Sunday, March 04, 2012


Here is a passage from the Brothers of Gwynedd quartet, by Ellis Peters (Edith Pargeter):

In the quiet courts of the Cistercian house of Dore, golden indeed that June, under a sky like periwinkle flowers, those two met and joined hands at last.

I watched them come together, I knew the desire that drew them, and the weight of wonder and thought that made their steps so slow and their eyes so wide as they crossed the few paces of earth that parted them. From the moment they set eyes upon each other they looked neither to left nor right, each taking in the other like breath and food and wine. And it seemed to me, when their hands linked and grew together, that there was in them, for all their differences, for they did not look alike at all, some innermost thing that set up a mirror between them, and showed each his own face...

"My lord of Leicester," [Llewellyn] said, and stopped to touch with his lips the hand he still held, as fittingly and royally he could, with the awareness of destiny upon him, "I rejoice that I see you at last, and I thank you for this kindness. I have long desired your acquaintance, and I wish the times better favoured me, for I know I trespass."

"No," said Earl Simon, and looked at him long and hungrily, and saw, I think, as I saw, the heart's likeness that surely was there, for still the mirror shone between them. "No, you refresh me. I have many times had need of you, and need you still. I had believed it was for a cause. I think it was also for my soul's sake. In my desert now there are not many springs."

He had known deserts in his time, for he had been a crusader.

Peters does a particularly good job in these novels of conveying the importance of friendship. Her narrator and protagonist Samson has committed his entire life to the service of his friend Llewellyn, the last native Prince of Wales. Llewellyn is Samson's raison d'etre. While love between the sexes is also important to Peters and portrayed with great vigor and passion, friendship is almost equally important, though sharply different. Samson understands why Simon de Montfort and Llewellyn mean so much to one another. He understands the need not to be alone and the need for friends who are also heroes and for heroes who are also friends.

One of the things one realizes on the Internet is just how lonely people are. It's almost crushing, the weight of loneliness one encounters on the Internet. A great many people are on the Internet in part looking for kindred spirits, for people who refresh our spirits by being admirable, as Llewellyn and de Montfort refresh one another. Friendship, in both the Aristotelian and the Lewisian formula, involves seeing the same truth. As Peters sees, friends who sees the same truth also see one another, and see one another as enormously valuable because of that kinship.

But there is a danger in this as well. One's heroes and one's friends can let one down. The Internet giveth and the Internet taketh away. The same medium that provides heretofore undreamt-of opportunities for finding kindred spirits also provides a nigh infinite number of pitfalls and opportunities for letting one another down.

The world is longing for heroes. Hence the idolization of sports figures. Hence, among Christians, the temptation to hero-worship Christian musicians. ("Here is finally someone I can really look up to, whom my kids can really look up to.") Probably something like this has always been so. The desire for others to admire and lean upon is no doubt an unchangeable part of human nature. But for some reason it seems especially acute here in the second decade of the twenty-first century. It amounts almost to a hunger and thirst--The world is so dreadful. Where are my heroes? Where is my community? Where are those I can admire?

I counsel caution. And I counsel, too, that we constantly remind ourselves that our Internet acquaintances are no more superhuman than our in-person friends. There will be just as many disagreements--more, in fact. Let us not lean too hard.

Let us look always unto Jesus, the author and finisher of our faith. He is the one hero who can never let us down.

Related post here.

No comments: