Right & Noble Life

A Right and Noble Life
by Perry W Rogers (aka Syr Gerwyn y’ Teigr)

Introduction
I am a lifelong member of the Society for Creative Anachronism (SCA). It is a medieval re-creation / recreation group that has been around since “The Last Tournament” in Berkley, California in May of 1965. I found it in 1977 when I was 15 years old. I was initially attracted by the armored combat, but stayed because of the people. The SCA’s ideals and people have shaped who I am; what I believe; what I try to be; and what I try to teach. Some of this page applies specifically to thriving in the SCA, but most of it pertains to a broader sense of living a right and noble life. A life that works toward the benefit of the commonweal.

Teigr

"Make an honest effort, and make no excuses."
I believe the ideals discussed here are not out of time and place. In fact, I believe they are as important now as ever. Don’t think for a minute that I am good at living and doing the things that follow, but I do believe in them, and do my best every day. They are not easy, but that is key to what makes them worthwhile. I think that is really all that can be asked of anyone: make an honest effort, and make no excuses.

The virtues below are presented in no particular order at this time. You will notice that there is overlap in some of them— Honor and Fidelity for example. I think that is unavoidable, but is unintentional. They can be studied and worked toward individually, but should always be taken as a whole. 

Much of the writing that follows is based on the works of others, including, but not limited to: "Of the Vertues that Apperteyne to Chyvalry by John Chamberlain (aka Duke Garick von Kopke) and on the works of —Bohdi Sanders, author of Warrior Wisdom. There are many others who have influenced my life and thinking along the way including Alan Tegen (aka Duke Sir Albert von Dreckenveldt), Bruce Lee, William Marshal, Sun Tzu, and George Lucas. 

Finally, this is an ongoing project. Check back from time to time to how things have changed.



Noble Virtues to Aspire Toward, and Live By.

Courage

Garick

"In the SCA, true courage is never giving in to your desire to give yourself the benefit of the doubt. It is better to accept an honorable defeat rather than take a glorious, but tainted victory."
Courage actually applies to every part of your life. It takes courage to do what you know is right, especially when those around you disagree. Your personal values may be challenged on a daily basis. You must have enough conviction in your beliefs to stand for what you believe. This does not mean that you act in rash and tactless ways. There is a difference between being courageous and being stupid. Have the courage to live by your own code of honor, but do so with class, wisdom and discretion.


Truth
Be honest about what you believe or know to be true and right. Lying, in most cases, is an act of cowardice. Live according to what you believe in your heart to be right and you will have no reason to lie about your actions. Respect other people’s right to believe what they want, but live according to the truth as you perceive it in your life. Always be truthful with yourself. Do not deceive yourself anymore than you would deceive someone else.


Honor
There is a right way and wrong way to do everything. Every action must be evaluated by whether or not it is morally right and that it originates from pure intentions. Your word is your bond— as it should be. You should guard against giving it lightly, as what is sworn must be done.  So also should you be honest in witness. Be careful not to let your feelings about something become fact in your speech.


Fidelity
Being loyal and faithful is non-negotiable. Only those with honor can be true friends because it takes loyalty and faithfulness. All others are mere acquaintances. You may sometimes need to make a personal sacrifice to support a person or ideal to which you are loyal. Further, do not be a cynic. You should believe in the inherent nobility of all. This means defending or helping those to whom you are not sworn. You must not ever neglect your ideals and responsibilities.


Perseverance

Bruce Lee

"Mistakes are always forgivable, if one has the courage to admit them."
Without perseverance you will not be successful in applying these virtues in your life. No one is perfect and you will make mistakes. You cannot simply give up and quit when you fall short of your mark. You must  not make excuses to justify quitting.


Discipline
It takes discipline to live according to your  personal code of ethics, rather than according to what cultural standards dictate. This means the exercise a great deal of self-discipline. You must be willing to control your own actions. Many things that are legal may go against your own code of honor, and many things that governments declare illegal may be permitted by your personal standards. In order to stay true to your own principles and virtues, you must develop self-discipline throughout every aspect of your everyday life. From doing what is morally right, to controlling offensive speech, to not over-indulging in chocolate cake, self-discipline is key.


