*Posted by Kirk Spencer
For anger slays the foolish man, and jealousy kills the simple; I have seen the foolish taking root, but suddenly his house was cursed For hardship does not spring from the soil, nor does trouble sprout from the ground. For man is born for trouble, as sparks fly upward. But as for me, I would seek God, and I would place my cause before God.
Job 5:2-3, 6-8
Power, courage, cleverness, audacity and just vengeancethese heroic virtues flourished in the West. In the Near East, the spread of Christs teaching highlighted another set of virtuespatience, kindness, humility, charity, purity, compassion and mercy. Both sets of virtues met in the middlethe Middle Ages that is. And, as they met, a code of honorable conduct appeared. Anon, it was the age of Chivalry when knights errant wandered the land seeking out fell deeds of great adventure. The heroic virtues of courage and cleaver audacity were practiced in humble compassion to protect the innocent and exact just vengeance upon the wicked. It was a great idea in the realm of the ideal, but rarely found in the real. By the 16h century, the ideal of Chivalry had reached critical mass within the chivalric romance literature. These idealized tropes became a distorted literary mirror that reflected the High Middle Ages in the familiar ideal vision of evil rogue knights and dangerous dragons distressing damsels and thus requiring heroic rescue by long lanced knights in shining armor. It is a very persistent idea.
The mirror of romance still distorts our view of the Middle Ages. But this is only a dim reflection of this visions power in the time of Miguel de Cervantes (1547-1616). Cervantes wrote one the first and greatest modern novels, known today as Don Quixote (It is the only work of canonical literature which has ever made me laugh so hard I cried). It is the burlesque satire of the mid-life crisis of a Spanish nobleman. After spending too much time reading the romantic stories of yore, he enters a stage of semi-insanity in which years of suspending disbelief (faith) in the reality of the stories he reads began to remain with him, even after all the books were closed. Trapped in this ideal state of mind, he enters the real world of action. The disjunction between the ideal world of his expectations and the real world he encounters are constantly explained away (magic spells) in order to maintain the delusiontruth is of no matter, nor the fact-pattern, or even a single fact, only the stories he has read so many times and continues to tell himself. The people he encounters usually play along with his delusionary world to quicken his departure or they just beat him up.
Knights in Blue
Not the Quixotic, but the real knights errant, who lived out the union of heroic and Christian virtues, can be seen as our law enforcement officers. They are trained in the force of arms. They learn how to distinguish an enemy, how to engage them at different distances, how to subdue them with little risk or injury; and, more importantly, how and when to use forceespecially deadly force. Law enforcement officers are on patrol and are easily identified by their uniforms and their coat of armsa shield they wear over their hearts. They all bear arms openlyand not in vain.
I once heard an interview with an officer that had been shot in the line of duty (Sergeant Kimberly Munley). They asked her about the day of her injury and how she had made the choice to lay down her life to protect others. She said that when she heard the shots and saw the shooter, her training kicked-in and she just did what she was trained to do without any thought of her safety. After hearing this, and trying to understandif not in the momentwhen the decision would have been made to give your life to protect others, I had this thought: Whenever a police officer picks up their uniform, they lay down their life. That is the reality of the armor and coat-of-arms worn by the Knights in Blue who patrol the land to vanquish evil and help bring about just vengeance.
To see how law enforcement has been romanticized, just consider the current pop-culture and its generation-long obsession with super-heroes and action figures and detective stories which, in the last decade, seems to have reached critical mass. Add to this an almost unending stream of images of lawless violence on TV, and in the movies, and music. Then add to this decades of news as exploitative entertainment, especially reality TV, bringing real-life lawlessness and crime right into our living rooms. Submerged in this media-induced emotional fog of perceived injustice and helplessnessboth real and/or imaginedit is easy to conceive of how a few individuals, might fancy themselves as heroes of sorts and venture out into the world. Now throw into this mix the well-known principle that, in your home (castle), you have no duty to retreat. You can meet force with force, even deadly force. Now extend this Stand Your Ground principle to any public area. This is a recipe for a Neo-Quixote. And we should not be surprised if knights errant (errant meaning wandering) might increase in the land.
And here is the quixotic problem: Officers are trained just as knights of old were trained. But the only training the Neo Quixote would have is the same as Don Quixotewhat has been seen in the idealized world of popular culture. The wandering knights errant without the trainingwithout earning the badge of chivalrywill most likely find a way to put the err into knights errantin some cases deadly errors. For instance, as mentioned earlier, uniforms, like the armor and coat-of-arms of a knight are a way to identify those trained and charged with keeping the peace and meeting force with force. If you engage without training and without a uniform you could be mistaken for evil instead of good. The reason for this is simple. Evil hides. It does not announce its intentions (the reason that terrorists and criminals do not wear uniforms). At least Don Quixote put on his rusted armor. So the Neo Quixote should at least wear some spandex and a cape.
