Of Wolves and Ravens – Pursuing Virtue

Happy Tyr’s Day.  Hope you had a great Yuletide. First post of the year 2019.

I remember the day I walked out of my church for the last time.  I was on my way to deliver my resignation but I had stopped at the church to make sure I had everything from there.  I picked up a few things and then stood in the pulpit behind the lectern one more time. It was one of those moments I probably will never forget.  Just me behind on a pulpit I had mounted countless times to talk about sin and salvation.  I guess you could say that the moment I walked away from that pulpit was the moment I walked away from Christianity. It was symbolic for me at least of a change in philosophy and belief.

My main thought as I locked the door behind me for the last time was “So, what are you going to live for now?” The question indicates a desire for purpose; that is for life mission.  I had been interested in viking myth, history and culture for a long time and ran accidentally into the Nine Noble Virtues of Asatru (NNV).  As I read more about it, I realized the set of virtues was just what I needed for foundational framework for a new philosophy for living.

More recently I discovered three other virtues as I went through the nights of Yuletide: Love. Justice and Wisdom. The odd thing is that I had seen these in passing but I never really saw them dwelt on until the 12 nights of Yuletide as I read about that.  Of course I can see the value of these virtues and at the same time I can see that they are pretty universal and perhaps ‘higher’.  The question of purpose then seems to be more clear.

I have divided the nine noble virtues into three groups classified as foundational, business and self. But I can also see that the virtues could be divided as love, justice and wisdom.  Love being the foundation virtue.  Justice being the nature of how we are trying conduct the business dealings of our life. Wisdom reflects the desire to handle Self so we growing in understanding and personal strength. I want to think on these three some more and incorporate them in my weekly thoughts.  Probably the weekly recap as they would give my final thoughts on the week some needed direction.

Basically I am seeing these three virtues as the skeleton on which the other nine are the muscles that make them work, if that analogy makes sense.  But on to the Wolves and Ravens concerning virtue.

Needs (Geri): 

Why do I need to pursue virtue?  It is best interest of each person to improve themselves. We need to do this because those who do not stagnate and eventually die.  We also in my opinion need a foundational philosophy that is the basis for all our decisions, so there is consistency.  One of the things I have to say now is that Christianity never gave that to me. I will talk more about why in a moment.

Mostly though Need, the wolf Geri, is about necessity and part of the necessity of being a human being is to have a life’s purpose or mission. Without it, how do you differentiate yourself from being an animal?  For me this has been a struggle of need.  As I switch off Christian philosophy which is inconsistent, how do I switch on something that is less hypocritical?

Part of our need I think is to develop this foundation philosophy ourselves.  However, most of us instead of taking the time and putting in the effort to do so, turn to religion to do it for us and then wonder why we struggle. The reason we struggle is because the ‘one size fits all’ that most religions give to others, does not work for everyone. It is this working on our own philosophy for ourselves I think now that meets this foundational need. Running to religion is us just avoiding this need and justifying ethical and moral laziness.

Wants (Freki):

What I want is a philosophy that causes me to pursue something better for myself and those I love. One that motivates me to make a better life for myself. That harnesses the wolf of want (Freki) and uses it to make me act.  The problem with Christians philosophy is it focuses too much on this made up concept of sin.  You are constantly struggling between feeling guilty and trying to achieve virtue.  This is why it naturally leads to hypocrisy.  You are trying to achieve virtue in Christianity, but the doctrine of sin always allows an escape out. “Be patient, God isn’t finished with me yet” or “I can’t help it I sin every day” or “I am just bound to my sin, I can’t escape it.” and other expressions dot the Christian phraseology as excuses for failure to be consistent.  I don’t want that dichotomy anymore because I think by its very nature it leads to the justified hypocrisy you see in Christianity.

What I ultimately want is a philosophy that focuses on positive progress and gives an honest assessment of human desire, not as righteous or sinful, but whether such desires are normal, beneficial or detrimental and how such desires can be rationally and wisely handled. Pursuing virtue does just that,  I can mark progress but can also accept who I am as a human being without looking at my human nature as sinful or evil.

Reason (Huginn):

Basically when I engage reason, the raven Huginn, on this topic of virtue, my favorite Marcus Aurelius quote comes out.

See the source image

The main thing is the last line:  You will be gone but will have lived a  noble life that will live on in the memories of your loved ones. I would also say it allows you to be live the best life for yourself while alive. It brings the most benefit to you and that is important.

These days when I am doing something and someone says I shouldn’t, I ask them for a rational reason why what I am doing is not virtuous?  If they can’t answer then they need to back off or come up with a reason.  I don’t want to hear about your god or holy book.  I want to hear how what I am doing is not beneficial to myself or it is somehow genuinely harmful to others. If they can’t do that: then perhaps that person might simple realize they are using some made up moral code to justify being judgmental of others without working on improving themselves. There is nothing virtuous about holding others to a standard that is neither rational or you don’t keep yourself.

Wisdom (Muninn):

Wisdom says that I need to continue to pursue virtue then.  I get what I need and want for myself and those I love without harming others in the process.  I also then am rationally pursing self-improvement with being judgmental of others as virtue says I work on me first and help others, not judge them.  I accept where I am but also seek to improve myself to be better.  I don’t spend a lot of time wallowing in self-pity or guilt because neither of those things help me improve. I eliminate excuses for not being better instead of justifying them with excuses, like I am a sinner and cant help myself.  These reasons along with many more are why I pursue virtue alone and thus embrace the wisdom of them. Both the NNV and the Higher Virtues provide the basic framework for that pursuit.

Conclusion:

As the weeks of this new year continue, I will through this platform called Of Wolves and Ravens be looking at more individual virtues and various aspects of philosophy.  The aim is the same which is ethical and moral improvement for myself. If on this journey you walk with me a little ways and discover something that helps you as well, then bonus for both of us.

Until next time,

The Rabyd Skald – Wandering Soul, Bard and Philosopher. The Grey Wayfarer.

Skaal!!!

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