I have been doing a lot of research (sometimes called Netflix binging) on life in the Roman and Middle Ages and I’ve seen a lot of banners, or standards, being held as lords lead their legions into battle. It makes me think: how do I hold my standard? How do you hold your standard? Does it point forward, leading you into battle or stand straight up, like an immovable wall. Or does it wave back and forth in the winds of popularity, like a white flag of surrender.
Pennons, banderoles, banners and standards were all very important in the olden days. They were like a social media profile pages today, telling everyone who viewed them who the person was, his character, who he followed, who were his family and friends. Pennons were shaped like elongated triangles pointing to the side or downwards. According to Wikipedia, knights who were awesome in the battlefield, in the midst of fighting, may have been promoted by their lord or king, who would cut the pointed or rounded ends off their pennon, turning it into a banner.
This was the Royal Standard of France used from 1638 to 1790. Notice the small square design hanging at the bottom of the main design (heraldic device) in the foreground. It is the Languedoc Cross, which is connected thinly to my ancestry. Languedoc was the area in southern France, stretching from Northeastern Spain to Northwestern Italy where people spoke the ancient language of Occ or Occitane. This was an area of France that was mostly Protestant, or in France known as Huguenot. The cross on the national heraldic device is the Huguenot Cross, which was added after that area was joined to the country of France. In fact, if you look closely, you will notice several heraldic devices that were added as the country grew together. It was not done peacefully, like the additions of our stars to the United States flag. These symbols were the spoils of war and bloody conquest.
This may seem like a stretch, but today I think we have taken the symbolism from the banner and put it on us in the form of tattoos. Certainly easier than making the banner and hiring someone to walk around with it. But tattoos are perhaps more individually symbolic than the banners and standards of old. They are not passed down generation to generation.
The images of old stood for something and any one looking at them knew exactly who was coming down the road or taking up residence in town. The symbols on the banners were echoed on shields, the material draping a knight’s horse, on swords and anything else that could be stamped, etched or sewn.
I look around me and wonder what symbols I show that reveal my standards. There are my rings. My wedding ring that is a combination of my diamond solitaire engagement ring and a channel ring with 12 diamond chips, which, for me, represents the 12 disciples and God. My husband also gave me a silver Mother’s ring for our 25th anniversary which bares the birthstones of our two children on either side of my own birthstone wrapped in the silver of his love. These are the two elements which are most important to me; my faith, and my family. There are other important elements in my life, my larger family, reading, writing, learning and sharing knowledge, music, dancing, growing flowers, helping others, being kind, but I don’t have symbols for them.
Somehow, in the middle ages, they took all that, adding to it over the generations, and in colors and symbols and fringes they turned it into a banner or standard and hung it everywhere inside and outside castles, as rings and necklaces, on horses and knights and livery stable boys. Anywhere and everywhere you went, that standard went. Where ever you looked, you saw that standard. Not that everyone could live up to the standard of their parents or grandparents (see where that comes from! Love it!) but it was there to know and to realize. It was a bar set high and you grew up seeing that standard and knowing it was yours. History is pockmarked by both those who rose to the challenge and those who succumbed to the pressure.
More recently other terms have supplanted the word standard. Sometime ago, when it was popular to create mission statements, I set one for myself. I think I have it somewhere as a bookmark, and I know I vowed to put my faith and family foremost and never squander this precious life I’ve been given. Today I’ve come up with a Value-a-Day to keep me practicing the standards which make life valuable and enjoyable for me. I practice it all, all the time (hopefully), but setting up the weekday mnemonic helps me to remember where and what I want to be in this life. Here it is.
Wonderful Wednesday – Find a way to put the wow into your life and the lives of those you touch.
Thankful Thursday – Giving thanks is one of the most fulfilling acts I do. After seeing the wonder, I am even more thankful. Don’t wait for one day at the end of the year to count your blessings. Do it often and be grateful. Being positive arises from thankfulness. The best example I can think of is when we were young teens and my Mom had made a roast for dinner. At the time, money was really tight as my parents had divorced and my older sister was in college, roast was a rare treat. My mom was devastated when she pulled the meat out of the oven and it was completely black and smoking. It was beyond well-done and way into inedible. My younger sister turned Mom’s tears to laughter and made us all feel better when she said, “At least we had a roast to burn.”
Fantastic Friday – It’s great to have fans, but when we assume we are the reason people follow us instead of being thankful for the traits and inspirations given to us by God and others, our pride can get us in trouble. It’s always good to take a moment and recognize where we need to give credit and thanks, and it’s rarely ourselves. Also we need to take responsibility for our actions, especially if those actions are leading others. And we need to be mindful about who and what we give our dedication and admiration. I don’t know an addiction that doesn’t start with “Oh! I like that!”
Selfie Saturday – We’ll be able to make those mindful decisions when we take time for ourselves. We all need to take time to consider our priorities and adjust them as needed. Look at who we are a fan of and how we are being a leader. Refresh ourselves by shaking off the pressure and recharging our batteries. For me, going to the cabin in Palisades does all this – it’s my happy place and my place for reflection. Sometimes I can physically go to it, but other times, it’s a mental excursion. Either way I can get in the three R’s – Relax, Readjust, Reboot.
Service Sunday – Now that you are in a good place, it’s time to take everything you’ve gained during the week and turn it inside out to give to others.
Marvelous Monday – Find that something within us that Marvel would turn into a superhero and use that to make the world a better place, or at least our own little corner of the world. We all have that something something within us, we just have to believe in it and let it shine.
Terrific Tuesday – This is the day to face our fears and we can do it because of all the work we have done the previous days of the week. Being humble, positive, appreciative, open-eyed, and filled with sense of who we are, helps us to look at that which scares us, terrifies us. We want to do this to get past our fears, move that mountain aside, and become the people to which we aspire. Meet those standards we have set for ourselves and those we have chosen to adopt from family and other influences.
I look today at the troubles afflicting our country and wonder if the problem is that standards are too high or too low. Both sides, those in or supporting the mobs of protesters and the damage and anarchy that comes with them and those who are not against their issue, but are against how they are pursuing it, speak with high conviction, which can only come from a group or individual sense of purpose. A sense of right and wrong. A standard. The problem is not as much that one is right or wrong, although I’m sure each side would say it is so. The problem is that listening to each other is not a standard being held by either side. People want to be right and they don’t want to consider any other possibilities exist. I think it is because today people say “I feel” instead of “I think.” Everything is emotional, from our thoughts to our actions. There is no give or take in emotion. There is no reasoning.
Right now our country – the people on either side – is like two kingdoms of the middle ages battling for prestige, land and power. I wonder if we will get to the point of our much berated ancestors, who for all their faults, were able to use reason and negotiation to find solutions and peaceful unity to build the United States. Probably not, because time does not march backwards. The Middle Ages were the time of the rise of Western monarchies. The United States was formed in the Enlightenment Period, the age of reason and science.
What is our time? What are our standards? Periods in time and the definition of historical ages are not determined as much by the people who lived in those times, as by what they did. What are we doing? Are we tearing down or building up? Are our actions governed by looking inward or looking outward? Dr. Rick Rigsby summed it up this way in his speech and book, Lessons from a Third-Grade Drop-out. “How ya’ living?”