There be dragons!

Thursday, September 18, 2008

The Winds of the World

A talk I recently delivered to the High School boys:

Audio Clip

I've been asked to talk today about women, rules, the law, the meaning of life, and other minor issues.
Well to put my thesis at the beginning of my essay I would say, Rules exist to save us from horror and guide us to happiness.

Recently I saw a bumper Sticker on a Monster Truck that said "No Rules". There’s good husband material, I thought. Why do we have so many rules? So many rules. What a drag rules are. I gotta be me. I gotta be free. I gotta express myself. Rules seem like so much sadistic oppression; or random power plays by "the man"; or at best they seem to exist in order to prepare us for the drudgery of adult life. What purpose could rules and obedience to rules possibly serve.

I am remembered of a passage from Robert Bolt's play, "Man for All Seasons".
William Roper says, "So, now you give the Devil the benefit of law!"
To which Thomas More responds "Yes! What would you do? Cut a great road through the law to get after the Devil?"
Roper: Yes, I'd cut down every law in England to do that!
More: Oh? And when the last law was down, and the Devil turned 'round on you, where would you hide, Roper, the laws all being flat? This country is planted thick with laws, from coast to coast, Man's laws, not God's! And if you cut them down, and you're just the man to do it, do you really think you could stand upright in the winds that would blow then? Yes, I'd give the Devil benefit of law, for my own safety's sake!

…the winds that would blow then?...
The winds of the world are gale force!
We all might think we are safe and don’t need the rules. At 16 we are all Nietszchean ubermenschen barreling along without any thought to rules or courtesies or manners.

You will notice, however, that the truck with the bumper sticker “No Rules” didn’t swerve into the other lane much. Rules protect against horror. They encourage self-control. They Set boundaries. They allow us to play the game better.

With the help of rules we can become men who stand up against the winds of the world.

The necessity for obedience to rules becomes especially acute with respect to women. In 1985 there was a movie called “Breaking All the Rules” directed by James Orr. Teenagers, bank heist, a little lovin'. All the things that occur in a normal teenager's life. In the movie the characters and the director break all the rules except that the very cute girls try very hard to get the strapping young guys to like them, the guys don’t want any form of commitment, but all complications work out in the end and everyone goes away happy. James Orr must have hit every major rule cliché existing in Hollywood teen flicks. “Breaking All the Rules” was about as formulaic and rule-driven as any teen movie of the age.

Girls sometimes seem a bit like this movie. They often say that they want a guy who is wild and crazy, but they don’t. What they want is a trustworthy man who will help them, guard them, sacrifice himself for them. This is a rule of nature which hasn’t been broken in the history of the world. Men must learn to control themselves!

The Jewish faith was the first to see this reality. To appreciate how monumentally revolutionary their thought was we must consider the cauldron from which it was born. The Jewish people were surrounded by Babylonians who worshipped the many-headed, all-devouring, female dragon/goddess, Tiamat. Quite the feminine image there. They practiced orgiastic rituals to stimulate the gods. They considered life cheap and slavish to the gods. Their empire was rampant with violence, infanticide, rapine, slavish status for women, pornography.

A right royal mess it was. And into this mess came the book of beginnings; Genesis which proposes that the purpose of creation is not the gods, not man, but woman. She is the paragon; the intent of all God’s creating. Why? Because she is the life giver; she is beautiful; she is the help mate who completes us.

Men ought to be devoted to the protection of women.

We see the same sentiment in the ten commandments. Normally the commandments are read 1 to 10. From the unity of God come all the other laws in descending order. I would propose that the Jewish culture saw them more as a ladder that ran both up and down. The ten commandments can be read 10 to 1 as well. See, without governance over our sexuality (number 10; “thou shalt not covet”) the vision of the unity of God (1) is not possible. “Know, oh Israel, that the Lord your God is One.”

All codes of chivalry since have, as their goal, the protection and honoring of women.
Western culture itself is based upon the honor and respect of women.
Indeed, cultures, as Stanley Hauerwas reminds us, ought to be defined by how they treat their weakest members.

The Jews were so serious about this image of self-control of sexuality that they engaged in circumcision as an obvious and painful reminder of that need for controlling that immense power. One look at that and you’d know they meant business.

Note also that the devil attacks Eve first. Why? Well, the demonic forces, whatever they be, want to rend asunder, tear up, grind and destroy the weakest and most precious things first. After that glorious source of hope, a good woman and the family she creates, are gone, men quickly descend into monsters… horrors.

