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Monjoie! Loyalty and Defense

Have we no loyalty in our age?

I was introduced to, “The Song of Roland” by my son. As is frequently the story, another great book I never heard of during my poor public education experience.

“The Song of Roland” is the oldest known poem in the French language. It is the story of Charlemagne’s conquest in Saracen, Spain. Charles’ captain and fierce trusted companion in battle, is Roland.

Roland is despised by Ganelon and betrayed and left to be ambushed in the rear guard. Instead of putting Charles and the 60,000 other Franks in harms way he and his men wait until the last minute to blow the horn and call for help. Roland dies, but not before striking a fatal wound to King Marsile of Saragosa. Further, his actions ensured Charles would be able to arrive and be victorious.

Charlemagne destroys the remaining pagans and their reinforcements. He returns to France and has Ganelon suffer a traitor’s death along with all those who supported Ganelon.

The poem continually speaks of honor, valor, and servanthood.

The character, Roland served with Charles in countless battles, many mentioned in the poem. He built trust with Charles over a long period of time and multiple battles. As the traitor Ganelon spoke,

“If anyone could bring about Roland’s death,

Then Charles would lose the right arm of his body,

And those fearsome armies would fight no more.”

I started thinking about the level of commitment these characters showed in the poem. Do we have anyone around us like Charles, Roland, and Naimes?

Few people are willing to commit to anything or anyone.

Jobs are just for self-provision with no passion for the organization. Political loyalties can be broken with a minor disturbance. Marriages are now samplings instead of covenants. Friendships as well are built only on what is received in the relationship instead of what could be given.

Would anyone today be willing to sacrifice him or herself for anything and allow others to survive? Would they speak kindly of those they protect as they lay down all their wants and hopes in their last minutes?

Never mind the grand idea of laying down your life, but simply your time, money and energy.

I think the reason people only get small gains in their career over long periods of time is due to the constant moving from company to company to company to gain a thousand dollars here or a few thousand dollars there. If people would commit themselves to a company the way we should in a friendship, they may not make gains as quickly, but over time, their commitment might earn them hundreds of thousands more.

This is not always the case, but only commitment can allow the opportunity to prove it out.

With each change of employment comes the process of building trust all over again. This takes a long time.

My wife, children, friends, and even my employer have known me long enough that they can predict my next move. But they all know for what, and when I can be counted on and how I can best serve them.

I have no issue being in the servant role. To serve my family, friends and employer are privileges. I should dream of supporting the allegorical rear guard and be able to speak as Roland,

“May God who never lied, aid you:

Oliver, my brother, I must not fail you.

I should die of grief if nothing else kills me,

Lord companion, let us get back to the fray.”

“Strike, Lords, with your swords,

And defend your bodies and your lives,

So that we do not dishonor the fair land of France.”

Our words must honor those institutions and systems in which we live and chose to be committed: the institution of marriage, the Christian system, the gift of friendship, and the organization in which we are employed.

Few people hold to honor and truth. May we be people using our sword and shield in the name of all people and ideas worth defending. Let us use the battle cry of Charlemagne, “Monjoie!”

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