Monday, December 14, 2009

Gold in the Mire : The Sagas and Us

The Sagas have a grittiness which literally provide stumbling stones for those who would smooth over all contradictions in the Iron Age lifestyle. They try to tell us things as they were, blemish and all, and so we are confronted with an enormously wealthy literature full of troubling and tangled contradictions : high culture mixed with barbarisms, traumatized and refined sensibilities oddly blended. We are blessed, in other words, with never being able to turn all of this into holiness, never being able to whitewash all of this into easily-approved scripture, but rather must wrestle through and through. It must be filtered and sifted again and again. Time and again we come back to it and filter and sift some more, and it yields product, it yields fruit, but it cannot be taken wholesale as example.

Now the barbarian is a culture that has been disrupted and affected by empire and is therefore in turmoil, and is in a process of either heading towards empire, or returning back to sustainability. Here the barbarians, settled down into their beginnings of introduction to Europe's growing empire in its Roman-Christian form, hand down to us the stories of the mixed days, when the old sustainabilities and the new imperialisms fought in naked force, and we are often handed twisted shrapnel of that clash, objects that trauma-bind old crafted artifacts warped together with fragments of broken weapons, so that every time we go to them, we come face to face with a mess, a garbage heap, a slaughter pile which can never function as a perfect exemplar, and can only be admired as is by those of very low culture or who deform themselves to fit themselves into this mold. Who after all could approve of the time-after-time again in Heimskringla when we read of these ambitious kings and chieftains burning farm after farm after farm? The mindstate that would try to make that right can justify any crookedness, but such justifications are hollow and warp a person.

No, no, we take our history with the rough and tumble. It's got thistles and thorns in its fur and is matted over with mud and dried blood tangled within, interstrewn with treasures and gems, priceless beyond the imagination, as well as old seeds which have been caught like nits in the hairs : heirloom seeds for modern gardens of reindigenization. But the fossils will not live by being bowed down to as idols. They must be resurrected by calling up the spirits that once lived within them, and reforming them into bodies of new earth and worth.


Anonymous Lucy P said...


6:59 PM  

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