2020 Nears The Final Battle - Do You Want to Be a Knight or Not?
Updated: Nov 29
"In the name of the Warrior, I charge you to be brave. In the name of the Father, I charge you to be just. In the name of the Mother, I charge you to defend the innocent....Arise, Brienne of Tarth - a Knight of the Seven Kingdoms!"
Millions around the world wept and applauded and cheered when these words were spoken by anti-hero Jaime Lannister to the woman he honored most in the final season of the worldwide phenomenon that was "Game of Thrones." The eight year story arc had taken us all to appalling depths of human cruelty and ruthless cunning and had yet somehow managed to preserve the concepts of honor and chivalry as guttering, almost extinguished candles in our hearts - which could yet be ignited to consuming brilliance, which could yet set our souls afire.
The scene was the more riveting because the characters gathered in front of the firelight were facing almost certain death within hours. "At least we'll die with honor," Brienne quietly affirms.
"I think we might live," counters the irrepressible Tyrion Lannister.
Today we hear of the almost certain imminent death of many precious things: American democracy in the face of electoral chaos; cherished human rights in the face of creeping fascism; the sovereignty of the soul in the face of Artificial Intelligence; the very life of our planet in the face of environmental collapse - and the feared bodily death of yet thousands or millions more wrought by the panic of the pandemic.
I think we might live.
And if we do, if by some grace of God and human striving we come through this coming Long Night with our ideals alive, with our freedoms intact, with healing and restoration not merely possible but a visible miracle before our eyes - what then? What life, what choices, what destiny would you want to look back on? When the test came of your humanity, of your compassion, of your courage, what example do you want to leave behind you for your children and grandchildren to speak of - with pride or with shame?
"Do you want to be a knight or not?"
This is not about politics: it doesn't matter who you support, what 'side' you're on, or who you think is a traitor. This is about the Code - the ancient timeless Code of the highest universal human values. The Djedhi Priests of ancient Egypt knew it. The Rajput Warriors of India knew it. The Essenes, the Saracens, the Cathars, the Knights Templar, the Lakota, and the Samurai of feudal Japan all knew it.
As did Jesus Christ, Guatama Buddha, Lord Krishna and Joan of Arc.
As do you.
Be brave. Be forgiving. Be compassionate. Be merciful. Defend those who cannot defend themselves. Be true to your word. Refuse to lie, even under grave temptation. Look to the common good of all rather than to selfish gratification. Be bold in confronting evil while looking searchingly into the mirror of your own flaws. Honor your father and mother.
In short, do unto others as you would have them do unto you.
Can it really still be that simple? In this time of chaos, confusion and cupidity, of unabashed lies and thinly disguised propaganda, can it really still be possible to cherish such a Code, to retain such stupendous naivete as to believe that the human family can yet be united by the values of universal Chivalry?
Yes. I know it. It is not only possible, it may even be inevitable. Those tens of millions around the world who wept and cheered and applauded to hear the Code spoken, whose hearts caught fire when Brienne of Tarth arose 'a Knight of the Seven Kingdoms' - those souls may be evidence enough. As Margaret Mead famously reminded us, never doubt that a small group of committed idealists can change the world - for it is the only thing that ever has.
Sometimes it does not even need a small group. Sometimes all it needs is one brave soul at the perfect moment to set the daring example. Lech Walensa climbing the fence at Gdansk to dare to negotiate with the regime on behalf of Solidarity - this changed the world. Nelson Mandela's 25 years of imprisoned moral courage changed the world. And six hundred years ago, a French peasant girl dared to believe in her Voices, dared to set so dazzling an example of faith and courage and selflessness that we can still scarcely believe the undeniable testimony of her life, which without question saved France...and saved all that France would give to humanity in the centuries to come.
Joan of Arc knew the Code. She grew up on the troubadours' tales of chivalry and honor - even as the Code was made a mockery by the appalling immorality unfolding in France. We may look around us now at the moral wreck that was once America and despair that noble souls can rise from such polluted soil. But as the quintessential American, Mark Twain, memorably wrote of Joan of Arc -
"When we reflect that her century was the brutalest, the wickedest, the rottenest in history since the darkest ages, we are lost in wonder at the miracle of such a product from such a soil. The contrast between her and her century is the contrast between day and night. She was truthful when lying was the common speech of men; she was honest when honesty was become a lost virtue; she was a keeper of promises when the keeping of a promise was expected of no one; she gave her great mind to great thoughts and great purposes when other great minds wasted themselves upon pretty fancies or upon poor ambitions; she was modest, and fine, and delicate when to be loud and coarse might be said to be universal; she was full of pity when a merciless cruelty was the rule; she was steadfast when stability was unknown, and honorable in an age which had forgotten what honor was; she was a rock of convictions in a time when men believed in nothing and scoffed at all things; she was unfailingly true to an age that was false to the core; she maintained her personal dignity unimpaired in an age of fawnings and servilities; she was of a dauntless courage when hope and courage had perished in the hearts of her nation; she was spotlessly pure in mind and body when society in the highest places was foul in both—she was all these things in an age when crime was the common business of lords and princes, and when the highest personages in Christendom were able to astonish even that infamous era and make it stand aghast at the spectacle of their atrocious lives black with unimaginable treacheries, butcheries, and beastialities...
She was perhaps the only entirely unselfish person whose name has a place in profane history. No vestige or suggestion of self-seeking can be found in any word or deed of hers. When she had rescued her King from his vagabondage, and set his crown upon his head, she was offered rewards and honors, but she refused them all, and would take nothing. All she would take for herself—if the King would grant it—was leave to go back to her village home, and tend her sheep again, and feel her mother’s arms about her, and be her housemaid and helper. The selfishness of this unspoiled general of victorious armies, companion of princes, and idol of an applauding and grateful nation, reached but that far and no farther.
The work wrought by Joan of Arc may fairly be regarded as ranking any recorded in history..."
Do we dare to look to Joan as an example?
I knew a saintly monk who was a disciple of a great yoga Master. Early in his years at the monastery, the Master asked after his well-being - was he happy in the ashram? "Well, sir," he complained, "I would be...but there are no examples here!"
"Imagine," he told us years later, "I said this to the greatest living spiritual example of the century!"
But the Master replied without hesitation.
"You can be the example."
I'll see you on the other side of the Long Night...and all shall be well.
- Michael Henry Dunn