Sunday, August 31, 2008

The Giants in the Water

Of all the great natural bodies of power that our Ancestors dealt with on a daily basis, the seas and oceans inspired more awe than most. When we stare at the great waters, we see not just an endless reservoir of power, but the origins of our very lives- the primordial genetic material that was the foundation of all life on land was once in the ocean. There is a great awe and fear of the oceans and seas, because they are containers of immense and mysterious powers, not all of them friendly to mankind.

The elements in their primordial form (which includes the ground under your feet, the water in rivers and oceans, lightning flashing through the sky, forest fires, and winds, among others) are by nature "giantish"- untamed and occasionally dangerous to man. It's impossible to avoid the feeling of awe when you see these hurricanes on satellite imaging, swirling with their massive spiraling arms, moving relentlessly towards land.

There is no evil in them; they are simply expressions of the might of nature itself, so massive and powerful that they move along on their Fated courses, heedless of the tiny specks of life that they blast by. I always compared them to the most massive whales in the deep ocean: massive creatures plowing along through the water, steadily, consuming thousands of pounds of tiny life-forms in the ocean as they go- they don't viciously seek to destroy life; they are simply doing as they do, never thinking twice about it.

We humans are tiny compared to these rightly-called "Giantish" forces. The sheer difference in scale is one of the reasons why we fear them- we know that they are blind and heedless of our lives, in the same way you or I may be blind or heedless of the tiny insects we crush in the grass as we walk by, hiking in the forest or just spending a day in a park.

The Ancestors firmly believed that the Gods- aided spectacularly by the Thunder-God, the greatest enemy of Giants- kept this world, this Middle-Earth, safe from Giantish powers. In light of what is going on right now, the implications of this belief are profound. The Ancestors dealt with disastrous weather-patterns and natural disasters just like we do, and one could say that they suffered worse from them (in a way) because they didn't have the networks of preparedness and response that we have.

So why were they so happy to point out how "safe" the Gods made the world? Because without the Gods, the elements and the other Giantish forces- deeper and more destructive than we could imagine- would overwhelm this world. Old Redbeard is a skilled killer of Giants, but even he can't destroy them all- there has to be a 1% that make it through, and have time to wreak havoc before their Fated course ends.

I think the Ancestors were aware of the fact that it could always be worse. And one of the reasons why it wasn't as bad as it could be is because powerful sentient forces, who care for mankind as their kin, were faithfully performing a Fated task of preservation.

There is one more element to this equation: the fact that we are literally in what the Ancestors described as "A wind age, a wolf age"- the final age of the world in which the decline of things was higher than it ever had been, and even the elements were possibly more destructive. "The wind age" refers to the destructive force of the winds, and in a way, the elements, but the "wolf age" refers to the destructive force of greed in human beings.

As I have said countless times, and as I believe the prophecy in Voluspa makes clear, the world is not destined to get better, in these last millenia. This makes our current age a time when the greatest heroes can (ironically) be produced. We need not just the support of the Hammer-God and his family; we need human heroes who are ready to perform what seems to be a lost cause: the cause of preserving as much as they can in the face of blind, naked natural fury.

The Gods and the Heroes go to the final battle of this world in full knowledge that they will be meeting their doom. Who does that? Beings that know that the ends are not the important part. The important part is that they will make a stand, come what may.

Help the soon-to-be victims of this storm in whatever way you can; even tiny help, help that seems pointless in the face of so much misery, is heroic. You can join me in sacrificing to the Gods for final aid and rescue for as many people as can be helped, but in this case, in this age, what we need are strong people, not just strong Gods.

I work in the Therapy field, and I face a lot of misery in my clients every day. I see cases that anyone would describe as hopeless and unthinkably depressing. When I first started, I (like most people) had the odd "savior" complex that led me to get overly concerned for my clients- but in the end, you have to realize that we don't write the story of other people's lives.

I talked to a friend and colleague of mine about my concerns regarding getting too attached to clients, and he told me one of the most amazing things anyone has ever told me. What he told me was a quote (horridly enough) drawn from a recent movie starring Kevin Costner, called "The Guardian" or something like that. But the quote was very relevant. What do you do when you see so much trauma, and you know you can't help everyone?

My friend said that in one scene of this movie, a young Coast Guard member asked Kevin Costner's character (who apparently plays a more experienced Coast Guard life saver) what he does when he faces a situation where many people are drowning, and in need of help. How do you know who to help or save?

Kevin Costner's character said this:

"I swim as hard as I can, I swim as fast as I can, I save as many people as I can, and the sea takes the rest."

At first I hadn't realized the full impact of what my young colleague had told me. Then it hit me: Fate had spoken here. Fate was the final answer. In the disguise of a pop-culture movie reference, I believe that an ancient and important wisdom was transmitted, then and there.

In our lives, however we help people, we do the best we can, and Fate takes the rest. The nobility in us- that nobility that does not die, and will survive to be reborn in the regenerated universe- does the best it can, regardless of the darkness of the situation.

1 comment:

Rick Loftus said...

Ule, what you say in this post should resonate with anyone who is watching this swiftly tilting planet with a sense of dread.

Usually, in the face of certain catastrophe, I too think of a story--a true story--about the sea. When the Titanic was sinking in the middle of the cold Atlantic, the men who were not evacuated into the lifeboats gathered on the deck to await the collapse of the giant metal boat as it broke in half and sank to the bottom of the sea.

To give courage to the people who faced their last hour of life with certain doom, the Titanic orchestra, led by bandmaster Wallace Hartley, played upbeat music, to keep the other people from panicking. All of them, of course, died. I can't imagine being one of those young men, knowing I was about to face an early and horrifying death, and yet keeping it together enough to keep playing the music. I think it is one of the greatest stories of valor I have ever read. (

You are right, Ule, those of us who can see, very clearly, the cliff off of which the world seems hellbent on sailing, must continue to do what we can, to not give in to despair, to keep to our posts and keep others from losing hope. That is the hero's path.