Future’s ‘Wait For U’ and the Chivalric Tradition
It is not a coincidence that the video for Future’s ‘Wait For U’ is a medieval period piece. I have spoken before about romance in the chivalric tradition; knights were known to maintain a ‘paradoxical prohibition’ against attaining the woman they desire. They would instead redirect their love into ‘dangerous undertakings’, making the woman the inspiration for all their ‘glory and honor’:
knights had as their focus not real women but rather a “woman of the mind” linked to a practice of evocations, a “lady” who basically had an autonomous reality independent of the physical individual who could act perhaps as an aid and, in a certain way, embody her. The “lady” was actually imaginary, and it was on a subtle plane that the knight brought his love, desire, and exaltation into action. This is how we must understand everything that we have studied so far; in fact, the woman to whom a knight dedicated his life and for whom he performed dangerous undertakings was often chosen in such a way that the possibility of actually possessing her was excluded from the very beginning. She could belong to another man, and therefore hope of marriage was impossible; she might be renowned for cold unapproachability, though her “cruelty” was accepted and even exalted; she could even be the image of a woman who indeed existed but had never been seen. Nonetheless such a woman fed men’s desire and drove them to service leading even to death, while in any other respects such men, as warriors, feudatories, and knights, obeyed no other law but their will, were not used to subjection or renunciation, and were averse to any sentimentality (Evola)
Kierkegaard’s Fear and Trembling contains a similar description of chivalric romance — but in his description, we get a glimpse into the mind of what he calls the ‘the knight of infinite resignation’ (more on that here):
A young lad falls in love with a princess, the content of his whole life lies in this love, and yet the relationship is one that cannot possibly be brought to fruition, be translated from ideality into reality. The slaves of misery, the frogs in life’s swamp, naturally exclaim: ‘Such love is foolishness; the rich brewer’s widow is just as good and sound a match.’ Let them croak away undisturbed in the swamp. This is not the manner of the knight of infinite resignation, he does not renounce the love, not for all the glory in the world. He is no trifler. He first makes sure that this really is the content of his life, and his soul is too healthy and proud to squander the least thing on getting drunk. He is not cowardly, he is not afraid to let his love steal in upon his most secret, most hidden thoughts, to let it twine itself in countless coils around every ligament of his consciousness–if the love becomes unhappy he will never be able to wrench himself out of it. He feels a blissful rapture when he lets it tingle through every nerve, and yet his soul is as solemn as his who has emptied the cup of poison and feels the juice penetrate to every drop of blood–for this moment is life and death. Having thus imbibed all the love and absorbed himself in it, he does not lack the courage to attempt and risk everything (Kierkegaard)
But Kierkegaard goes a step further. For Kierkegaard, there is no faith without there first being complete resignation: ‘Infinite resignation is the last stage before faith, so that anyone who has not made this movement does not have faith’. The faithful knight, he writes, does exactly the same as any other knight, he renounces the claim to love, and is ‘reconciled in his pain’. ‘But then comes the marvel’:
he makes one more movement, more wonderful than anything else, for he says: ‘I nevertheless believe that I shall get her, namely on the strength of the absurd, on the strength of the fact that for God all things are possible […] On this the knight of faith is just as clear: all that can save him is the absurd; and this he grasps by faith. Accordingly he admits the impossibility and at the same time believes the absurd (Kierkegaard)
It is the belief in the absurd that maintains faith in the face of the unassailable. Future’s ‘Wait For U’ samples Tems’ song ‘Higher’, in which she sings:
If the world was ending
Would you cry or would you try to get me?
To attempt to save someone while the world is ending… this is belief in the absurd.