A few days ago, honestly when you don’t sleep the number of days gets harder to keep straight, I had a bit of an accident at work. A bit of an accident translates into two broken cervical vertebrae and serious concussion. This is what happens when a seventy pound roll falls of the back of a truck, and has about six feet to accelerate before meeting the back of your head.
I don’t have to deal with pain as much as most people in my position. I don’t use pharmaceuticals not because I am trying to prove how tough I am, but because they are less effective at delivering me from pain than what I was given by my gods.
I don’t have to be all the way here. It gets easier when I get deeper in the pain, to let slip the ties that bind me to this world and let the veil part until I walk in both worlds. Don’t drive this way, ladies and gentlemen, it is as intoxicating as any drug, and you will indeed have to develop the skills to allow you to process a degree of information that does not fit into the senses you have been using since birth, but your brain keeps trying to squeeze them in anyway. Its not so much hallucinations, as trying to stick data from other formats into the visual/audio circuits your mind is most comfortable using. It’s the wrong kind of signal, so some oddities result. You get used to it, or at least I did. We aren’t machines, we can work with senses we can’t process consciously. You just have to slip into a state not entirely conscious. Serious about the don’t drive this way.
There are a few things about this state of mind that I find intoxicating. The whole, not listening to the pain channel at all is one. A second is that sometimes I will be asked a question, and it will be heard not only by me, but through the connection I have to the gods and ancestors.
This is where I get lost. Lost in the question. Be careful the simple questions, the offhand questions you ask in this state, for some of them may take you far and deep before you know it. I am more than half mad at the moment, by most definitions. Brain injury, hopefully of a temporary nature, has left my conscious mind unable to cope, so I am opening wide the gates to other states, because I will function, I will heal, and I will take the tools that I need to do this from wherever I must. The gates thus open wide, it is a simple thing to be caught by a question and ask it in a place, and of a one who can answer.
The question: “Why doesn’t my heathenry interfere with my devotion to science”
Beware the simple offhand questions. Beware opening gates to the Haptasnytrir, the Teacher of the Gods, for what is simple for Odin to understand is as hard for my mind to contain as would be the Fraser river to contain in my horn.
The problem is found in fear. Its not one we possess, so we are largely blind to the power it holds over others. There are people who look at that portion of the map that says “here there be dragons” and know that it means they must never go there. My people are the ones who followed in search of those dragons on every far shore. Fear of the unknown to us is a spice with which we flavour the meat of our adventures, the challenges that sustain and define us. Fear of the unknown neither defines nor limits us.
I am as boastful a man as you would find, and as proud of my gods as any. I would proudly boast of the knowledge and wisdom of Odin, of his might and majesty to any and all, and yet………
Were you to ask me if he is omniscient, all-knowing, I would say no. He can seek out and learn anything in the nine worlds, but I would not say that moment to moment he knows which of the seventeen ducks currently passing over a certain brownstone in Detroit just farted. I mean he could find out, but I don’t think he received a real time update about that and every other thing that is happening in the universe. All knowing? No.
Were you to ask me if he is omnipotent, as in all powerful, I would say no. He is powerful, and to touch his mind at all is to feel what it is to touch the storm, to touch the fury, to touch a primal power of such potency that your own sanity is at risk simply at seeing it, but no he is not omnipotent. I won’t lie to you, Frigg scares me more. Odin hides most of himself well enough that he doesn’t beat you over the head with it, but the lightest touch of Frigg leaves you aware of the scope of her existence, extending at once in so many directions that I felt so small in comparison as to have almost lost myself by accident. Neither is she omnipotent. I wouldn’t want to guess at what their limits are, or even speculate as to how their will is worked upon the world in the first place.
A fragment of an old argument with a Christian Theologian came up, the idea that all people had to worship his god, because he was the prime mover, the first source, the creator of the universe. God as the cause of all things.
Do I view my gods as the creators of the universe? The reason for every single action occurring on midgaard? Good gods no. Our own cosmology is clear about this. The gods arose during the complexifying of the universe. The primal forces of the universe, the Jottun, already existed. The universe existed long before our planet, or our species. Our gods came into existence before our species rose to its current form, and found in us something not totally alien to them, and entered into a reciprocal gifting relationship with us.
