TOPAZ Issue 11 / 2004
Sustainability and Spirituality
Self determined or determined from outside or elswhere
7 suggestions for self-reflection as a start to each new day
Mr. Green, The Greengrocer
What is honour?
Poetry - A window to mind making
Why ask questions?
The human mosaic of reponse: The purpose of human life?
Waunifor, a tranquil rural Centre in Beautiful West Wales
The "International Colourful Festival of Arts" in Cologne
Dido & Aeneas

What is honour?

Sander Funneman - The Netherlands

Around Christmas 2003 some of us began “The Liberation Front for Words” within the Template Network. Its purpose is simple: 'The liberation of as many endangered words from the dictionary as possible, by offering them a new value, appreciation and definition and by using them afresh.' We specifically focussed on words that express a human virtue or quality. Since its establishment the 'Word-liberation' front, has been able to liberate many endangered words from potential extinction. In that light, this article is dedicated to the word 'honour', a noble quality, which is currently more and more misused and is often substituted for the motivation of revenge and violence. What follows here, for those who call themselves 'friends of Honour', is an attempt at the philosophical restoration of Honour.

No one seems to be able to have honour, just like that. It is a fleeting substance. When you think you have finally got it, the next moment it escapes you again. It is a process, not a product that you can own. It does not have one single definition. A complete art of living is wrapped up within this one little word, with a definition for every occasion.
For some people, honour is still that rare diamond that gets its irresistible sparkle from a life spent thoroughly and lovingly polishing its features.

For others that is not the case. For them honour is used to dress up violence and judgement, to give these things a respectable glow. In 'the honour of vengeance', for example, this princess of human accomplishment gets infamously married off to the mafia.
Real honour only grows in the right climate, for example by carefully considering consequences and in the search for constructive reasons. It needs the right food, nutriments and energy just like everything else in nature.
Honour bridges standards and values and it deepens their significance. For instance it is easy not to care about the washing-up in the kitchen, it doesn't take any effort to ignore a fungus growing on the bathroom wall. However, 'easy' doesn't equal honour. Easy is easy and honour is honour. Of course it is possible for female drug addicts to get pregnant, and then their children get born addicted. And of course this is of a totally different order to the earlier examples, but what links both is 'not considering the consequences'.
The question is not whether or no someone is honourable. The question is whether the circumstances made it possible for that person to be able to have the right considerations. For honour cannot be obtained by just giving the 'right' answers to controversial questions. It has to be won on the field of personal motivation, consequence, context, depth, reasoning and then... action.

Honour does not know rank, class or university degrees. It is there for everyone. In the deliberate care, patience and motivation of a mother it is no less valuable than in the genuine responsibility of a world leader. There is no discrimination in honour. It is of all nations and of both genders. It does not care about titles or prestige. Honour simply is honour.
The possibility for personal honour is there for everyone. For one person it might mean to be 'personally honour bound' even in a difficult circumstances, for another it may mean courageously asking a difficult question in a situation where it counts, and for someone else it may mean for once 'no more fine words but needful actions'.

Also honour appears in groups, for example in the activities of some story tellers in a children's hospital; in the genuine and compassionate dedication of a team of teachers; in the voluntary workers in a home for the elderly; in a team of firemen entering a burning building at the risk of their own lives in a search for survivors; or in a choir that lifts the spirits of people in a refugee camp… All these are projects of honour. No one had to do it. Yet it happened. The motivation was there. And the opportunity was taken with both hands. And honour was there too, present in the events, felt by all. And there are times when you would not want to think what may have happened should honour not have been present. For example where lives are in danger, and rescuers will make efforts way beyond the call of duty, often in difficult, dangerous and severe circumstances, to save lives. It is not personal. It is... for the honour.

And so many things have their own unique code of honour. A code that is not fixed, that can't be found in a book. The question 'how should it be done?' is of no use when applied to honour. Honour does not have ties with morality. It does not pass judgement and it does not have good and bad. It joins sound reasoning with the actions that spring from that.

Honour is immediately there, on the spot, with an effective and spontaneous reaction in a situation that looks hopeless. A car in the ditch, someone offering a helping hand out of the blue. Honour joins the unexpected helper to the need, the saviour, the protector, the comforter, the patient listener, the giver of hope, the cheering-upper, the generous donor, the faithful friend, the go-getter, the supporter… All these everyday stories, every single one of them arising from the love of honour … actually front-page news !

But sometimes it is not so obvious. Not clear-cut or black and white. Those who steal, for example, or those who kill another person, are they forever lost to honour? Judgement is so easy. What if stealing is the last resort to be able to feed the children, or what about the soldier who kills his terminally wounded companion to prevent his capture and torture?

And there they are at the door, instantly, the moral brigade that simply divides the world into two, the good or the bad. Honour does not take that simple a path. It chooses the way of depth, consideration, reason, value, the way of thinking about consequences and reflecting upon the responsible steps that result from that.
Honour is also in obeying the laws. But the urgent need may sometimes break laws. And often then in the breaking of laws, honour re-emerges.

However, honour does not make headlines - political arguments, conflicts and wars do. But are not irreconcilable differences a sign of immaturity, of not being able to handle contradictions, the sign of an inability to settle conflicts in a constructive way? Judgment is much easier; to not have to think; to instantly look for those that might be guilty and those who are to blame.

That's where journalism sometimes becomes a self-acclaimed court system. Not because the judgement carries any legal power, but because the judgement sells. Not all journalism works that way, but when the construction of a story becomes a matter of editing and cutting away to shape a punch line, to feed public opinion, what was cut away, what nuance, detail or context? Which facts were sacrificed to increase the appeal? And what if those details, that nuance, that context supported the actual truth of the story? Cutting too much reduces the story to sensation, the real story collapses. The remaining facts may be true, but how are these now arranged, what emphasis are they given? The honour of telling the truth has been left behind.

What is honour? What else is honour besides the fulfilment of contracts, agreements and promises? To offer honour a chance to manifest itself outside the dictionary in a larger perspective, seven definitions of honour are put together in a colour spectrum. They are meant to be a starter towards the further definition and development of honour.

Red Honour is an expression of principles in action. Within honour reason and action merge to a cohesive way of life.
Orange  Honour is our light-life and the personal management that we exercise upon our dark-life, in which the intention is to increase the light, and to decrease the dark.
Yellow Honour has the ability to sublimate a destructive situation into a constructive experience.
Green Honour is reacting promptly to the need and in that circumstance having the ability to offer directly what is needed, no more and no less.
Blue Honour is a human state that allows us to never have to be less than human.
Indigo Honour is a state of 'know thyself' within which, nothing of ourselves is hidden from ourselves.
Violet Honour is a plasma of purpose. It enables us to understand at all times the purposes that we serve with our codes of honour.

Now, at the end of this first exploratory journey trying to wrestle honour from the clutches of the dictionary, we might take a small moment, as the sworn friends of honour, to contemplate that most fascinating question: 'why are we actually friends of honour?'

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