Friday, December 29, 2006

On your honor

"It is Ellidyr who paid the final price," Taran said slowly. "The last honor belongs to him." He spoke then of Islimach [his suicidal horse]. "He has lost all else, even his steed."

"Or perhaps gained all," Gwydion answered. "And his honor shall be certain. We shall raise a barrow to his memory. Islimach, too, shall rest with him, for they are both now at peace. Smoit's dead shall also sleep in honor, and a barrow be raised above Morgant King of Madoc."

"Morgant?" Taran asked, turning a puzzled glance to Gwydion. "How can there be honor for such a man?"

"It is easy to judge evil unmixed," replied Gwydion. "But, alas, in most of us good and bad are closely woven as the threads on a loom; greater wisdom than mine is needed for the judging."


I've been encouraged to be honorable as a boy scout (the scout oath), in school (the honor roll), and as a missionary ("return with honor"). I've never been a huge fan of conceptual honor, exactly, as it makes me think we're talking about reputation. But I suppose the self-perception and moral identity aspects of honor are good ones to support.

So, The Black Cauldron is all about honor. But my initial reaction was a less-than-enthusiastic one since the way they talk about honor reminds me of my brushes with renaissance fairs. Through a series of events I won't describe, I found myself dishonorably clothed in jeans and t-shirt in the midst of dozens of back-clapping, cod-piece wearing fellas who seemed to stare at me as if I were a freak. The blemish on my family's escutcheon will be difficult to buff.

What I loved about it after reading it, though, was the contrast between the honor Ellidyr wanted (which was based on others' perceptions and was a complete sham and he would have known it) vs. the honor an assistant pig keeper can hold in his own heart regardless of having little status in the world. While the message seems to be that the honor does not derive from who we are, but from how we behave, I extend that in my mind to be an endorsement of the idea of seeking God's honor or some sort of self satisfaction rather than "aspiring to the honors of men."

This is also an appropriate time to think about this topic because recently I felt very humiliated in a public forum. I felt misunderstood and frankly victimized by angry folks who have obviously been deeply hurt themselves and lost a lot of perspective. Looking back, I recognize that group dynamics sometimes dictate harsh perceptions of certain points of view, but that harshness and the dishonor heaped on you by the mob are ridiculous. It's good practice to worry not what others think, just what God thinks or what I think of myself.

Honor means having a good work ethic, paying for what I receive, respecting others, being honest, etc., and I suppose this all equates to being a disciple of Christ for me. And even though I'm more of a Morgant some days than a Taran, I'm happy to keep trying to make the closely woven threads of good and bad in my loom lean toward the good.

5 comments:

Loyalist (with defects) said...

For me Honor means being to the True self that I desire. Or at the very least striving to be True to that which I feel I should be.

Writing it down like that I now realize that I haven't been a very honorable. And that I've let my life become "tossed to and fro" with no real internal bearing - at least not with cognative input.

santorio said...

honor is too close to pride, which begins with 'p' which rhymes with 't' which stands for trouble, we got trouble

G'pa Bob said...

The "threads on a loom" concept is ok if we leave out the "weakest thread" concept. Ultimately, what good is a garment that half fades in the sunlight or half doesn't hold in body heat in the cold night?

I hope to somehow teach my grandchildren that it is easier to construct a garment of good thread than it is to unweave the garment to replace the bad thread later - a task which I seem to be about daily.

-L- said...

Santorio, don't you think there's some non-prideful aspect to honor? It seems like a word that can easily be exchanged for pride, but which also could specifically be used to avoid the connotation of pride. I'm thinking of several scriptural quotes, for example that seem to take a favorable stance on honor (and of course Benson's less-than-favorable take on pride).

santorio said...

c.f. wikipedia's entry on the different meanings of honor.

it seems that for many honor is a means to define one's self-esteem.
in our property and rules oriented culture, self-esteem is built by external acquisitions and awards (degrees, resumes). but in an honor-based culture, self-esteem is based on adherance to cultural [nor moral] norms. for example, an honor-based arabic culture will be dishonored by a promiscuous [or even assaulted] family member and will have no problem eliminating her from society, even though such action violates numerous parts of the koran.

self esteem and identity with one's social group is important, but there are higher levels of action.

the 'honorable' mission or military service for example, has the young person return home with no public stains, even though the actual 'good' accomplished or not accomplished may be a different story.