Daring the Strange
The utter foreignness of the prow cutting the cold, unknown waves, the chilling power and allure of the icy encounter with the strange, the venturing into unchartered pathways riding the edge between thrills and terror at the unknown.
To set out upon the seas took a bold mind willing to brave the foggy borderlands between home and the vast unknown. On these borderlands, the prow rode right on the crest of luck, testing fate's twists and turns, ready to profit from great risks which also sometimes brought great rewards.
If one misses this aspect of Viking culture for t e raids and rapes, one has hollowed out the picture and lost much of the essence. There is a freshness with facing life, a smartness that comes with the cold wind upon one's cheeks, a sense of an ancient lineage of adventurers that does not hold one back, but draws one forward, into the unknown, into wyrd.
There at the edge of the prow were where luck and wyrd met. There led on the ancestors. There the Gods titillated with curiosity, the undestinable drive to know, the almost erotic need to reach out and touch the mysteries of this unfathomable world, a world that can never be fully known, a world never taken for granted, where each day grasped from the claws of death was a miracle and opportunity to be grasped and got fully.
You don't know how the future is going to turn out, or which twists and turns your fate may take. That is unknown. Even prophetesses only get the turning points, and often one is led to even those in strange ways.
The world has two domains : home, and the strange. Of the strange, some or even much is bad. But much of the strange is what draws a man on, gives him purpose through his curiosity, gives him means to counter terror with awe. Where terror becomes awe and awe wonder, there spirituality might be said to be born.
All wary death with some terror, it being so very unknown, but by taking on the unknown little by little, a man increases his confidence in his ability to brave those vast, mysterious seas, and thus to take back a little for life.
A man is not a giant. There are giant forces out there in the world that can break a man. A hero is not one who foolishly or rashly runs headlong into giants, and is praised for being crushed. A hero is one who is a little brave, and through little braveries, grows braver until he or she is just a little braver than most, a little braver than the bravest, but not so brave as to be foolhardy. Through little braveries against the giant behemoths, and on the edge of the world's unknowns, little bits of life are won back for one's people and homelands.
Long ago, the giant powers stole and hoarded many of the treasures of the world, and there, buried and hidden in the deep, lie unknown riches and treasures waiting to be returned into hands of men, to hold them in trust for the Gods, to whom they belong.
Adventure, then, is the concern of little forays, humble but brave, moderate yet audacious, that pilfer back from the greedy maws and lairs of the terrible immensities the treasures of life our hearts have yearned for, knowing this owrld emptied of many of its magics, magics birthrighted yet voided, whose grasp returns vitality to the limbs, and vigor.
Wyrd calls out to a man like his or her destiny, a power in the strange, powers multiplied by the distance from home one is willing to brave. Home one carries always in the heart, but out there, in the ungoverned portions of the world, lie a man's risky rewards, never certain, but full of great potential might. The strange governs all, even those who hide from it (or perhaps especially), but rewards at times those willing to take it on in bold encounter. The strange may be encountered both within and without, and there one encoutners Gods or giants, often both, monsters and wonders, wonders that can only bespeak the touch of the divine.
A deed, perhaps, is something strange, a record lodged in existence itself of an encounter with wyrd. Not just an action per se, but an action given significance through its boldness, through its readiness to brave the edge between terror and awe. It takes deeds to live a good life, for life is full of many edges between terror and awe, edges often felt without deeds to be nothing but terror. Deeds return the awe to existence. They are therefore spiritual acts.
Deeds, then, are existential testaments, and they are, in a sense, the only worthy actions, and thus the ones remembered. Deeds refresh existence rather than weighing it down. Much is lost, and rode over, and recycled. But deeds enter into existence, percolating its depths, and revitalize life's possibilities from within, from the very depths, and lend a greening power that allows vitality and freshness to sprout up through the soil again into the lives of men. It is the strange refertilizing itself, the Great Mystery recreating itself from itself, and deeds are an opportunity and ability to enter into and merge for a few good moments with that Mystery, thereby touching eternity. Eternity is never the same ; it is perennial, and reformative and deeply dazzling from subtle inward-turnings.
This may be looking at deeds mystically, but the point is that action is the edge where spirit is encountered. Or it may be that the edge is the action where spirit is encountered. Action is that place of courage where one challenges the unknown, where one pushes the limits, and boldly goes where few have gone before. A deed takes this action, this act of love-in-daring, and enfolds victory into it. It may be the victory of the little ; it matters not, for every victory, great or small, is significant, and adds to the hoard. We're winning back the world from hidden powers.
If gods are frightening, withholding, threatening, and authoritarian powers, as some seem to assert, then the fresh audacity of the North is to see man's place as challenging and stealing back from the "gods" their terrible withholdings, and reclaiming what they have hidden. Those are no gods to respect. And in fact, those "gods" are no gods at all, but jotnar, greedy monsters of immensity who would hoard the world's treasures in difficult depths.
The wonder is, the true Gods of the North are those lucky powers who egg us on to fight the terrible "gods", not through brute, ravage force, but by developing the wit and smartness of intelligence, deed by deed, learning curve by learning curve, into evolution's rewarding bracket, a bracket where deed leads ot deed, and progress becomes conceivable and possible, rather than stalemates, defeats, and sparse returns being not only all that is experienced, but all that can be envisioned. The Gods make possible the gamble against the giants.
They pledge no guarantee. They only grant the chance to make a difference, through the development of our own powers. It is a difference we may never reach if we do not apply ourselves to the fullest and dare beyond daring to take on the terrors and spooks and force their wonder from them through sheer force of spirit, audacity of will, and might of character.
No one can define for another what their terror or awe may be, so each man charts her own course, measured by the depths of her character and what she can add to her people. No one can say where that edge will be encountered for a given person, but that they edge that edge is vital in restoring the world its chance of full powers.
The Gods are the ones who govern chance enough to give us that chance. They do not hold the reins of becoming ; they only know how to shape it. Those shapings are merciful and wise, giving us just that edge on sheer chaos and wonder, and there, they figure, on the crest of that wave, man can build a world for himself.
A kingdom is possible, for those who dare.