Helen’s face may have launched a thousand ships, but honour drew the cream of Greece to man them.
Honour to self, enemies, country, family and society shaped civilizations and literature, but we don’t hear much about it any more, at least not outside a courtroom. And if we’re in one, it’s a good idea to call the judge your honour.
But it wasn’t just Greek hoplites, Japanese samurai and English knights who demanded adherence to a strict code of honour.
Religions and philosophical traditions expected its followers to honour their parents, to keep a holy day, and to live an exemplary life. But as we distance ourselves from our roots, from the source of our being, from the nature that formed us, we forget the wonder in our life.
We don’t have the rituals and myths to remind us of life’s changes and our connection to all things.
While we don’t dance around campfires much any more, or paint our bodies, except when we have a big interview or bigger date, we can still live with honour.
The fourth commandment suggested keeping the Sabbath holy and the fifth recommended honouring our parents. Of course, to Jews — and later to Christians — they were laws not suggestions. They were supposed to be written on hearts and not just on stone.
“Six days shall work be done, but on the seventh day there shall be to you a holy day, a Sabbath of rest to the Lord; whosoever does work therein shall be put to death,” is the way the King James Version of the Bible records it.
No matter what our faith or lack thereof, it wouldn’t hurt to stick the other commandments on the fridge door. By practising them, we honour ourselves and everyone we meet.
Even if we lust for a new car or a new house, we know we shouldn’t worship idols, whether they’re money, fame or movie stars.
Not lying, cheating, killing or coveting our neighbour’s wife —or husband — and his new boat make us better people and keep us out of trouble and out of jail.
We should treat every day and each moment as holy because that long string of moments makes a life, our life, the only one we have, or might ever have.
The quality of these moments — even those spent in long lines in banks, government offices, traffic and airports — determines the quality of our life.
Not only should we honour our parents, but our spouse, our children, our boss, our co-workers and the person who cheats us.
We can learn to see the wonder in the person who cuts us off in traffic and appreciate the boss who orders us to stay late to make up for a co-worker who left early.
The beauty we saw in our newborn child still shines in the grown one even when s/he doesn’t bring the car home on time and uses our debit card more liberally than s/he should.
Our goal should be to treat everything with honour especially the moments when we least feel like it; when we’re tired and that three-hour airport layover has turned into four and most people on the flight seem to be under five and tired and cranky.
Even when it’s the last place we want to be, we must have the courage and discipline to be exactly where we are and not where we wish to be.
“Beatrice now understood that whatever crossed her path — each creature, person, even weather conditions — had a unique purpose for existing,” Marlo Morgan wrote in Mutant Message From Forever, her second novel about Australian aborigines.
“Her goal was to honour by acceptance, not necessarily understanding what was taking place.”
Oh, but we have a need to understand, to intellectually rip apart everything that crosses the screen of our mind, no matter how much time it takes and turmoil it creates. We’re afraid not to know because that means we aren’t in control.
Yet, if we let go and honour the moment, we shift from the need to control to acceptance, and break the chains that bind us to a restricting belief system.
“Every day brings gifts that you have ordered and each day you place more orders,” Gary Zukav wrote in Soul Stories.
“You do this by setting your intentions and acting on them. The universe takes your orders and delivers. Everyone gets what she or he ordered. If you order fear, you get it. If you order love, you get it.”
We’re always creating our own reality, but we pretend that life is something that just happens, that thoughts just pop into our heads, that emotions just erupt from nowhere, that we are victims of a cosmic jokester.
“The only time that matters is now, each moment, each dot,” Morgan wrote. “If we live each day to the best of our ability, doing everything with the highest level of integrity, we will be successful on this journey as a human.”
We all face a variation of the same stress, the same physical and psychic pain, but how we process them shapes who we become. The wise change what they can and accept what they can’t, which reduces the wear and tear on body and mind.
“You are the product of your own thought,” Claude Bristol wrote in The Magic of Believing. “What you believe yourself to be, you are.”
Socrates had a similar thought:
“The shortest and surest way to live with honour in the world is to be, in reality, what we would appear to be; all human virtues increase and strengthen themselves by the practice and experience of them.”
This article is written by or on behalf of an outsourced columnist and does not necessarily reflect the views of Castanet.