Tuesday, November 13, 2007

On Luck

Luck is that advantage which grants the ability to meet life's challenges skillfully and directly, as well as the confidence in one's capacity to do so. In other words, life is difficult, and often overwhelming ; without luck, it is crippling. Luck gives one's wit and one's deeds edge -- just that critical degree of edge so as to grant them -- if one is willing to exert all of one's effort and capacities -- effectiveness. It is less a magic power that automatically fulfills all of one's lazy wishes, and more a multiplier of will and skill. Luck deepens will and skill down to their grooves in wyrd so they flow precisely in their 'destined' channels. By 'destined', we mean "worthed" --- in other words, they deeply and completely fulfill themselves. They are able to develop themselves to their full capacity, and the Northern ethos is an optimistic one that posits that if one is able, in the midst of a hard and sometimes even grim life, to fully develop and blossom one's capacities, one will have gained the ability, like a trained athlete, to meet life's challenges effectively and make it look easy. In fact, ease is the fruit of fulfillment, the rewards of bringing skills and deeds to full capacity. The Northern ethos is an optimistic one because it posits that with luck, will, skill, and worth, one may achieve fulfillment and ease, even in the midst of a difficult life. Luck lifts worthing into ease, and deepens it into wyrd ; in fact, it achieves ease through its deepening into wyrd. But note throughout that luck does not do this automatically, but rather acts upon the will we apply, the skills we develop, and the worth we fulfill. We must strive to bring our potential to fruition. The expansion of that fruition both fertilizes, and is fertilized by, luck.

The treeling of luck acts as well upon a kind of implicit vision or spá that we might call a "vision of the better". It is not a utopian vision, for it is well aware, moment by moment, of the tendency towards the worse, especially given the rampant failure of people to meet their worth, but it touches the good, a good better than the failures of the present, because it sees what is possible if just a few more people reach even a little bit more of their capacity. In other words, there is a spá of the good that blossoms when worth deepens into wyrd. The ultimate collective expression of full worthing into wyrd, of course, would be a goodness so full and so full of vitality, ease, and luck that we can scarcely imagine it, but such a blessed state is not the result of collective laziness but collective powerfulness. That ultimate vision -- of the good possible through full, collective fulfillment of worth -- is the ideal which energizes and motivates the person of luck, not unrealistically, but with a spirit of inspired pragmatism, a pragmatism which full well expects events to be less than the ideal, and adjusts itself moment by moment to the contingencies and turn of events, but not cynically --- in other words, not by abandoning the inspiration of the ideal. Even without complete fulfillment of the ideal, even the smallest improvements in skills, deeds, and worth can turn things towards the better. Now all of this is prelude to say that the person of luck has a collective and not just an individual, vision of hte good. When we say "collective", we do not mean to say that a treeling is responsible for the whole world, which is beyond the proportion of a single person, but rather, one's immediate kingdom -- the neighborhood of one's events, the immediate arena of one's activities. Luck is better activated, in other words, with cooperation rather than friction and antagonism, and the Northern ethos views cooperation in a very particular way.

Cooperation is inspired not by coercion, but by two capacities : confidence, and generosity. Confidence inspires the will, and boldness activates the strength. This capacity vitalizes and possibilizes that which may have been enervated in the face of difficulty. But generosity reaches out to awaken the fulfillment of others, by touching them in a way that speaks to the blossoming of their worth. Generosity is therefore neither haphazard nor disproportionate, but specific and proportional to the capacities of the recipients. The greatest generosity doesn't simply fulfill needs, but rather directly inspires worthing. As such, a gift may meet one at the edge of one's capacities, and truly be a surprise -- wonderful, but requiring as well some effort to fully enjoy. A musical instrument given to someone with perceived incipient musical capacity serves as an excellent example. The Northern ethos imagines that with the assertion of vigorous confidence and nuanced, loving generosity, cooperation naturally grows. All of this is to the advantage of the treeling of luck, for cooperation multiplies possibilities --- and not cynically or selfishly either. We may refine our earlier statements by saying that the vision of the good that the person of luck has, and which funds her luck, is one of mutual advantage.

Again, the person of luck works with what we have called "inspired pragmatism", a very grounded kind of inspiration, that is all-too-aware of the tendency of things to not worth, to not fully blossom, and to fall short, and therefore for things to tend towards the worse rather than the better. People cannot always be counted on to act the best, and therefore the better is often hindered by the worse, so the full fulfillment of the ideal is often fleeting, but no less inspiring, energizing, or powerful for that. It is this kind of inspired pragmatism (and pragmatic idealism, if you will) that actually circumvents the development of cynicism -- although everyone has, of course, their foul or glum moments. It is disappointing when people do not fulfill all their capacities, but if even a few will make an effort to blossom even somewhat, great fertility is possible. The best may await for the return of Baldur, although a good man never stops seeking it, but the better -- the better is always possible, even in the midst of a world that has the ability to tend towards the worse. One with luck, however, is able to shake people out of their thralldom to the worse ; not everyone, of course, but enough that even those few can fertilize the fruition of the better.

Because of its gathering of mutual advantage and strength, luck both funds and is funded by the capacities known as hael and megin. Luck is the energy behind hael, the whole-making power, and megin, strength. Hael, the whole-making power, is an ordering force, that gathers, gives form and relation, and takes scattered, inchoate parts and makes them pulsating organs of the whole -- in other words, it creates a body (whether a physical, energetic, or social body). Megin is the power to face and weather adversity, to overcome opposing force, to meet the friction of the world with one's own might and bite. Megin has the character of steel and stone, bone and stamina. Megin is what allows one to be unintimidated by the world's difficulties. Megin is the ability to meet difficulty with competence and confidence. It lends hardness and lasting power. It is what you ask for when you pray, "Give me the strength to ____." It is fortitude, resiliency, and gumption. When one has these capacities, luck blossoms into that feeling of magical living we characterize as enchantment, giving glow, color, and rejuvenation to life.

"Treeling" is being used in this essay as a kenning for "human being", since we all descend from Ask and Embla.


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