Compassion in Cold Climates

For most people, the next layer of Inangard is Family. I think it's interesting that pretty much everyone thinks their own family is so strange. But compared to whom? We won't often understand, or even see, the real workings of a family unless we're in it. And most families, even those that dislike each other, will lock together as a unit when presented with certain kinds of stress.

In Viking Age culture, there were other layers of Inangard: for example, Household and, in some circumstances, Tribe, Godord, or Kingdom. These days, we each have many different circles of involvement, based on different kinds of acquaintance, and operating at different scales. The world we live in quickly becomes very complex, and you have to balance the interests of all these Inangards. Some people, especially politicians in election years, will try to tell you that they've already figured all this out for you, and you only need to follow their instructions. Sometimes, they might even have some good advice, but don't count on it. Please think for yourself.

The better you manage your Inangards, the less help you need from your Utgards. Also, you are better able to help others that you know are deserving if they need it, which becomes a pleasure of its own.

You can try to solve the world's problems. You will fail. Or you can try to solve your own problems. You might succeed. You can work at various scales, but focus on things close at hand. The world will be better for it, as will your place in it.

I expect that many readers are now having either or both of two reactions. First, that what I'm saying here is somehow simplistic. Second, that it is rude.

Yes, it is simple to describe. Now try living it. As for rude: much of the way I see people trying to fix things doesn't seem to work very well. If you ask me to do something that doesn't work because people will otherwise think I'm not nice, I will tell you flatly that I don't care, and I might add a Hail Thor! onto it.

We each have our own set of Inangards, and our own set of interests. Those who weren't born yesterday can hardly expect otherwise. The problem with Self-Interest is not that it exists. It can involve a lot of what people call compassion. If you want to live well, it will. But when it is applied foolishly or ignorantly, it can easily make things worse. That's something people don't say very often.

So let's get back to Steinthor's shivering visitor. Will admitting him to the household put the household at risk, either from his behavior, or simply from his consumption of scarce goods? If not, he will have a place by the fire, something to eat, a place to sleep. As a matter of Grith, he will be expected to mind his manners very carefully. By the time the weather breaks, Grith may have turned to Frith. We can always hope.

4/26/2012 4:00:00 AM