Tuesday, October 21, 2008

A viking we will go.

Coming ashore.

Vikings have a bad name in the early historical writings. A knife in the side of Europe, twisting away. It`s just my luck that my British ancestors on both sides of the family tree were of that stock who eventually took a wife and settled down to farm on someone else`s land. A thousand years later some are quite genteel: that must be my lot.

Then some of us moved on to North America, brought a wife, took some land. There is a repetitive quality to all this. Imagine some future world in a far corner of space: same crowd, same scenario. Am I proud?

Proud? Of all that nastiness, brutality and wholesale expropriation? It would be silly to say yes, but it would also be too easy to reject all my history, all the history of humans in general, and participate in the sanitization of modern society. The thing is, if we just close the door to our ancestors we can not learn who we really are. We need to know who we are and what our human capacities can be again.

Somewhere in the past and in the present, amid the grinding together of peoples in conflict is a saving grace. Those Vikings who slipped up a coastal creek somewhere in Europe, hide their longship, marched across country to attack an isolated farm or church were taking great risks while in search of wealth, whether as gold, or cattle, or slaves. They could be caught ashore away from their ship by a larger force of irate locals, and themselves be killed in a very nasty manner. Those were brutal times. The possibility of this outcome must have sharpened their minds wonderfully. Living on the edge of disaster is a recipe for rapid and creative thinking. Creative thinking has survival value.

I listen to the radio about the price of fuel, food shortages, climate change and problems with the economy. After a few generations of existing in wealth and luxury, (for some) it looks like we will have to adjust to a new reality. A old kind of imperative is waiting to start pairing us down and sharpening us up. Lets not quietly and passively wait for events to carry us off. There is another option to being sheep, we can embrace the coming storm and get creative.

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