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Rules For A Knight

May 02, 2016 12:00PM ● By Michael Harris

The actor Ethan Hawke has written a delightful little gem entitled Rules For A Knight. If you're like me, the first question that comes to mind is: What does an American actor know about British knighthood and how knights should behave? Well, as it turns out, he knows quite a bit.


Hawke’s ancestors were knights in jolly old England. His family “lays claim to a direct lineage to the noble Hawkes of Cornwell.” They were experts in falconry; hence, the family name Hawke. The book is a missive supposedly written by one of Hawke’s ancestors, the 15th century knight Sir Thomas Lemuel Hawke. As he is about to go into battle and fears he might never return, he writes a farewell to his children in the form of a “parable for the ages.”  


In this letter, Sir Thomas provides rules for his children (and their children) on how to lead a good and decent life, lessons he would not be able to provide if he dies in battle. “His intent: to give his children a compass for a journey they will have to make alone, a short guide to what gives life meaning and beauty."


These rules were actually formulated by Ethan to teach his own children how they should live. He now shares them with us so our children and grandchildren can learn from them. And what powerful lessons they are! Drawing on the teachings of ancient philosophies and “the great spiritual and political writings of our time,” Hawke includes lessons on forgiveness, humility, courage, honesty, pride, grace, and patience.


Ethan also credits the writings “to other knights to articulate what I could not." These other “knights” include Mohammed Ali, Emily Dickinson, Woody Guthrie, Martin Luther King Jr., Vince Lombardi, Nelson Mandela, Eleanor Roosevelt, Mother Teresa, Tennessee Williams, and King Arthur. A noble group of knights indeed! Adding to the book's beauty are exquisite bird illustrations by Ethan's wife, Ryan.


At only 172 pages, this book is small by many standards. It should take less than two hours to read. But don't be fooled by the size of the book, for the lessons taught are epic, impressive, thought provoking, and long lasting. Among them are: "The quality of your life will be decided by with whom you elect to spend your time; be frugal and you can be generous; do not speak ill of others; and, love is the end goal.”  


While the book was “meant to teach knights” how to live a meaningful, worthwhile, and happy life, the rules are as valuable today for us commoners as they were for the knights of old. Share this wonderful gem with those you love and care about.  You’ll be glad you did!


And while we are on the subject of our neighbor “across the pond,” how about another visit to that charming island with Bill Bryson? His latest effort to delight and enlighten us is The Road to Little Dribbling, a most worthy follow-up to his much acclaimed Notes From a Small Island. As he prepares to become a British citizen, he shares one last "adventure of an American in Britain."


It's a travelogue of sorts, but it’s really Bryson's reflections on England, its sights and sounds, and its people. Calling it unbelievably entertaining and informative is an understatement. As with all of his books, it is filled with his good-natured humor and more interesting and unusual facts than you ever thought you needed to know. I'll bet you never thought you needed to know how to get to "Little Dribbling.”  Well, with Bill Bryson in the lead, it's a wondrous journey!




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