Boxing Pythagoras

Philosophy from the mind of a fighter

Archive for the category “Heathenry”

Never step onto the road without your weapons

Let a man never stir on his road a step
without his weapons of war;
for unsure is the knowing when need shall arise
of a spear on the way without.

-Hávamál 38

Though I do agree with the literal interpretation of this passage, there is far more wisdom in it than the bare surface reading would suggest. This is a proverb of preparedness. While the terms “weapons of war” and “spear” certainly carry their obvious meaning, they also stand as metaphors for any tool which might aid one in a struggle. This applies just as much to knowledge and wisdom as to weaponry; it refers to planning one’s finances as much as planning for a fight; it’s as applicable to a good pair of boots just as much as to a spear.

Now, obviously, one cannot be prepared for all situations at all times, but the more one considers his own preparedness, the better he will be when necessities arise. Personally, I find this passage to be extremely poignant with respect to one’s understanding of his own philosophy. As someone who engages in conversation and debate rather frequently over the subject, I have found myself often calling on some esoteric body of trivial knowledge which many people would wonder that I had bothered to learn in the first place: the incredible examples of Corvid intelligence, the strange implications of a particular grammatical construction in ancient Greek, the intricate symmetries of the openings in a game of Go, and many other beautiful– but peculiar– bits of knowledge. These are all things which a person could well live without knowing, and yet each of them has been incredibly useful to me in philosophical discussions on subjects which are seemingly unrelated to those bodies of knowledge.

I have never in my adult life been in a fight outside of the parameters of my martial arts. And yet, my Jiu-Jitsu training has been immensely useful in many other aspects of my life. Though the passage explicitly mentions “weapons of war,” the need of a spear does not necessarily refer to a martial need. Yes, a spear can be used for war. But it can also provide food. It can steady a weary tread. It can lever a wheel out of the mud. It can perform any number of tasks beyond its primary intention. The same is true for all weaponry, whether made of wood and steel or knowledge and wisdom. Never step onto the road without your weapons.

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For the unwise man ’tis best to be mute

For the unwise man ’tis best to be mute
when he come amid the crowd,
for none is aware of his lack of wit
if he wastes not too many words;
for he who lacks wit shall never learn
though his words flow ne’er so fast.

Wise he is deemed who can question well,
and also answer back:
the sons of men can no secret make
of the tidings told in their midst.

–Hávamál 27 & 28

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Why I am a godless Heathen

Having already related to my readers Why I am not a Christian, I thought I might take some time to talk about what I am: I am a godless Heathen.

It is not uncommon to find modern atheists who jokingly refer to themselves as “godless heathens.” They use the title satirically, to poke fun at the unwarranted derision laid upon a person by some Christians over the simple fact that atheists don’t believe in God. It hearkens back to a period when Christianity had actual legal authority, in the Western world, and the charge of being a “godless heathen” was a criminal offense resulting in a capital punishment.  However, this is not what I mean when I use the term “godless Heathen,” as in the title of this article. To be fair, I also intend this sort of tongue-in-cheek reference, but my usage actually carries a further weight which is not generally shared by most of the other atheists that I have met. When I say that I am a “godless Heathen,” I am actually referring to the fact that I am an atheist who practices Norse Heathenry.

I understand that the thought of an atheist adherent to a polytheistic religion might seem fairly paradoxical, at first, so allow me to elucidate.

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A coward believes he will ever live

A coward believes he will ever live
if he keep him safe from strife:
but old age leaves him not long in peace
though spears may spare his life.

Hávamál 16

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Let no man glory in the greatness of his mind

Let no man glory in the greatness of his mind,
but rather keep watch o’er his wits.
Cautious and silent let him enter a dwelling;
to the heedful comes seldom harm,
for none can find a more faithful friend
than the wealth of mother wit

Hávamál 6

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