Thursday, September 06, 2012

Working In The Ruins

Heathens : you can make fun of us because we work with the crumbs and hold the fragments in our hands, blowing on the dust to make them live ; because we search in the ruins as if they were gardens, frolicking in the archaic where no one else will go...What possible relevance could such backward looking have?  What do you hope to get from such rubble? And don't you realize that so much has been lost that it is hopeless? 

But you see,  something lives within us that these things simply evoke. They were alive in us all along, though dormant, and these things, these fragments of runestones and snippets of old poems, awaken them. And so we study them to bring them out further. We could not be true to the depth and breadth of our experience if we did not use this vocabulary and develop it.  No doubt we add onto it to meet our needs in the present, but that is the function of all tradition.

To simply  say that there are spirits in the world  conjures the image of  gaseous anomalies rising up ghostlike.  The richness of the wights that are perceived in the world is hinted at in the imaginative forms that have survived : gnomes, dwarves, goblins, trolls, kobolds, elves, sylphs, etc. They're not all vague and gaseous and will-o'-the-wisp, although those exist too. They express the rich character and diversity and variety of the feelings found in confronting the world of life.

You may say these are perceptions enriched by being  marinated and drenched in dreams,  and we will say so what? Is it not in dreams that the roots of our perceptions,  which we do not notice in waking life, are brought out into their fullness? And if we bring out that dormant richness and add it to our perception of the world, so that we are actually able to articulate a deeper perception of the world,  what is wrong with that?

You may look at us and say,  what a bunch of silly Tolkien admirers. We will say,  Tolkien had a profound understanding of the ancient world ; moreover,  how could he be so popular if he did not appeal to something deep in  people? What is the base of that long-lasting appeal, but that it speaks to the heart of many? He combines fairy tale and epic into that combination the ancients called saga, and despite the scientific orientation of modernity, there is still charm felt in fairy tales, still something vital spoken to in those forms, and the really perceptive recognize this ethos in the wild world of nature when they sink down and perceive it from a more soulful place. And in the end, though you may scoff and mock, being heathen is about being more soulful in the world, and finding there the charm (and fortunate peril) one finds in fairy tales and dreams.


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