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Wednesday Wisdom: Look Around

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Before walking through any doorway,
One should look about;
One should peer around keenly:
Because one may never be certain where a foe
Sits within the hall before you.

–Havamal 1, Translation by Connla Freyjason

At face value, this may seem like an extraordinarily paranoid way of living one’s life.  It calls to mind those warnings which now run at the beginning of a movie everytime we visit a theater:  “Look around you and find the nearest exit; if someone behaves oddly, make your way to the nearest exit and move far, far away.” It’s a sad, scared world that we live in, and apparently, it was also a sad, scared world for our Ancestors.

But there’s far more to this passage than apparent paranoia:

  • It is also a reminder to take the time to pause in life, and take a look around.

How often do we rush through life, never taking a moment even to pause to look over the threshold of a doorway before walking through it? I mean, when was the last time you paused, say, before your own front door, and took a moment to look at the door itself, or the wreath or besom you may have hanging upon it?  Maybe even took those few extra moments to turn around and look back at your yard, and perhaps notice a blue jay or a squirrel who has likewise taken the time to pause, and look at you?

  • It is a reminder to look before we leap.

How often have you gotten yourself in too far over your head because you simply jumped in with both feet before looking at all the angles of a situation?  If you’re like me, this happens to you quite often!  An important part of mindfulness is actually taking the time to “roll something around” in your mind and “peer at it keenly”.  There may be pitfalls ahead that you might otherwise have overlooked.

  • And, yes, it is a reminder to always have an exit strategy!

Taking those extra moments to be mindful of the situations in our lives can also help us to “find the exits”, and form valuable strategies for when we need to “bow out gracefully” (or even not-so-gracefully). On occasion, situations arise where we need to disentangle ourselves–maybe even flee–in order to live to fight another day.  Such behavior is neither cowardice nor giving up, but instead, saving face and surviving: sometimes, having an exit strategy is the only way to keep our hamingja (our reputation and legacy) intact.  It might be what is necessary to prevent you yourself from becoming the enemy.

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Turning Balderdash Into Galdr-dash

Prayer and design by Connla; Background paper from Samsara (upcoming); photo mask from Notions: Masked 1: Ornate (upcoming); twine twizzle and jeweled bird skull from January Gathering: Winter Wonder: WinterTime (currently available); ravens from The Graphics Fairy; masked image Odin and Bifrost by John Bauer (open domain).

I’m writing this on a Wednesday, and as my keyword for the year is Mindful, I’m quite mindful of the fact that Wednesday is Odin’s Day, from the Old English Wodnesdaeg, meaning “Woden’s Day”.  Since one of his kennings is “Galdr Father”–“father of incantation”–I thought it would be very fitting today to talk about turning balderdash into galdr-dash.  In other words, I want to talk about the words we use, how often we talk, and our tendency as a race of beings to speak just to be heard, or in order to have something to say.

Face it, we’re living in a world right now where everybody has an opinion on something, and most people unabashedly do not keep those opinions to themselves.  Once opinions have been voiced, other people then feel the urgent need to vehemently express their own opposing opinions, and what started out as a snowball rolling down the proverbial hill quickly turns into an avalanche!  

While I try very hard to keep (political) opinion out of my social media marketing, and even my conversations, I do find myself having a tendency toward a constant need to say something (say anything, even, sometimes), just to keep the proverbial ball rolling, at all.  It’s the nature of the beast: if you don’t keep your Page updated, keep newsletters flowing, etc., not only your marketing but indeed your financial stream (such as it is or might be or become) comes grinding to a halt.  But ultimately, isn’t relationship-building far more important than any post reach, number of subscriptions, or even sales figure glaring back at us from our computer screens?

When we feel the need to talk just to be heard, or because we like the sound of our own voice, or even because we really like it when that post reach exceeds 1,000, the words we are speaking and the posts we are making are merely balderdash:

balderdash: senseless talk or writing; nonsense; foolish words or ideas.

Wouldn’t we build more relationships and accomplish more good in this world if they were galdr-dash instead?

galdr-dash: words of power, and with real meaning, intended as incantatory, while they may or may not maintain such a tone.

I don’t care what your faith-base is, words have power.  This is even acknowledged in the Christian Bible:

A bit in the mouth of a horse controls the whole horse.  A small rudder on a huge ship in the hands of a skilled captain sets a course in the face of the strongest winds.  A word out of the mouth may seem of no account, but it can accomplish nearly anything–or destroy it! It only takes a spark, remember, to set off a forest fire.  A careless or wrongly placed word out of your mouth can do that.  By our speech we can ruin the world, turn harmony to chaos, throw mud on a reputation, send the whole world up in smoke and go up in smoke with it, smoke right from the pit of hell.  This is scary: you can tame a tiger, but you can’t tame a tongue. –James 3:3-7, The Message

The things you say–even when they’re typed–can change a person’s whole world in an instant, for good or for ill.  So what if we were all a little more mindful of how we use our words?  And what might it actually mean to intend them as incantatory?

incantatory: a written or recited formula of words designed to produce a particular effect.

To intend your words as incantatory means looking at their intended purpose–what they might bring into being in this world–rather than simply “spouting” them.  It breeds mindfulness.  For example, when I say “I love you” to my beloved, I’m not just saying three tiny words, off the cuff, the way most people say those words a thousand times a day to a spouse or lover: I’m saying them with the purpose of reaching her heart, and kindling something inside it, which then wells up into the outward sign of a smile on her face.  When I say “have a nice day”, it’s not just some off-handed nicety, but instead intended as a blessing which I hope will have the end effect of, in fact, causing the Powers-That-Be to bestow on the person that I am greeting a pleasant day.

Because I’m actively trying to put this into practice in my life (and urging you to do likewise!), I find myself quiet often, especially at social events.  If I don’t have something worthwhile to say that might actually bring some good into the worlds of the people with whom I’m communicating, I tend to keep my mouth shut. This may make me come across as shy, or perhaps even sometimes a bit stand-offish, but I promise you: I mean well.  And I am trying my best to bring this into practice in my social media interactions and marketing as well.  If something isn’t worthwhile, I simply don’t post it, numbers or no numbers.  So far, it seems to be working well.  This is also another reason for the newsletter becoming a monthly rather than a weekly offering:  if I don’t have truly worthwhile things to put into your inboxes, which are going to effectively make your worlds a better place, I have no right to be in your inboxes in the first place!

So, I urge you to give this a try in your own lives: before you speak, consider the purpose of your words.  Will they heal the person to whom you’re speaking? Will they bring more light into this world, or more darkness?  Might they lead to a firestorm of opposing opinions?  I’m not saying “don’t cause fights” or even “don’t fight”, because sometimes fighting is actually necessary to promote Light and Right in this world of ours, that’s a simple fact of life.  I’m not even saying “always be kind”, because too often kindness can be seen as weakness, and taken advantage of. What I am saying is to make sure your words count: that they be empowered, and intended to actually bring something Right into being.  If they can’t, won’t, or don’t do that, practice silence.  You never know what wisdom you might find there in that quiet space….