The Tale of the Woodsman and the Songbird:
The woodsman went out into the woods to watchto watch for the giant warring sons of Mars. He was vigilant in his quest to find these warriors. And he would always call upon the town soldiers when he saw one. In the distance, the woodsman suspected a certain stranger as one of Mars sons. He looked like all the ones he had ever seen, seen so many times, in the theatre and in his mind. So he called out to the soldiers far behind and said, under his breath, how they always get away! The soldiers knew the woodsman was just a woodsman, and untrained in the ways of battle, and had no armor or shield. So they yelled ahead, You need not follow. But follow he did, for he wished to be a soldier too, even without the skill, or the armor, or the shield. And as the woodsman followed, the giant son of Mars quickened his pace. The woodsman saw how suspicious this looked, and thought in his heart, Its evidence hes up to no good. So the woodsman ran faster; the giant faster still. Till the woodsman said in his heart, This proves his guilt! And the night fell. And the heavens wept. And the woodsman drawing near, anon, the other, the giant, the one he chased, beyond the eyes of prejudice was only a songbird mistaken for Mars. The songbird too, also mistaken, turned to defend himself from what he thought realthe hate of a following huntsman, hunting his life. For so did the woodsman look without a soldiers armor or a soldiers shield. In turning to attack, the songbirds fear found a problem and shared it with the woodsman. And the woodsman and songbird stood their ground and, in mutual violent embrace, fought each other, each in loud self-defense. And the quiet quixotic wood began to awaken. But even awakenedor maybe more sono one seems to notice who woodsman and songbird were really fighting against. Those that watch only in retrospect, tell themselves the stories theyve told so many times. Andin doing socannot see they are not really fighting each other. They fight the twin giants of Ignorance and Pre-justiceancient giants who spread their evil spell by stealing just one letter and, in so doing, transform those who could be friends into fiends.
Ever and anon, in the heat of battle, the woodsmans self-fulfilling prophecy was now fulfilled. For he surely knew this must be the son of Mars to fight so fiercely. He yelled for help. And when none came, the woodsman used his axe to end the songbirds life. The breathless soldiers arrived from far behind, appearing in armor and shield. And the woodsman said, I was yelling for someone to help, but no one would help me. Then he told the soldiers how he stood his ground and felled the mighty giant with his fell axe. The soldiers believed his story of self-defense because he himself thought it so and had the wounds to prove itso they let him go. The songbird, of course, was silent. But this is what he might have said. It was no son of Mars the woodsman faced on the field that day. It was only a songbird fighting a supposed huntsman, fighting for its life. But it was no huntsmanonly a quixotic woodsman who left his vigilant watch to act out the part of a soldier without armor and without a shield. And now the woods are filledfilled with other Neo-Quixote, acting upon anecdotal tales told so many times. Their universal truthunquestioned nowspreading its evil enchantment and turning woodsmen into huntsmen and songbirds into Mars. And they all sing the songs of hatred. WarFameCharmer sings a particularly loud song with his sharp tongue:
Stand Your Groundyou victimizedagainst those that victimize! For soon, and very soon, retaliations law will be applied! Then we will lynch the lynchers! And then, in the blindness of our blind hate, we will put out all the eyes of our enemies!
It is the same song WarFameCharmer always sings when lightning strikes the forest tinderas it has so many times. But it is not a new song. Through ages past it has been sung and always brings other giants to the chorus, looking for troubleand trouble is not hard to find, for it flies up from Huntsman and Mars like sparks to the heavens. For when we hate those who hate us, another self-fullfilling prophecy is fulfilled, spreading fires of mutual hate. And in the fires of hatred, truth is of no matter or even fact, only the stories we tell ourselves, which are the same stories we have heard in electric fires so many times before. They eventually burn away reality and reinforce our pre-justice. They teach us the ignorance mankind has always known; and cause us to forget the ancient prophecy, continually carved deep into the living wood of our doorposts:
If we listen to the song of hatred
Know this with no mistake,
Our mistakes will mate
And the same mistakes will be made
Until we learn to keep quiet
And in the stillness
Turn to God to help us
Turn our long lances upon ourselves
To keep us from killing in mutual defense
For theres enough hatred to go around
And it will surely come back around
And so well reap the hatred weve sown
Unless we remember this:
The songbirds sons
Just as the woodmans
Look, not only like our own
But like all sons would look
If we could only look
With the eyes of God
Beyond the outer man
To the one within.
The Dark Night and the Dawn
We all have a natural tendency to become a Neo-Quixote. We have allowed the media culture to read us too many bed-time stories about the real world. And, if we are not careful, we will find ourselves tilting at windmills, refusing to see that in our dual with ignorance and pre-justice, it is not the woodland giant or the dark knight we face in the list, but the dark night of our own soul. God calls us out of the darkness of our own inadequacies and the abandonment it bringsabandonment from God as well as from others. He calls us to leave behind the cleverly devised tales that we use to rationalize the darkness inside. God calls us into the truth seen and touched in the past and felt in the presentthe reality of the hope of Glory we now have in the soon, and very soon, coming of our Lord Jesus Christ:
For we did not follow cleverly devised tales when we made known to you the power and coming of our Lord Jesus Christ, but we were eyewitnesses of His majesty So we have the prophetic word made more sure, to which you do well to pay attention as to a lamp shining in a dark place, until the day dawns and the morning star arises in your hearts.
II Peter 1:16,19
God calls us into this dawning reality of His majesty in Jesus Christ by way of His bloody cross and empty tomb. For in these God gives us His salvation and we give Him our hatred and the vengeance it brings.
Never take your own revenge, beloved, but leave room for the wrath of God, for it is written, Vengeance is Mine. I will repay, says the Lord. But if your enemy is hungry, feed him, and if he is thirsty, give him a drink; for in so doing you will heap burning coals on his head. Do not be overcome by evil, but overcome evil with good.