Chivalry Compatible with
does freedom fit into chivalry?
you see yourself bound to a code...noting that you WERE at least
free to choose such a life.
touched upon a subject near and dear to my heart, and worth contemplating
for us all. The following was my response to his inquiry.
First of all, only a free individual can offer
free commitment. If the vows of chivalry, as exemplified by the
12 Trusts, are not embraced freely, they are no better than
any other external control.
Second, even though the 12 Trusts reflect
longstanding chivalric values, they are more than just a code or
list of rules. They are words that connect to something already
deep inside us. They ignite our moral core, and complete who we
are. This completion, I believe, is what makes true freedom possible.
How can incomplete people really be free? We refer to this as authenticity.
When you read the 12 Trusts, or some other
chivalric code, don't the words resonate inside you as if they are
yours already? When I first encountered chivalry, many years ago,
it was like coming home. The words belonged to me as soon as I heard
them, as if they were my own. Chivalry, I think, is not so much
a code as it is a reflection of our better selves, our innate moral
nature, or what Enlightenment thinks referred to as Nature's Law.
I may have been "free" beforehand, free like a rudderless
boat, but I was not complete. My moral center was not awake to make
me free. I had neither the confidence nor the inspiration.
Chivalry gave me both. I am confident in my beliefs
for two reasons: because they make real sense and because they satisfying
my soul at the same time.
If you encounter and embrace chivalry in the
right fashion, it is not something you submit or bow down to. It
is something you awaken and express. The answers are not handed
to us in a platter. We have to find them for ourselves, which is
also an important part of freedom.
There is "negative freedom,"
which means that a purposely limited government does not unduly
restrain people. There is "positive freedom," which
means personal freedom that is activated for personal growth and
responsible living. Both sound good, and are not incompatible with
one another. When negative freedom is the only one stressed, however,
which is often the case, it leaves people open to other, nongovernmental
influences. For example, consumerism has the impetus and wherewithal
to make slaves of us all, if we let it. If, however, we look first
to ourselves, and be true to ourselves, and find real meaning inside
ourselves, then true freedom can be found. Nothing is more alive
and satisfying then that.
So, in a way, you decide
whether or not chivalry liberates or confines. When I recite the
12 Trusts, I commit myself to beliefs that already reflect my moral
core, not someone else's rules. This allows for autonomy I would
otherwise not have, and autonomy is a strong component of freedom.