Finding Things that Last: A Knight's Perspective on Life
If you were going to die tomorrow, what would you say to those you love? How would you spend your last day of life?
I admit, I’ve always been a little bit dismissive of these questions because they often lead to this follow up statement: So, live every day as if it was your last.
Well, I thought, that’s a little silly. If I spent all day, every day as if it was my last day on earth, then I wouldn’t work, I wouldn’t set long-term goals, and I wouldn’t really progress. It’s not practical to live that way.
Rules for a Knight helped tweak my thinking.
In this little green book, a medieval knight named Thomas faces these very questions on the evening before a terrible battle. Thomas chooses to write a letter to his children in hopes to impress upon their minds the lessons he has learned throughout his life. He shares thoughts on solitude, humility, gratitude, pride, cooperation, friendship, forgiveness, honesty, courage, grace, and more.
The first time I opened Rules for a Knight, I was entranced. It wasn’t in a hypnotic, mind-numbing way but with a quiet awe that resembles, at least in some small part, the awe I experience when facing the majesty of universal beauties—sunsets, infants, stars, the open sea, and the other wonders of nature. There is a beauty to this book that radiates from the simple but profound lessons it teaches. In a casual light, Rules for a Knight would simply be a collection of short stories precluded by bits of wisdom. However, you feel a sense of something so much deeper when you read—the potential energy of truth. When acted upon, truth unleashes a remarkable, liberating power in our lives.
I won’t attempt to retell Thomas’ lessons here—he tells them far more eloquently than I can—but in writing this journal post, the word “noble” frequently came to mind. I think this word summarizes what this book teaches—that there is an innate nobility to our souls that shines out when we live eternal truths.
I’m particularly fond of the idea of a noble knight or lady. Sure, there are some who think that the stories portrayed in this book are just romanticized fluff idealizing what knighthood was during the Middle Ages, and some of what they say may be true. After all, it turns out that knights were human too—imperfect, mistake-prone, and not terribly angelic. Still, I believe there were truly noble knights back then, and I believe these knights still exist today.
There are knights all around us. Though they may not be shimmering in silvery armor, they are gleaming with goodness. Though they may not be defending the innocent with swords and shields, they are serving the suffering with their quiet love. These knights defend the truth they hold. Their hearts are centered on what matters most.
After I thought about this book and some other lessons I’ve learned recently, I realized that this question—how would you spend your last day of life?—is quite important after all. I now believe that how you choose to answer this question actually reveals what is most important to you.
What are the things that make you really love life? Are they temporal things–work, fun, fame, wealth? Or are they the things that last in your memory and warm your heart for years afterwards? I think Thomas describes these things best: “The quiet of each morning, the tangible bond of friendship, a snowball fight, warm water on your skin, laughing until your stomach hurts, a job well done, a shooting star that you witness alone; the simple joys are the great ones. Pleasure is not complicated” (Rules for a Knight, 27). These are the things we should seek.
Perhaps instead of saying, “live every day as if it was your last”, we should say, “live every day for things that last.” In the busy necessities of daily living, I think it would be wise to remember these things. After all, the things that last are the things that will bring us the truest and greatest happiness—happiness we can enjoy today, tomorrow, and for the rest of our lives, however long they may be.
By Kelson Roney
See a collection of books and things that are perfect for the knight we all aspire to be.