Sunday, August 22, 2004

Fascination Street

One thing that has fascinated me since I was a child watching Kung-Fu on television has been the Asian philosophy of life. I am fascinated by the culture. I am fascinated by their concepts and ideologies. The most intriguing to me is the concept of honor.

Our own westernized belief system portrays honor as a personal thing. A thing that is carried by one person. It could be a title, a name, a position or some other sort of status identifying marker. But what is honor really? Is honor in the way that you approach something or is it in the way that you perform some task?

What is it that makes men want to die for honor? Is this type of honor what we call the "glory" of war? Is it heroism? Perhaps fighting for one's beliefs is so important that dying for them is considered honorable. Is vengeance honorable? To avenge one's loved ones or one's fallen comrades? What makes a man willing to die by the very same sword that he carries? To die by the sword, whether it is one's own or one's enemies' is not folly in some cultures. I do understand this honor, for I have carried a weapon in the face of death. But I do not fully understand it.


We call judges "your Honor." We stand when they enter or leave the courtroom. In most cases we don't even talk to them. They are so far above us that we actually pay professionals to talk to them for us, at quite a large expense, I might add. Last week a judge resigned because he was caught masturbating while he listened to a case.


Perhaps the way of defining honor would be by defining what it is not, like defining light by saying that it is not dark. Or to define truth by saying that it is not a falsehood. So is honor the absence of shame? Is shame the opposite of honor? Perhaps. But possibly there is more to it than just shame.

Perhaps the absence of shame combined with pride is the equivalent of honor. Perhaps honor and pride are the same sword, wielded by the same swordsmith. If so, could we then substitute the word "honor" for the word "pride" in cliches? Does "honor" come before a fall? No, that doesn't seem at all appropriate, does it?

Perhaps dignity and honor carry the same meaning, in a western world. In an eastern world however, I don't think that dignity is the same. The only word that I can think of that carries my idea of the eastern concept of honor is the ancient Greek term Arete. Arete is a word that is indicative of perfection. Perfection in mind. Perfection in soul. Perfection in body. Arete. This word is beyond definition in English, as far as I know because it is too encompassing. It is a total of all things perfect and all things perfected. Maybe this is where true honor lies. Is it possibly that in all of our trevails, all of our modernizations, all of our idiosyncracies we have forgotten the true honor?

Do we have to revisit the ancient in order to find honor in ourselves? I think we do. I think that perhaps honor is a concept that is beyond typical definition due to it's inherent objectivity. I used to think that honor was depicted in one's actions and in one's dealings with others. But I am beginning to see that honor lies within the soul of the human being as well.

Is honor truth?

Honor is because humans exist. If humans did not exist would the concept of honor have ever been? Does that make honor a transitory concept? Does it make honor any less real? Does the non-existence of an entity negate the ideal of a concept? I don't know.

Perhaps you, my readers, have some sort of evidence that points out how honor has affected your lives.

What is it about believing in something so dearly that one is willing to die for it, one is willing to face certain death for a cause. What cause is so important that death is preferable than life without it? The only idea that I can think of is liberty. The reason for this is that individuality seems to me to be the only true ideal worth fighting for. I cannot say enough about the pursuit of individuality. We are all different and those differences should be embraced, not shunned. Those differences should be celebrated and exploited not hidden and shamed.

1 comment:

Anonymous said...

I'd probably define honor as the set of priorities that each indivual lives by.

I say it's a list of priorities because actions are considered honorable when they are thought to be morally correct. Often there are many possible actions we may take and there are therefore varying degrees marality and honor.

I say Honor must be defined on an individual basis because each of us has a different opinion on the "ideal" (and therefore most honorable) way to live. Each person therefore has a differnt order for what actions are most honorable and which are least honorable.