The first time I read “Rules For A Knight” (by Ethan Hawke), I was so taken by the insightfulness that I found in that little hardcover book, that after each lesson I kept popping my head up and telling my wife (who was really trying to read her own book), “Listen to this! This is so good!”
And yes, I am talking about that Ethan Hawke–the actor.
If you know me, you know I put essentially zero stock in celebrity. But truth is truth, regardless of whose mouth it comes from (or whose pen), and you know it the same way you know it when you read a good quote and it hits you straight in your core. That’s what this book is like. It’s that same “Oh shit, that’s so true!” but it happens at every chapter.
The book is a fictional letter written by a knight on the eve of a battle where he believes he is going to die. The letter is addressed to his children, and in the letter, he outlines twenty “rules” that have guided his life as a knight, and explains them through anecdotes from his own life where he has applied those rules, or learned them the hard way.
It’s a philosophy book, without all of the fluff that goes along with philosophy books.
It’s lean, mean, to-the-point, and super-saturated with uncanny wisdom.
Really, this book is for everyone.
But I see its value when I look at it in light of a lifestyle built around fighting.
What I mean by “fighter” is kind of a broad, overarching term to encompass those of us who put a great deal of their time and effort into learning and practicing what we’ll call the “righteous application of violence across various modalities.”
What struck me so wonderfully about this short book, was that it so seamlessly married two concepts that are often viewed as opposites: Living a life of peace and harmony; and being capable of applying great violence.
I personally believe the two are not mutually exclusive.
In fact, I think that in order for either to be healthy for an individual, it must be taken in conjunction with the other.
If you live a life of peace and harmony, but refuse to acknowledge that violence exists and that you may someday have to deal with it, then you are blissfully ignorant.
If you live in the realm of violence, but refuse to practice peace and harmony (perhaps because you think it makes you weak), then that darkness will eventually swallow up the better parts of you, and leave just the nasty bits.
But, if you can hold each of these concepts, one in each hand?
Well, then you can achieve balance.
As a primer on how to achieve that balance, I have yet to read anything that comes even close to this short book that will probably take you a single evening to read. I highly recommend giving it a read if you are interested in learning about how to apply violence without becoming a shit-head of a human being.