Many tribes formed relationships with gods, I won’t claim to know if any of these gods are in fact the same gods known by different names. Honestly, the phrase, “above my pay grade” comes to mind when the question comes up, along with “when I have my own house in order, I will comment on other peoples”.
There is the difference, we don’t fear the universe. We don’t need our gods to be the reason for everything happening. If something should fall out of a truck and strike me in the head, I don’t say the gods willed it to be so, I say our Chicago terminal is staffed by lazy assholes who can’t properly secure a load. If you want the reasons why I got struck, you can do the math, factor in the coefficient of static friction and the mass involved to see what the pressure holding it in place was, then calculate the angle the roll was sitting at, calculate the force that gravity was exerting on it, and note that the gravitational force was greater than the friction force, which would result in the roll beginning to slide out the back of the truck. As it accelerated, the coefficient of sliding friction being much lower, would indicate that once the roll began to slide, it would begin to accelerate very swiftly and past the tipping point the angle of the roll would increase the effectiveness of gravitational force and therefore the acceleration of the roll. Net effect, once the little bugger started to move, it shot out the back and down towards the back of my head like the hammer of Thor. For the record, Thor would have knocked me down, as I am slightly less than giant sized, but the imitator was only able to break two of my neck vertebrae and give me a serious concussion. I don’t need a god to explain why the universe followed its own rules. I don’t need a god, or demon, Jottun or witch to be behind something happening to me. Physics will suffice.
The Wise Counsellor took me down the metaphorical and metaphysical rabbit hole when I asked him why we (heathens) don’t have a problem embracing our religion and science together, and his answer was at once far deeper than I could contain, even if I wasn’t currently really not up to mental par, and yet simple enough to reduce to a form even in my current state I can grasp.
We are not afraid of science, because we are not afraid of a universe that is bigger than us. We are not afraid there could be more to know than we know right now. We are aware the edges of the map read, here there be dragons, and in our many halls ring discussions that can be summed up as “what colour dragons?” “feathered or scaled” and of course “What kind of glaze to you put on a dragon anyway? Just a pepper rub, or an actual sauce?”.
Turning inward, or outward, lone searchers or large boisterous tribes, our folk are busy going about the world, alert for every new thing to learn, old thing to reclaim, and redrawing the map every single day (day 247, still no dragons, search resumes).
We don’t fear science because we don’t use our gods to hide from the truth of this world. We don’t use our gods instead of attempting to understand this world. We follow our gods in a large part because they help us to understand how to live in this world. We don’t ask Odin, Frey or Thor to help us to understand the wiring of our breaker panel, we check the manual for that. We ask them for help in being a better us, as we go about exploring this world, using all the tools the gods and ancestors gave us, most definitely including science.
I do not confuse my gods with the universe, nor blame my gods when the universe catches me up in the gears. Wyrd weaves as it will, and before it even the gods must bow. I don’t need the gods to be more than they are to be worthy of my worship. I don’t need to pretend to be utterly helpless either. I do not need the gods to understand the parts of the world that science can model for me, nor do I need them to tell me how to change those parts of the world my technology can control. I do turn to them to help me to make better decisions about how to use my own power, and I turn to them for things that science, including medicine, either cannot do, or does less well.
I am not a man of faith. I don’t really have much faith left. I turn to my gods for pain and spasm control because they gave me tools that work a whole lot better than medicine did and leave me a whole lot less dangerous to those I love in the doing. I have gods, but not faith. Faith is about rejecting knowledge, and our gods don’t ask that.
There are religions out there that are driven by faith. Reason and science are anathema to them. You must choose to either have faith, or have reason, if you are of those particular religions. That isn’t us.
My god is a thief of wisdom, a scholar, a sage, necromancer and seven kinds of scary on even his good days, but nothing in his teachings will ever ask you to reject what you can see and know for yourself. Odin doesn’t just accept science, he whispers in its ear at night, and fills its sleep with dreams of glory.