Thursday, September 22, 2011

Word of the Day. 9/22/11

Word of the Day

gallant [adj. gal-uhnt for 1, 2, 3; guh-lant, -lahnt, gal-uhnt for 4.]  
1. brave, spirited, noble, or chivalrous.
2. grand, stately.
3. colorful or stylish; magnificent
4.exceptionally polite and attentive to women; courtly.

[n. guh-lant, -lahnt, gal-uhnt]
5. a brave, chivalrous or noble person, especially a man.
6. a man especially attentive to women
7. a dashing man; a paramour

[v. guh-lant, -lahnt]
8. to court or act as a lover
9. to escort a woman 

chivalry [shiv-uhl-ree]
1. the sum of the ideal qualifications of a night, including the seven virtues, ex. bravery and generosity, as well as martial skill.
2. the rules and customs of a medieval knighthood.
3. courteous behavior, especially by men toward women.


My friends like to tease me for the simple fact that I live my life with a simple philosophy. Do no harm to others, unless they are doing harm to you. I an a reactionist and, when I can help it, a pacifist. Lawful good, paladin, paragon, are all sci-fi fantasy terms thrown my way to describe my actions in relations to other people. I suppose that if I had been born in another time or in a more fantastic world, I would be inclined to take the life of a knight. I won't lie and say I don't like my role as the nice guy but I don't think it is wrong to be proud of being courteous and sensitive about my words and actions (when I can help it).  Even in videogames like Mass Effect and Fable, I generally preferred to take the righteous path. Furthermore, my dungeons dragons characters that I can most get into are either over the top gallants or knights/clerics who live with a certain level of chivalry and adhere to a strict personal code (as a I do in real life). Yet, I feel that I am often in the minority. In fact, the concept of chivalry seems lost on most of colleagues.

A few semesters ago, in a British Literature course I took with one of my favorite English professors (I am an English-Creative Writing/ History double major), we read Sir Gawain and the Green Knight. In the story, there is a scene where a married Lady entreats Sir Gawain to bed with her while her husband is away. Gawain is opposed to this fact because it would be a foul deed to sleep with another man's bride and, in fact, Sir Gawain had forsworn laying with a lady until he was married (despite being quite the paramour and gallant in his own right). His chivalry would not allow him to help commit this act of adultery. When my professor asked the class what they thought, I was flabbergasted to hear more than one student accuse Gawain of being an idiot or "gay" simply because he had an ounce of not only respect for others but his own code. In the glib and disgusting use of the term "gay" by the vacuous young people of the 21st century, "Sir Gawain is gay". He is not gay because he likes men (which would be perfectly okay by me and would be a more incredible story for the period it was written) but because he is a chivalrous knight.

Furthermore, I hear the words, "chivalry is dead" more often than I would like to hear those words said, yet, more often hear them ironically in the full phrase, "and who said chivalry was dead," in reaction to a man taking a chivalrous act. Yet, times have changed and some would argue that the supposed death of chivalry is part of the death of misogyny.  Chivalry, as I see it, is not exclusive to men being courteous. Chivalry is about the strong helping the weak, the young showing respect for the old and for two people to have respect for each other. Women are just as capable of my version of chivalry as men. In an age where women are encouraged to be strong, as strong as men have been encouraged in the past, the axe cuts both ways.

As the axe falls and the sword flies, chivalry is, at its roots, not about courting a woman or becoming a knight, but showing respect to others. I end by asking you to raise your sword not in anger and to shield the weak and innocent from the arrows of anger. Everybody needs a hero. Be that hero.

 Be a Sir Didymus, not an Ambrosius.

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