Service and Devotion
From this standpoint, "success" has a much different understanding than the common externalist viewpoint, and even heathens can meander into error with their pragmatist viewpoint, tempted into thinking thereby that success must correlate with external rewards in order to be success. Yet think more profoundly on the theme that Odin takes the best of heroes for himself. In other words, they die on the battle, or to put it more bluntly for those too caught up in externalism, they lose. In fact, and listen carefully here, an external defeat becomes a Victory of the Soul. Contemplate that for a little bit.
I frankly don't think the Gods have much to do with external events in this world. I think that's unfolding of Wyrd, and they interfere very, very little with that. The main advantage they provide is the advantage of consciousness. (And perhaps tilting of probabilities, subtle "riggings of the game".) They Tend to Soul. And sometimes Soul is best attended to through Humbling Events, not Rewarding Events, particularly if the Soul tries to cheapen itself by taking on a thrallish attitude towards rewards and punishments, rather than seeking intrinsic motivation. To be entirely extrinsically oriented is to lose inherent worth, and hand one's power over to others. It is not that others do not matter religiously -- we are a social creature -- but the others that matter are those who are capable of perceiving inherent worth, and it is Those people who are our fellows, and none others. From the standpoint of consciousness, those who are not capable, and hanker after externalisms alone, are metaphysically speaking, in the evolutionary position of thralls.
Life is about gift, and service, and devotion, and when we forget that, and fall into slaving after externals, we join the thralls, even if our personal ambition is to be king of the thralls. The king of the thralls is still a thrall, and will never actually be a king. Many, many positions in this world, including quite high ones, are only stacking and ranking of thralls. True masters without slaves or slavishness are quite rare.
This does not mean that the body does not need to be fed, nor that we should cease to struggle for that which will feed our needs and the needs of our folk -- and humanity -- and the planet -- but that spirituality gives us the ability to put things in perspective.
And sometimes not winning, not getting what we wanted, even when it was something for which we really yearned, is precisely what we need to recenter, regain perspective, and humble us to tune back into the beauty that is, rather than beauty as we imagined it might be. This is no bad faith towards the imagination, which can reveal a great deal of the virtual potential of the world, and when combined with rational planning, can be a good guide to human action and creativity. But what it does say is that reality always overwhelms hypothesis, and it is to the wellsprings of reality to which we must return again and again. Admitting defeat can be a spiritually victorious moment, one that washes away despair, and reminds oneself what one is all about, and to look towards inherent value rather than external rewards.
If we spiritual people can get our heads out of our asses -- and come now, let's admit how often our heads are way too firmly lodged up there -- and stop taking literally what was always meant to be symbolic stimulation of deeper perception and appreciation of life, we have a great deal to contribute towards the people, and toward the process of history and progress. For the values of service and devotion -- free service, voluntary devotion, not thrallish service (although we'll get to that in a second, for those who are confused on this topic) -- are some of the key psychological concomitants of the Gift, and if we are ever to evolve our societies to function more like our images of the divine, we must move them away from Gullveig's realm of greed and obsession with gold bullion, and more towards the Gift. There's always going to be pragmatists who lose their sense of principle and cave in to more degenerate and backwards aspects of people, and try to motivate people solely through material interest and the incentives of reward and punishment, in other words, to tend things solely towards externalist behaviorism. That mode may be proper to thralls, but it is not towards free people, nor even towards thralls who you are intending to manumit and emancipate. What must be in command is service, devotion, and intrinsic motivation, with reward and punishment as a tactic to be reserved for the more thrallish. Who are such thralls? Those who will not give freely. But wait -- if those who do not give freely may be coerced to give, then how is that giving free and voluntary? Because those who give freely are not coerced. The alternative to taxation is voluntary donation. (This suggests that a state that taxes people thinks of them as thralls who would not in and of themselves raise themselves up to the honor of community contribution and public service, and who therefore constitute a tax on the Gift, and thus may be in turn taxed.) Those who think they owe no service or devotion to others do not deserve to receive such service and devotion, and to correct them, they may be made to serve. This is an undignified giving that gives little honor, appropriate to a low level of honor and dignity, while free and voluntary giving merits much greater honor, from those able to value that which is intrinsically valuable. In other words, thralls are on probation, which ritually speaking has always indicated someone on their way to a higher status who must, as we see in the term, "prove" themselves, while those whose service and devotion "speaks for itself" are under no such probation and do not require such exacting terms. Under what right would we assert such a right to subject people to such probation? Under the right of ensuring that Gullveig's realm does not swallow up the world, and that the Gift may have a chance to remain in command, rather than being exiled to the furthest margins of the world -- as it now, in fact, is. Things are backwards. The songsmiths have given us poetry that indicates the manner in which we may reverse this, and follow the divine order of the Gift. Here, those with intrinsic worth are placed in a leading position over those who can only think of themselves, and who can only think of external rewards and punishments. Well, if external rewards and punishments are so sacred to them, then let them be under that law which they hold so dear, while those who hold to a dearer law may also be accorded that law which is dear to them : a gift for a gift.
Rigsthula is fairly clear and severe in this regard. The God visited three (eponymous) homes. These homes were awarded with offspring or consequences according to their openness to the visitor --- how willing they were to open their doors to inspiration -- and according to how many of their gifts they had developed and could thus share. The first house's doors were closed, and they had little to give. The second house's doors were half-open, and they had some to give. The third house's doors were wide-open, and they had much to give. The latter were made the leaders, the second the place and honor of the majority in the People's Assemblies, and the former were made to serve the rest. Let us be clear. This was a spiritualization of a social custom that in its literal societal enactment led to much mayhem and trouble. When captives of war may become your slaves, you now have a motivation to go to war in order to obtain more labor. Let's be very clear here : that's fucked up, and has no place in a civilized people. But the spiritualization here modifies the terms and takes them to a new, transformed level. Those who fail to give all they have the potential of giving -- perhaps because they have not developed that potential enough -- and whose doors are closed to inspiration -- may be made to serve others, others who naturally serve in the very sharing of their gifts. Otherwise, if this order were reversed, the truly generous would find themselves in the most disempowered and penurious positions -- as, well, in fact, many find themselves these days! The paradox is that in a society aligned with the divine, those who give without thought of reward would be those who found themselves, sooner or later, rewarded, while those who always moved with calculated manuevre in mind, acting out of stinginess and only according to expected reward, would find themselves far less rewarded. Ideally we work towards a situations where the thrallish are finally evolved out of existence, through minimizing their influence more and more.
By emphasizing spiritual values of service and devotion, which support the consciousness and practice of the Gift, we can counteract the more cynical policies which are presently in command, and become a force towards renewing and healing the world.