Generosity

Unknown

"Chivalry is only dead when we no longer understand the meaning behind chivalrous acts. When actions no longer come from within, but are forced and religious, the inner Knight dies and so does chivalry."
The virtue of generosity is a broad one, and includes the traits of courtesy, service and hospitality. You must see all living things as deserving of being treated with respect, dignity and courtesy. The Vikings believed that the gods would visit in human form and that in being disrespectful to strangers you could also be disrespecting the gods. You should treat others with hospitality not because they deserve it, but because that is how you behave towards other people. It has to do with your own principles; what others deserve has nothing to do with it. While hosts were expected to generously welcome and provide food and shelter for passing travelers, despite their financial status, guests were likewise expected to be polite and appreciative towards their hosts and sometimes even reimburse them in the form of goods, services, or labor. 

The more difficult and more vital part is not only in being generous with goods or praise, but being generous in giving the benefit of the doubt to others. You should never defame the honor of another by assuming the worst.  If a situation is uncomfortable enough that you feel a need to talk about it, speak gently to that person, not to others, and keep an open mind. Do not accuse!  Be generous in your own actions, and in the interpretation of the actions of others. Do not give yourself the benefit of the doubt. Use your humility to hold your pride in check. Thoughtlessness and reaction to discourtesy, real or perceived, are the greatest threats to courtesy. Guard well against speech without thought.  The true test of courtesy comes in the face of discourtesy. 


Industriousness

Teigr

"The SCA is a historical group. Your gear, persona, and actions should always reflect this.  You should posses and show belief that it is an organization of value, and exhibit willingness to work for it’s success."
Industriousness simply means the willingness to work hard and smart at whatever you do. If something is worth doing, do it well. Do it with pride and do it to the best of your ability. This doesn’t just apply to your vocation, but to your entire way of life. Be a person of excellence, and do everything with care and detail. Be productive. You should always work for the common good.  Display a willingness to teach and a willingness to learn.


Self-Reliance
Be independent. This doesn’t mean that you shouldn’t like other people or enjoy being around them, just do not depend on others for your family’s survival. Being frugal and financially stable is an important part of being self-reliant. Do your best not to have to depend on other people for your welfare.

Some of My Inspirations

A FaceBook post that was initially made by a brother knight, and modified by me in March of 2015:

"When I was very young in this great organization, long before any awards and titles, I dreamed like this:

In my mind I am a knight. I have all I need. A king to follow, a kingdom to defend, battles to fight, armor that I own. I am a knight. At Demos I am introduced as such. My armor may not be shining and I may not be called Sir but thats ok. When I take the field I am Arthur, I am William Marshal, I am Conan, I am a knight. For that brief incredible self deluding moment I am living my dream. If one day I am a fortunate enough knight to be inducted into the Order of Chivalry, well that will be a fine day indeed. But for now I am a knight and I come to learn to be a better fighter so I can stay alive longer and love my dream better. I come to be a better artisan so that I may love my dream more beautifully. I come to be a better servant so that I may create love of my dream in others.

To me, the main thing is simply to live and love the dream. To embrace the energy and fantasy and armored ecstasy that is being a medieval knight. The rest will follow naturally.  My quest (what is a knight without a quest) is now to inspire, create and serve."


From the Movie: Secondhand Lions:


"Sometimes the things that may or may not be true are the things that a man needs to believe in the most: that people are basically good; that honor, courage, and virtue mean everything; that power and money, money and power mean nothing; that good always triumphs over evil; that love, true love, never dies... No matter if they're true or not, a man should believe in those things because those are the things worth believing in. — Part of Hub McCann's famous 'What every boy needs to know about being a man’ speech."



From Star Wars:

The Jedi Code
There is no emotion, there is peace.
There is no ignorance, there is knowledge.
There is no passion, there is serenity.
There is no chaos, there is harmony.
There is no death, there is the Force.

Another version of the Jedi Code:
Jedi are the guardians of peace in the galaxy.
Jedi use their powers to defend and to protect.
Jedi respect all life, in any form.
Jedi serve others rather than ruling over them, for the good of the galaxy.
Jedi seek to improve themselves through knowledge and training.