Look around you at our current culture. Women are portrayed as cheap, slavish, whorish; sex is plentiful and grotesque; abortions are rampant; murder, rapine, perversion, pornography, violence, are rife or extolled by some cable channels or purveyors of cheap teen clothing; Movies like Saw I, II, III ... XVIII, and other forms of porn violence seem popular hits; Bratz dolls – Britney Spears – Madonna – Britney Spears & Madonna; MTV spring break; Grand Theft Auto – the list goes on. And we wonder why we have an education crisis.

These horrors are the marks of the diabolic which “tears apart & rends asunder”. The experiences of loneliness, anger, isolation, self-loathing which men suffer from all stem from engaging in these horrors which promise to give us happiness and leave us … alone. Truthfully, seeking the next “pop” leads to greater and greater excess in order to satisfy that unending pit of darkness, the only limit of which is horror.

The winds of the world are gale force!

Our sexuality as men is deeply tied with who we are; not just an addition, not just a hindrance to the greater realm of thought, not just a highly pleasurable diversion to wile away a few moments of boredom. How we treat the fairer sex, how we appear to them, how we speak about them effects us deeply.

Sexuality in its properly governed realm, marriage, binds us closely to a woman who should be our friend, partner, confidant, help mate. Abuse of sexuality leads to estrangement, sorrow, loneliness… horrors.

The Laws exist first and foremost as safeguards against horror. Moreover Laws exist to train us to be able to protect the weak & beautiful in order to see clearly. Ultimately, the Laws exist to train us to see the happiness which lies in the oneness of God.

How, then, do you treat the women in your life?
The Laws of chivalric treatment of women (opening doors for them, carrying their books, keeping your mitts off their person) help us govern our actions. The laws of chivalric neatness in appearance and comportment (cutting our hair, tucking in our shirt, dressing modestly) govern our appearance. The laws of chivalric speech (how we talk about women, how we talk to women, what we listen to or read) govern our words.

See, women often appear alluring to men; they use their sexuality, their beauty, to get what they want. I remember a song from 1966, “Devil with a Blue Dress On” by Mitch Ryder & The Detroit Wheels. The lyrics ran...
Fee, fee, fi, fi, fo-fo, fum
Look at Molly now, here she comes
Wearin her wig hat and shades to match
Shes got high-heel shoes and an alligator hat
Wearin her pearls and her diamond rings
Shes got bracelets on her fingers, now, and everything
Shes the devil with the blue dress, blue dress, blue dress,
Devil with the blue dress on

The problem is that women are not devils. Nor are they angels. They are humans like you and me; worried, tired, flawed, experiencing pain and self doubt, capable of incredible heights of greatness, yet needing salvation. If we, as men, do not control ourselves with law we come to see women first as angels – then as devils; and then we fall into loneliness. At such a point we can quickly become like the character in Beowulf, Grendel, the Grinder. The text of that great poem reads

Wæs se grimma gæst Grendel haten,
mære mearcstapa, se þe moras heold, f
en ond fæsten;

Grendel this monster grim was called,

march-riever mighty, in moorland living,
in fen and fastness;

He’s a horror living in the swamps - outside the golden realm of men and men’s law. Sort of a “No Rules” kind of guy. He eats flesh. Kills joy. Destroys property. Terrifies women. And he’s utterly, totally alone.

When we do not govern ourselves we become Grendel; a horror.
As example of what I mean; I read this article the other day in the Sun: 16 Sep 2008;

FOUR teenagers horrifically slain by Satanists — stabbed 666 times each and then EATEN. After police arrested eight suspected members of the Russian ring, one said he did not expect to be punished because, “Satan will help me to avoid responsibility. I made lots of sacrifices to him.” Another said he had got fed up with God for not making him rich and that “things improved” after he started praying to the Devil.

The winds of the world are gale force!

In contrast The Lord says: I have set before you life and death, blessings and curses. Now choose life, so that you and your children may live.

The habits of life must start now. Will you choose Chivalric or non chivalric actions? Governance of sexuality or rampant abuse of sex? Adherence to the law or flaunting of it? The choose is yours. But you have to be aware that the choices you make will have consequences.

Finally, what do women really want? They want to be liked, admired, loved; to be looked on with friendship and love, not as an object. What they really want is a man who is noble; not just another flirt, another fling. That’s a dime a dozen. They want a man who can stand up against the winds of the world, not a mister “No Rules”.

If you want happiness, if you want to avoid loneliness and the danger of becoming a horror, govern your actions NOW, your appearance, your words. Give honor to women. Stick to the law.

Make the right choice. Do not choose to be the Grendel with the “No Rules” sticker. Choose to be a man who honors women, who chooses the law of life, and who can stand up to the winds of the world.

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