Reprinted from THE HAMMERED RAVEN first published Jan 9, 2015)
This is the Code of Chivalry as observed in House Hammered Raven.
Honor: Honor First.
You won’t really find it in a dictionary anymore. Its gets discussed by college sophomores reading THE ILIAD for the first time, then it gets dropped as being an impossible philosophical construct. “Is it honorable to steal bread to feed a starving child?” There are a hundred catchy, pretty phrases and no explanation.
Honor is the idea that some ideas and values are so important that we would choose extinction rather than betray those values. Perhaps the value itself is unimportant and what is vital is that we hold it passionately. For one man, honor might demand that he steal before he lets an innocent suffer. For another, honor might demand that he let innocents die before he steals.
Rather than simply bearing witness, Honor is that impulse that demands we act when we see what is Right. And Honor is the impulse to stand silent as a witness when that is what Right requires.
Prowess: Train constantly. Your strength and your prowess are all that stands between the Right and the Adversary.
Without the virtue of prowess, all other virtues are irrelevant. If a man is unable to strike down an enemy, then it is not mercy that stays his hand but simple weakness. Prowess is the virtue that provides a knight with the means to change the world to suit his own desires.
Without prowess, a man’s desires are meaningless as he cannot act on those desires. Your desire to feed the poor, clothe the naked, establish schools and courts will count for nothing if it is not matched by an ability to stay the hand of those who intend to remove those things.
Honesty: Always speak the truth.
I’ve been told this tenet can be a cruel one that defies mercy. I see that point, but I disagree. There are often truths that are unpleasant to speak, but when you hold your silence, it is not for the sake of the other but for your own comfort. There are truths that cause suffering. And when you speak that truth, you must be prepared to stand and share that suffering.
To lie doesn’t avoid an unpleasant truth, it merely delays its uncovering. Perhaps, when it is uncovered, the hearer will be in company less comforting than your own.
Courage: We cannot let fear make decisions for us.
This is not the same as embracing foolhardiness and risk for its own sake. We do not court danger but we cannot let fear move us to act in ways that do not further the cause of Right and Good. We hold our values and our honor so closely that, when the time comes to give our lives in defense of our values and in pursuit of the Good, it will seem as though our lives meant nothing to us.
Mercy: Protect the weak. Defend the innocent.
Just as we prevent the suffering of others through our pursuit of the right, we seek to inflict no more suffering on the wrong-doer than necessary. This is one reason why prowess is the foundation of chivalry and why chivalry can only be pursued by warriors.
Mercy takes many forms, but it is never the simple over looking of errors and mis-deeds. We confront and defeat the weakness and ignorance of men, but we do not always need to defeat the man himself.
Humility: Praise the worthy deeds of others as you seek to emulate their virtues, but do not boast of your own.
If you are spending your time in the proper company, there will always be others to speak of more highly than yourself, and there will always be others speaking highly of you as they learn the code through watching your actions.
When we boast during sumbel, remember that those supporting you will be affected by your aspirations. Always push the limits of what you can do, but remember that if you push too hard and fail, your burdens fall to another.
Generosity: Gluttony and greed are marks of cowardice.
By taking up arms and taking our place on the wall, we assume responsibility for the lives and well-being of others. What greater generosity is there than that we share our strengths and spend our lives in pursuit of the well-being of all? Give your time, your wealth, your energy to those people whose need hampers their development or the advancement of us all.
The coward fears that he will not have the strength to feed himself again if he shares his meal with the hungry. When we exercise largess and keep an open table, we remind the world through our example that we have the strength and confidence to make our way into the future.
Justice: Seek justice for others without thought of your own gain.
What is good and right is always under assault by weak and ignorant men. Through our words and deeds, we seek to temper the harm done by those who act against the Right. We seek to set two examples. Of course we hope through our actions to inspire others to seek the Right, but we must also conduct ourselves in such a fashion that such men know that acting against the Right in our presence will be met with credible opposition.
If there are those who imagine that they can act in defiance of what is Good and Right in your presence, then you should reflect on how you have failed. Do they not respect your prowess? Or do they question the sincerity of your commitment?
But justice is a terrifying thing when we truly examine our own lives so we must temper that pursuit of justice with mercy.
Honor: Honor first.
This is the Code of Chivalry as observed in House Hammered Raven