Sunday, 26 January 2014

An Ancient Norse view on our fatality and immortality...

It is interesting to study Norse mythology and history, and perhaps to see how it applies or might apply to your own life.

In reading Kevin Crossley-Holland’s The Penguin Book of Norse Myths, which I initially thought would be lacking in substance, I have found many interesting insights and references. Although I felt that not all areas and godfolk were covered as they should be and disagreed with some observations, other areas caught my attention and intrigued me.

With regards to how we live our lives and the import of our reputation succeeding us after we have left this particular plain of existence, I recognised many things which perhaps explain my own attitudes and actions to a degree.

The Hávamál is quoted as saying: ‘Cattle die, kinsmen die, I myself shall die, but there is one thing I know never dies: the reputation we leave behind at our deaths.’

Since men who become embittered never win respect or admiration, those who sought fame did not rail at the undoubted hardship of their lives and the inevitability of death. Rather, they endured it or, even better, laughed at it.” (Kevin Crossley-Holland)

Endure and laugh rather than give in and weep.

A quote from H.R. Ellis Davidson regards the ancient ‘Norse attitudes toward an awareness of fate which is reflected in Norse Mythology:

…but they would fight on as long as they could, since life was well worth while. Men knew that the gods whom they served could not give them freedom from danger and calamity, and they did not demand that they should. We find in the myths no sense of bitterness at the harshness and unfairness of life, but rather a spirit of heroic resignation: humanity is born to trouble, but courage, adventure, and the wonders of life are great matters for thankfulness, to be enjoyed while life is still granted to us. The great gifts of the gods were readiness to face the world as it was, the luck that sustains men in tight places, and the opportunity to win that glory which alone can outlive death.

None of us can ever know until we die if there is an afterlife. Even then, would we be aware of our former existence? I think to a degree many people crave ‘immortality’ and to leave a memory of ourselves which will transcend our leaving this plain of existence.

I think most people who strive for recognition and have this burning desire to leave a mark on this ‘world’ wish to leave a mark which those left behind and those in the future recognise and will remember.

I believe this is very true in my case. I want to be remembered for my achievements, my actions, my individuality and my life’s tale. Be it my writing, the things I have created, who I am. I do not want to be forgotten, not only by those I know and love, but by the wider world. I strive to leave a permanent mark for those left behind and those in future generations. Perhaps some achievements will be anonymous, as in the designs we create for The Silver Bough now possessed by our customers but I am still there with them.

We make our marks as we will. Many of us want to be remembered…most of us want to be remembered well.

One day all that will be left is that memory for present and future generations, that recognition and perhaps the person’s name behind those memories. That is the stuff of stories for the future and for those inspired by us perhaps, long after we have left.