Tuesday, April 8, 2008

Sine Qua Non: Chivalry

On Saturday I sat in Kaldi's putting the finishing touch on a paper when a girl walked in with a wicked tall guy. They both were noticeable since he almost hit his dead on the door and she was fairly attractive. I wasn't the only one to turn my head. That was really the last thought I gave to them as I delved back into my studies at least until I saw this guy's head rise from the bench in front of me like a giraffe searching for more food. As he turned to walk out, his girlfriend (I'm assuming) got up behind him and grabbed unto him and he playfully pulled away and walked out the door. She obviously was expecting the door to stay open, any man is taught from a young age to do such a thing, but this guy must have missed that lesson because it nailed her. Hard. She didn't look to happy. He didn't even notice. Strike one for chivalry.

A lot of times chivalry is basically looked at as something that is NOT DONE. It is something that is noticeable, like a door hitting a girl in the face, when it is neglected but when actions that may be deemed as chivalrous are regularly practiced it is mocked or made fun of. Statements like: "That will wear off after five years with that girl" or other negative, verbal assaults on the idea of chivalry are constantly catapulted against its walls. Leaving any practitioner of a lifestyle of chivalry feeling rather frustrated with his situation. What then IS this idea? Is it simply just holding a door? Or is so much more then that?

Chivalry is defined as: "the sum of the ideal qualifications of a knight, including courtesy, generosity, valor, and dexterity in arms." This is the first problem with "chivalry" as a concept because it is first viewed as (1) archaic (2) dark ages and (3) women suppressing. The latter one is probably dwelt on the most today as many would argue that suppressing women was the hallmark of chivalry. However, it seems that these men did not really seem to grasp the concept of what it meant to be chivalrous. If these men could even be labeled chivalrous to begin with. So then what is chivalry in the modern era?

It is recorded in the legend of King Arthur that a fellow knight stated the following at Lancelot's funeral:

"Thou were the meekest man that ever ate in hall among ladies; and thou were the sternest knight to thy mortal foe that ever put spear in the rest."
These two ideals. These two extremeties. Both seemed to be balanced in the legendary figure of Lancelot. C.S. Lewis made the point like this:

"If we cannot produce Launcelots, humanity falls into two sections--those who can deal in blood and iron but cannot be "meek in hall", and those who are "meek in hall" but useless in battle--for the third class, who are both brutal in peace and cowardly in war, need not here be discussed. When this disassociation of the two halves of Launcelot occurs, history becomes a horribly simple affair. The ancient history of the Near East is like that. Hardy barbarians swarm down from their highlands and obliterate a civilization. Then they become civilized themselves and go soft. Then a new wave of barbarians comes down and obliterates them."
Lewis states rather emphatically that a chivalrous man is one who attempts to balance out these extremities and also has the ability to call on them when needed. When the balance is tilted in one direction or another then civilization begins to fall apart and then some other "barbarian" sweeps in. Only to have the same thing happen again. And again. And again.

History has a nasty way of repeating itself.

So we have attempted to define chivalry as something that is not archaic, not anti-women, and definitely not narrowed to specific actions but the question still remains; now what? Sine Qua Non in Latin means necessity. C.S. Lewis' article title was the Necessity of Chivalry and in many ways these two synonyms capture why it is so vitally important for any male to engross themselves in this concept. Many times chivalry is looked at as being muscular and buff but that is so grossly misguided it's disturbing. I know a lot of "macho men" who you can definitely drop the macho out of. Chivalry is not a physical appearance but a way of living. It is interesting that the definitions for chivalry are mostly nouns. However, it seems from what Lewis and myself are saying, it is a verb. It is not just something to be thought about. It is something to practice. It is something to BE. It is something that Jesus' personified and it is something that ANY and ALL godly men should attempt to be. Chivalry is in essence Christ-likeness because it is a complete dependence on God to balance out two opposing qualities and the discernment to know when to use them. Chivalry knows how to treat the ladies right and to not act like a barbarian to them by only thinking of them in physical terms. It is the purest gentlemen. If a man is truly chivalrous then I believe a lady can be truly a lady. It is when men fail at this when we get nasty side effects. Take the following as an example

A video was released today of a couple of girls (8 in total) assaulting this girl for a comment she made on myspace. Now, I could go into detail about what I think about these girls, but my concentration will focus on these two pathetic BOYS who apparently watched as this happened. In fact one cheered it on and the other stood guard to make sure no one was coming. This is exactly what happens when men do not stand up for their innate sense of protecting women. Barbarism. When men without chests, men without emotions, men with depraved passions, allow this to happen we all suffer because the downfall of society echoes through crashing halls. The barbarians are coming.
In closing then it is very easy to focus on what chivalry is not. It seems to be something that we all can easily identify yet can never really pin down what it truly is. Except in passing dreams or maybe even an occasional person we meet. My hope and something I hope can be said of me at my grave was exactly what was said at Lancelots. Not out of some vain glory or fame but out of the desire to be a man who represented what it meant to be a man. A man who stood up when he had to but knew when it was right to sit back down. A man after God's own heart. For that in essence is what it truly means to be a chivalrous man.

Sine Qua Non.


Anonymous said...

what a great article. matt thank you for explaining chivalry so well. how interesting what C.S.Lewis had to say. its so true. balance is key. i hope you can inspire more men to be chivalrous!

"Enter by the narrow gate. For the gate is wide and the way is easy that leads to destruction, and those who enter by it are many. For the gate is narrow and the way is hard that leads to life, and those who find it are few." Matthew 7:13-14