself into an iconic role, a role that will become memorable for ages to come?  
In short: how do I become larger than life?  

Here is my pencil doodle of the word Larger

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