If you read my original post about The Twelve Virtues of the Merchant Priests, then you know that, as suggested in the book, I’m going to consider and write about one virtue a month for an entire year until I get through the list of twelve. Well, guess what? This was so much harder than I thought. Trying to reconcile the Sacred Commerce concepts of beauty, truth and goodness in a world dominated and imbalanced by a smattering of patriarchal oligarchies is a tall order, especially when they have taken the planet to the brink of destruction: war, natural disasters, mass species extinctions (it’s not just polar bears), and climate change all run amuck. To think honorable acts alone are going to miraculously fix things is, in my opinion, overly optimistic.
So I decided to talk myself off the ledge by going to the dictionary to see what it had to say about honor. Some definitions: high respect or esteem; a person or thing that brings credit; adherence to what is right or to a conventional standard of conduct; a privilege; a thing conferred as a distinction, especially an official award for bravery or achievement; a specialized degree; a title of respect.
While honor has always been a venerable goal, it’s become lopsided in our modern world. It’s male-dominated with more than a few examples of it being used as an excuse to do base things to each other (like suicide bombings). After weeks of wringing my hands, trying to figure out what the heck honor meant to me, I personified it, like a character in a novel, and suddenly the clouds parted. If I had done this from a female perspective, honor would probably have looked a lot different, but I just couldn’t call up the female version, so here he is.
Honor sits around in his army fatigues, cleaning his gun while he watches a video of his four-year old daughter, a million miles away, that his wife posted on youtube. Honor doesn’t want to do what he’s doing, but he knows that sometimes it’s the only way. Honor never says “why me?” but rather “who else but me?” Honor takes the phrase, “For love of God and country,” seriously. Honor defends what is right and eschews what is wrong. On good days, he can abide the grey areas, but it’s not always a good day. He really keeps the gun in hand because of his wife and daughter. If it were just him, he would go to the gym and forget about it all.
When he was young, Honor thought nothing of getting into a bar fight if someone made a crack about his sister. Today, he’s more judicious and tries to let the little things go, but when he found out his teenaged daughter from his first marriage had been sleeping with her boyfriend, he went crazy — probably because he walked right in on them — and threatened to disown her and kill him. He made his daughter go to a college six hours away just so he could keep them apart. It worked. They broke up, but Honor was super sad because he didn’t get to see his daughter as often as he used to. Still, he felt he did the right thing to protect the family. If he’d been a dad from a different part of the world — one living under, say, Sharia law — his daughter may have been stoned for her behavior.
It happens. He’d heard about it from the locals on his first tour of duty. The girl was buried up to her neck in the dirt so that only her head stuck out. They told him about how the first rock hit her temple, splitting open the side of her head, the blood dripping down her face. She didn’t scream, but grunted. The boyfriend stood by and watched, unrestrained, trying to catch her eye, but she refused to look at him. Her father also stood by, wringing his hands, a tear pooling in the corner of his eye, but otherwise doing nothing. What could he do while the local officials, the ones who enforced the law, stood near, holding rifles and laughing? Honor felt sick to his stomach just listening to the story. The idea of killing the very thing you love for an indiscretion didn’t make sense. Switching colleges was a much better idea.
Sometimes, Honor has dreams of riding horseback into a village where he wards off the foreign invaders, like one of the Knights of the Round Table, striking them down with his sword. The women and children are grateful and he feels proud to have done his job. Still, he wakes up in a cold sweat when he has these dreams. Why, he thinks, is so much violence attached to honor? Perhaps, Honor thinks, I could use a makeover.
There’s my take. I’d love to read yours.