QUI-GON JINN: "Feel, don't think. Trust your instincts."  "Life does not treat you fairly or unfairly, it merely is. It is up to each of us to be fair, or unfair."  “Do not meet hate with hate. Meet it with purpose."


From Bruce Lee:

Be like water making its way through cracks. Do not be assertive, but adjust to the object, and you shall find a way around or through it. If nothing within you stays rigid, outward things will disclose themselves.  Empty your mind, be formless. Shapeless, like water. If you put water into a cup, it becomes the cup. You put water into a bottle and it becomes the bottle. You put it in a teapot, it becomes the teapot. Now, water can flow or it can crash. Be water, my friend.

Knowing is not enough; We must apply. Willing is not enough; We must do.

Mistakes are always forgivable, if one has the courage to admit them.

If you always put limits on everything you do, physical or anything else, it will spread into your work and into your life. There are no limits. There are only plateaus, and you must not stay there, you must go beyond them.

Absorb what is useful, discard what is not, add what is uniquely your own.


The Knights Code of Chivalry described in the Song of Roland:
  • To fear God and maintain His Church
  • To serve the liege lord in valour and faith
  • To protect the weak and defenseless
  • To give succour to widows and orphans
  • To refrain from the wanton giving of offence
  • To live by honour and for glory
  • To despise pecuniary reward
  • To fight for the welfare of all
  • To obey those placed in authority
  • To guard the honour of fellow knights
  • To eschew unfairness, meanness and deceit
  • To keep faith
  • At all times to speak the truth
  • To persevere to the end in any enterprise begun
  • To respect the honour of women
  • Never to refuse a challenge from an equal
  • Never to turn the back upon a foe


Noble Habitus (12th c. Chivalry): The code of chivalry, as it was known at late Medieval age, developed between 1170 and 1220.

Loyalty: It is a practical utility in a warrior. 

Forbearance: knights' self-control towards other warriors and at the courts of their lords was a part of the early noble habitus . The nobility of mercy and forbearance was well established by the second half of the 12th century long before there was any code of chivalry.

Hardihood: The quality of hardy aligns itself with forbearance and loyalty in being one of the military virtues of the preudomme (French: prud'homme = good man). 

Largesse or Liberality: generosity was part of a noble quantity. 

The Davidic Ethic: Originally it was a set of expectations of good rulership articulated by the Frankish church which involved the rightful authority based on protection for the weak and helpless (in particular the Church), respect for widows and orphans, and opposition to the cruel and unjust.  The core of Davidic Ethic is benevolence of the strong toward the weak.

Honor: honor was what was achieved by living up to the ideal of the preud’homme and pursuing the qualities and behavior listed above. The loss of honor is a humiliation to a man's standing and is worse than death.

In the 12th century, great tournaments were fought by the nobles and knights of western Europe.  These tournaments were vastly different from the one-on-one feats of arms that would follow in later centuries.  In the 12th century, they were grand melees fought in a free-for-all fashion across great swaths of the countryside (up to a day’s ride in any direction).  The key rational behind these grand events was this: battle tactics, if not practiced before hand, cannot be summoned when necessary.  Further, in tournament, a man also had the opportunity to show his prowess through martial skill; to prove his honor by respecting the rules of the game; to exhibit largess by organizing events, or fitting out his own retinue; and to -affirm his status by being seen within, or better yet, at the head of a large, finely equipped military entourage.  At tournament was where you showed yourself to be the archetypal prud’homme— the best kind of man.


Humanism is a democratic and ethical life stance, which affirms that human beings have the right and responsibility to give meaning and shape to their own lives. It stands for the building of a more humane society through an ethic based on human and other natural values in the spirit of reason and free inquiry through human capabilities. It is not theistic, and it does not accept supernatural views of reality.


—Greek philosopher Epicurus (341-270 B.C.E.)

“The gods can either take away evil from the world and will not, or, being willing to do so cannot; or they neither can nor will, or lastly, they are able and willing.

“If they have the will to remove evil and cannot, then they are not omnipotent. If they can but will not, then they are not benevolent. If they are neither able nor willing, they are neither omnipotent nor benevolent.

“Lastly, if they are both able and willing to annihilate evil, why does it exist?”