Camelot—for the Taking!
Chivalry comes to us today accompanied by a strange companion: nostalgia for an age gone by.
We see it expressed in romantic images of knights and ladies, along with castles and colorful pavilions that abundantly provide the stuff of fantasies. Medieval literature brings these images to life for us, providing some insight into the minds of their original audiences.
The heroes are perfectly idealized as noble, honest and trustworthy, perhaps more so than our experience of reality allows—but that’s okay. Our hearts call out for such ideals, which intensifies their undeniable attraction. We long for noble virtues, civility, heroic deeds, romantic love, and evil conquered despite impossible odds. Something akin to conscience tells us that this idealized world is the way it should be.
Being a knight meant something back then that is missing today. Our hearts bemoan its loss. We intuitively know that it would give us that sense of authenticity that is missing in our everyday lives. We like to think that the accolade’s tapping of the sword is all we need to transform us into our truest selves—heroes all. From that moment on, the world would respect us as dragon-slayers, loyal defenders of the realm, distributors of justice, companions of such knights as Lancelot, Gawain, Galahad, Tristan, and so many others enshrined in the Round Table of our dreams. We can share in their glory by title alone, without ever having to earn it, simply by the fact that we are one of them.
And then the alarm clock rings. We get dressed, go to work and fall into our normal routines, living up to the less-than-heroic images by which our friends, family and co-workers recognize us. That may include the occasional racial slur, spreading office gossip, ignoring someone who needs help, and clinging to political ideas that separate us from the good that can still be done.
The sad thing is, we live in an unheroic age that has stamped its failings on our hearts and minds. Intuitively, we call out for the qualities of knighthood to turn things around. That is the purpose of today’s chivalry, or as we call it, Chivalry-Now.
We cannot partake in that simply by longing for an age gone by. That age never really existed, not as exemplified in the simple tales of medieval romance, augmented by thousands of romance novels that provide us escape rather than inspiration. Yes, there were real knights and ladies who lived up to chivalry’s ideals. But in many ways, they were fallible men and women just like us, who differentiated themselves by means of commitment. They did not attend castle banquets for every meal. They worked hard to survive in difficult times when life-expectancy was low and plagues were rampant. Their moral views, while admirable in many ways, were often led astray by superstition and ignorance. They accomplished good, but that good could only go so far, limited by pre-industrial conditions. While we hold some benefit in idealized fantasies, we must not allow them to deter us from the work cut out for us now.
What I’m trying to say is that the world we live in is, without a doubt, far better than it was back then—and it is a world worth fighting for. People live far longer and healthier lives. More than 80% of the world is literate today, compared to the fortunate few, mostly clerics, in the Dark Ages. Poverty is almost eradicated. Most nations enjoy the benefits of some form of constitutional democracy, including humane laws and respect for human rights. There are far less wars compared to even a century ago. Modern medicine continues to make tremendous advancements in maintaining the health and productivity of almost everyone. Even the poorest nations are better off than they were, beneficiaries of global improvements that accompany the modern rise of knowledge. And never think that those countries that still suffer from tyranny and intolerance are content with the ways things are. It is only a matter of time before a familiar revolution of spirit moves them to shed their chains and join the rest of us.
But there is, indeed, something missing, and we turn to chivalry to find it. The truth is, while reveling in our constant stream of technological advancements, we have not lived up to the soul of the Enlightenment project that got it all started. We sense and suffer from that deprivation. We are more like selfish children in a toy store than motivated visionaries inspired by humanity’s potential. Yes, our consciousness has been raised by so many fine accomplishments, but our success has been tainted by the trappings of greed, and that is what is cuts us to the core.
The challenge for today’s Knighthood, our overall quest, is returning that kernel of inspiration to Western culture that has been lost. By that I mean reclaiming the inspiration of those virtues that make us most human, despite all the distractions of our chattering and demanding pixelated world. Chivalry-Now, as its name implies, concerns itself with NOW.
We live in incredible times. Most of the work and advancements of civilization have been done for us already. All we need do is live up to those worthy hopes and aspirations that greed continues to mangle and pervert.
Good friends, the simple truth is, Camelot is ours for the taking. All it lacks is the awakened souls of its people energized by ideals that they own already, and leaders capable of guiding their enthusiasm.
This is a call for such leaders to step forward and make a difference.