Friday, March 17, 2006

The Word of a Gentleman: Rule Eleven

A Gentleman chooses Good Company.
He knows his future lies in whom he has opportunity to imitate.

It says in Proverbs that "he who walks with the wise will be wise." St. Paul shares the adage, "Bad company ruins good morals." We all know that all the fruit in a canned fruit cocktail tastes the same. This is because the flavor of substances, constrained to be together, "marry" over time. Cigars, when stored together, take on the common flavor, leveling out any idiosyncrasies in a unique cigar. Have I made the point? What you will be will be shaped decisively by the society in which you travel. While its true that they will take on some of your qualities, there are more of them "blessing" you with suggestions regarding your character. This is not the magic of some fruit cocktail osmosis but is the result of your selection of a set of men with whom you wish to belong. In that selection you are already leaning approvingly into the patterns of that group. You want to know the inside arcana, the speech, the opinions that will have them smile at your presence. In C.S. Lewis' essay "The Inner Ring" he bemoans the damage it does to the moral fiber of an individual to be adjusting himself constantly to gain an entree to more and more exclusive social groups. A Gentleman, on a different axis, joins a higher, rather than inner ring. The up and down axis (versus in and out) is the God-established means of benefiting the whole. Up and down rules and is ruled. A Gentleman is linked in the "Great Chain of Being" to his responsibility. Do not join yourself to an "inner ring" that professes to be an exclusive "set" of gentlemen. They may have all the little imitations of a culture's ennobled traditions but they are a fraud. Seek instead the group that evinces no arrogance and much kindness to all humanity.

In a sense, unless you are a bold and dynamic leader of men, you are in service to the company you keep. And Our Lord says, "A servant is not greater than his master." With the cigars mentioned earlier it is intended that the flavors marry so that the purchaser can reasonably expect that the next will taste the same as the first. That is a choice you must make as well. That it happens is certain. The choice you make is a plan for your future. If you want to be established as an adolescent fraternity brother the company you seek is easy enough to find. Make a list of the qualities you would like others (such as a wife and children) to see in you ten years hence. If it includes nobility and charity,you would be a gentleman and such company you must find.

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