Within Asatru, we honor those in our rituals who have performed worthy deeds, and drink toasts to their memories. I suspect that perhaps we sometimes stop there, and don't take the next logical step. Speaking of those who have been brave or honorable in their lifetimes should be an inspiration to us, not merely a matter of storytelling.
Perhaps we do not allow ourselves to be inspired by the deeds of others because we contrast the seeming grandeur of the past with the mundanity of our own life. While there may be few opportunities for glory in most ordinary lives, let it be noted that the majority of the people who lived in the Viking world (as is the case with any society) led ordinary lives. And its clear from the above quote from the Poetic Edda that the old Norse believed that one should have pride and conduct oneself with dignity, even if one didn't have the trappings of wealth and position. Other lines advocate concentrating on ones strengths, and emphasizing what one can, not what one can't do.
Too often I think modern Asa-folk overlook this. We will never move forward as individuals or as a religion if we insist on living in a romantic Norse never-never land. I have spoken to far too many Asa-folk who have grandiose dreams of what terrific Viking they would have made, yet are incapable of dealing with the most modest demands of twentieth century life.
There is greater virtue in an ordinary life lived well than in fantasizing about great deeds that never occur. With that in mind, the following exercise is intended to get one to thinking as to how one can attempt to live in an honorable and worthy fashion in the context of ones limitations. It is not intended to be conducted within a ritual context (although if you wished to, you could start out by asking the Gods for inspiration), not would I recommend doing it within a group context. What is important is that you work out the following issues for yourself, not work them out with other people.
Begin by imagining yourself at the time of your death. Please, no gory or grandiose details here, you should think about what you have accomplished with your life, not the nature of your death.
Try to imagine what you will have accomplished with your life, (be realistic) and ask yourself the following:
What have you accomplished professionally? Do you feel proud of the work you've had during your life? Even if your work has always just been something to "pay the bills", did you perform your work with integrity?
Do you leave behind a spouse? Children? How do you envision your relations with them?
How are relations with the family you grew up in? If you have broken ties with the family that raised you, (for whatever reason) have you been able to move on with your life and form worthwhile attachments with others?
Have you managed to pursue and fulfill your outside interests?
Specific to Asatru, what have you accomplished?
"Accomplishments" in this context might be anything from helping to build a Kindred, to building a hof, to carving an incredible drinking horn, to running a successful magazine.
Do you look back on your life with pride?
What legacy have you left behind for others?
What will others say about you after your death?
After doing this exercise, ask yourself the following questions.
Do a significant number of your ambitions seem out of reach? If so, are you being realistic about what is possible to accomplish with your current constraints?
Above all else, when doing this exercise, try to strive for a realistic grasp of what contributions you can make, what is truly important to you, and what your circumstances are.
The point of this exercise is not to grow morose over missed opportunity. In any life there are missed opportunities and things left undone, but there is no good in despairing over what might have been.
Even if your circumstances are limited, the closer you get to looking realistically at your current circumstances and acknowledging what you can and cannot do, the closer you are to reaching the goals that are still attainable for you.
Copyright © 1998, 2001 by JS Pereira
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