Wednesday, September 2, 2015

The Price of Knighthood: Tolls, Temptation, Tests

 "Thou Sir Launcelot, there thou liest, that thou were never matched of earthly knight's hand. And thou were the courteoust knight that ever bare shield. And thou were the truest friend to thy lover that ever bestrad horse. And thou were the truest lover of a sinful man that ever loved woman. And thou were the kindest man that ever struck with sword. And thou were the goodliest person that ever came among press of knights. And thou were the meekest man and the gentlest that ever ate in hall among ladies. And thou were the sternest knight to thy mortal foe that ever put spear in the rest."   

Sir Thomas Malory

As a person who sees my life as that of being a warrior in the service of the king, with perhaps only words as my weapons, and my faith as my shield and armor, I have been tested, often, by events in my life.  I have never run from a battle, I've not been a coward, but I have as often failed as I have found victory.  I've shown kindness to the people who were against me, I've not bragged or puffed myself up in conceit for the few victories I have won.  Most of all, while I've been neither perfect nor able to be a great example, I try not to lie, even when my personal and spiritual ego would be hurt by the truth, and publicly I might fail to meet the expectation of others.  I have failed, but I try to overcome my enemies or obstacles in my path with courage.   But, courage is different than hope.

In the vast emptiness that is the place where I used to hope, and it is there where I now house my hurt.  Too many times when I've offered succor to weak, to the hopeless and to those without a choice,  I've been attacked by those very people.  I will never stop being who I am, nor will I stop offering such kindness.  However, at some point when a person is used for the pleasure of others, or used as a tool to assist, only to be cast out, and cursed, I see no value in that.

I am a sensitive person and hurt easily.  At the age of 51 I've reached a place where I refuse to enter into the transaction that leaves me the worse for being kind.  Thus, while I continue in my journey, follow the path, I have to be concerned for my own well being.  As I fight through health issues, such as cancer, a form of inflammatory bowel disease, migraines, and more, I haven't the energy to deal with the needs of others as much as used to have.  I have been called selfish and self absorbed for this.  But, when life has cornered you and you have only to fight your way out, you can not be responsible for spilling blood on the carpet.  It is the case that life can hurt.  

I have recently been receiving letters from people suggesting that I write about and think about death too much.  But while I agree that I write about and think about death a great deal, I disagree, vehemently that I do so too much.  Knowing that life is short, painful and fleeting, gives you a reason to be sure you do the right thing, do it now, and be firm in your actions.  Being lazy allows you to believe that you have a luxury of time, and that life is endless, when it is not.

I have now, in 51 years had more than five times when I've been told that the health issue that I went through was one that I should have died or would likely have died without various events happening to avert them.  My wife and my doctor of the present, both have clearly helped me survive.  In a beautiful way, they've broken the grip of fate, on my biological mother's side of the family tree no male lived beyond age 49.  I am living proof that modernity is a better era for health, and my wife is a brilliant woman.  She is lovely as well.

But, despite the near misses, and despite my awareness that I am lucky, blessed or however you wish to phrase it, I still assume I might die at any time.  Because it is the truth.  I do not believe that there is a shield protecting me from damage or violence or stray events that might kill me.  But I believe now in destiny.  And, that test, whatever destiny makes of that test, I am willing to see it through, without dying prior.  No early exits for me.

"The man who would be a warrior considers it his most basic intention to keep death always in mind, day and night, from the time he first picks up his chopsticks in celebrating his morning meal on New Year’s Day to the evening of the last day of the year. When one constantly keeps death in mind, both loyalty and filial piety are realized, myriad evils and disasters are avoided, one is without illness and mishap, and lives out a long life. In addition, even his character is improved. Such are the many benefits of this act."  Daidoji Yuzan

"Bushido is realized in the presence of death. In the case of having to choose between life and death you should choose death. There is no other reasoning. Move on with determination. To say dying without attaining ones aim is a foolish sacrifice of life is the flippant attitude of the sophisticates in the Kamigata area. In such a case it is difficult to make the right judgement. No one longs for death. We can speculate on whatever we like. But if we live without having attaining that aim, we are cowards. This is an important point and the correct path of the Samurai. When we calmly think of death morning and evening and are in despair, We are able to gain freedom in the way of the Samurai. Only then can we fulfill our duty without making mistakes in life." Yamamoto Tsunetomo

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