What of the stories of Lancelot, Tristan or Romeo? True, each character might be fictional, but what can we make of their stories? Each man lived, loved, and died greatly and thus earned immortality in the eyes of their fellow men. But have we learned nothing from growing up with their stories? Where are all the chivalrous men now? Who will heed to battles’ call for the needy in distress? Surely each of us as men grew up fantasizing about our own great deeds when we were boys. When did we abandon the ideals that our fantasies represent?
Today the world of men is plagued by many unfortunate undoings. We have let our moral standards subside over the centuries and have lost our ability to communicate intellectually and rationally. We have become more ignorant towards relationships and not just the kind between men and women, but men and men as well. When did showing emotion for our fellow men become synonymous with weakness? We have lost our connection with art, poetry, literature, music, and religion. Instead, we relinquish the flag of chivalry and hold high new beliefs: gluttony, greed, apathy. Charles Dickens once said, “The age of chivalry is past. Bores have succeeded to dragons.” Dickens may be right, but being past is far from being dead. Once a knight in shining armor, now a white collared intern with a cell phone – are we too bold to say that we can’t embody within us those same characteristics?
Medieval literature presents three distinct characteristics of chivalry. The first was a man’s duties to ones countrymen. Where as a knight might generally live a life of servant-hood, medieval deeds need to be translated and updated for today’s man. From opening the doors for others, to helping a neighbor or stranger with a selfless deed, to volunteering your time for an organization; selfless acts for other people are nothing but self gratifying. The second was the personal duty to spirituality or religion. Without heralding a Christian denomination, men can do things that will nurture their inner selves. Acting morally, the right decision may not always be the easy one. Returning a lost purse with its content intact to its owner, for instance, might not bring home a lost treasure, but the gratitude for bringing unexpected relief is just as great. Finally, a man’s final duty and possibly the most popular aspect of chivalry, was his duty to women.
Men of legends had an exterior of steel but an interior of absolute love and compassion. They composed ballads and poems and achieved great feats just to be acknowledged by their maidens, never objectifying, but genuinely respecting and admiring them. Today such acts may seem old fashioned, but the idea is still the same. Be punctual, polite; look her in the eyes so she knows that, whatever might be going on around her, your attention is solely for her. Be thoughtful; the most lavish gifts mean very little without heart. Finally, be kind; a man’s heart will slay a dragon better than any sword. Men, lets live chivalrously, not for glory, but to resurrect the dying breed of true gentlemen.
Written by Mehdi J. Ghannadan
Published in the Sonoma State Star (February 2010)
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