This I Believe

Woodrow - Ferdinand, Indiana
Entered on July 29, 2008

I believe in the ideal of chivalry.

I know that many people will read that sentence and be repulsed, presuming me to be some sort of misogynist troglodyte, an artifact of a bygone age best left in the dustbin of history. Rest assured; nothing could be further from the truth.

When I was a boy, I read almost everything I could get my hands on. Two of those books were adaptations of the Arthurian legends written by Howard Pyle, The Story of King Arthur and his Knights and The Story of the Champions of the Round Table. These were two among many hundreds of books that I read over the years, but these were some of the few that stuck with me. As a child, I was enamored of knighthood; these men, these knights in literal shining armor, riding about upholding good and protecting the innocent, struck a chord with me as it does with many children. Had I actually seen one as a small boy, I imagine my reaction would have been rather like that of Percival before he became a knight of the Table Round, believing the shining figures he saw to be angels.

Unlike other children, however, I didn’t grow out of it. My beliefs matured, but never grew away from the ideals of courage, honor, truth, generosity, and all the rest. I came to learn that in recorded history, knights were often ugly characters; violent, oppressive, rapacious, and otherwise reflective of the ugly side of human nature, much as many people of any given group are. But this did not disabuse me of the ideal. Historical knights may not have lived up to the chivalric ideal, but that does not make it a bad ideal to try to live up to.

I am a member of the Society for Creative Anachronism, a medieval and Renaissance research and reenactment group. The ideals and skills of chivalry are practiced by many members, and those judged by their area’s monarchy to exemplify them are made knights of the Society. The oath of the Midrealm, the kingdom of the SCA that encompasses where I live, is as follows: “I here swear fealty and do homage to the Crown of the Middle Kingdom; to ever be a good knight and true, reverent and generous, shield of the weak, obedient to my liege-lord, foremost in battle, courteous at all times, champion of the right and the good.”

I know that these ideals seem, as the last word of the SCA’s name indicates, anachronistic, but I believe that the principles expressed therein will never be outmoded. To me these exemplify caritas, loving-kindness, the willingness to give of oneself to protect and help others, the highest of virtues. It is my ambition to one day earn the right to take that oath, but until I have that honor, I do my utmost to exemplify these principles in word and action, and in so doing hope to inspire others to do the same.