With only eleven days remaining, I find myself in a mild state of panic—have I included every relevant story or personal perspective that defines my core character? In examining stacks of sticky notes, folded papers, and digitized idea-to-dos, I am certain that I will fall woefully short.
At the beginning of this project, I would have never imagined the scope of a yearly journal and the dedication that would be required; however, within the final days of writing and photographing, I will squeeze in the remaining, prioritized stories which will hopefully round-out this comprehensive encyclopedia of my life.
Chivalry is not dead, at least not in Nantucket ~ Gardner Elliot from The Space Between Us
Today’s narrative has been parked in the back of my mind since February, when I watched The Space Between Us (2017) in the movie theater. Don’t bother rushing to your closest movie rental facility and automated machine—the film is rarely referred to as a cinematic masterpiece, although I believe that there are positive elements to the romantic science fiction story that can are easily related the modern society which you and I find ourselves today.
In a nutshell, there is a 16-year old boy, named Gardner, who was born during a colonization mission to Mars, and subsequently spends the first decade and a half of his life on another planet. His understanding of Earth, human interactions, and relationships are limited to the other fourteen astronauts on Operation Mars or Bust. Through the power of interstellar Internet, he meets a rebel-rouser girl, named Tulsa, from Colorado. To drive the plot forward—there is only so much potential for romantic interactions while in deep space—Gardner completes a series of biological prerequisites to qualify for a return trip to Planet Earth.
And he does, the two meet, teen romance unfolds, hijinks ensue, drama abounds, and the story is neatly buttoned within 121 minutes. That’s all you really need to know.
If you were born in space, and raised on Mars, what would you know of Earth’s social constructs? Would you understand intangible concepts such as respect, politeness, compassion, or kindness?
I sincerely doubt it, considering we fall woefully short on a daily basis.
So, why do we Earthlings have problems understanding—even more poignant, incorporating into our own behavior—the same constructs of humanity?
Seriously, the majority of humans act with a mentality of The World Revolves Around Me, and Me Alone. To prove my theory, on your own, conduct a simple experiment: perform a random act of kindness for a stranger (or for any human being, for that matter). I warn you in advance though (having conducted the same experiment on my own) that people will honestly look at you as if you are, literally, from another planet—most likely, Mars.
You define the parameters, but, placed in practice, it may resemble any of the following: holding a door open, giving away your pre-heated seat on the bus, lending an umbrella to a friend in need, helping a weaker individual, summoning the hero within yourself in a time of dire need, passing your jacket to someone who is more cold than you, buying lunch for someone…etcetera.
“Whoa, slow it down! Stop right there! That sounds like the archaic institution of chivalry,” you may be saying aloud at this precise moment.
This seems like an appropriate position within the content for a simple definition:
chivalry noun 1. the combination of qualities expected of an ideal knight, esp courage, honour, justice, and a readiness to help the weak; 2. courteous behaviour, esp towards women; 3. the medieval system and principles of knighthood; 4. knights, noblemen, etc, collectively
Knights on horseback, men throwing their cloaks upon the wet roadside, captains down with the ship, women and children first, hat-tipping cowboys, husbands holding the car door open for their spouse: isn’t that just old-fashioned stuff, thoughts, and notions of a by-gone era?
Originally, medieval knighthood derived their own specific codes of conduct. These rules were guidelines for living, a handbook for good conduct, acceptable behavior for men at that specific time in history. The concepts of chivalry circled around admirable character traits of courage and honor, stemming from a realization that some people were less fortunate than the knight, other people had less possessions than the knight, or some individuals were physically weaker than another.
Perhaps when we think of chivalrous behavior, we are imagining King Arthur and the Knights of the Round Table, and we have conjured the wrong mental picture.
If you’re walking with your lady on the sidewalk, I still like to see a man walking street-side, to protect the lady from traffic. I grew up with that, and I hate to see something like that get lost. I still like to see that a man opens the door. I like those touches of chivalry that are fast disappearing. ~ Betty White
Bring the act of chivalry into the 21st Century. Does it have a place in our culture? Again, I think that depends on your definition.
As a young man, I was taught to hold doors for females: girls, ladies, women. Sometimes, I think that the young men of today missed that important lesson from their own father, or maybe their father never learned it from the previous generation.
While the reason for exercising chivalry may have once been centered around catering to a perceived-weaker-female—I tread very lightly here—I don’t believe that idea is 100% correct nor 100% incorrect, in today’s age. At no point do I label women as weaker, in any sense of the word. I’ve been married long enough to know that women are just as tough, whether mentally or physically or spiritually, than equivalent male counterparts. But in the same breath, I will acknowledge the level of respect that is issued toward another person, while performing an act of kindness such as opening a door, is a refreshing sight to witness.
Do I believe that women can’t open doors, and require my assistance? Of course not. Does my wife appreciate that action, when I do get around to opening a door for her? Of course.
There is a level of respect that is displayed by your actions. But hold that thought, because it needs to go one step further.
Should a man hold a door for another man? Of course. It is an act of kindness that can’t be misconstrued as anything else, unless the recipient is unaccustomed to such behavior. And that’s where we find the majority of humans, both men and women, falling on the spectrum of politeness and kindness, today: frightened, shocked, confused, or offended by such unusual behavior.
Beginning today, treat everyone you meet as if they were going to be dead by midnight. Extend to them all the care, kindness and understanding you can muster, and do it with no thought of any reward. Your life will never be the same again. ~ Og Mandino
As in my title for today’s story, it’s my theory that the word chivalry is a wildly misunderstood concept, in addition to being wildly ridiculed and misrepresented as a romantic, useless, and antiquated way of acting and thinking. The fundamentals, individually, of executing chivalrous behavior are noble: respect, politeness, compassion, and kindness.
Isn’t chivalry dead? Well, what do you think?
Is it or is it not? Chivalry certainly cannot be both, at the same time.
For me, it is still alive—barely—and I will continue to teach my children chivalrous character traits. Hopefully, they will teach their children to appreciate and respect other human beings, as well.
You can call me old-fashioned or antiquated or archaic. Go ahead, I really don’t mind. Now, let me get that door for you.