Courage

June 6, 1944 Normandy, France. There was a momentous display of courage, one that 75 years later we still look at it in awe. We still owe so much to those young men who sacrificed “their today for our tomorrow”. Make no mistake, there was courage out the wazoo on that beach. Mostly men under the age of 20 storming a beach that was heavily fortified by a very strong military presence. If you believe that they weren’t scared, you are disillusioned or stupid. They didn’t act on lack of fear, they acted despite the fear. They acted because their duty that day was more important than the fear they had. I don’t know anyone who would argue that those men were courageous. This is an example of an extreme display of courage, but it is a display of a specific type of courage that most people will never have to face – in part because of those thousands of young warriors did what they did.

That specific example is an important consideration to make when thinking about courage. There other types of courage, types that we face every day. Most of these incidents do not have the same level of physical danger, or any real physical danger in most cases. This should not, and does not lessen the act of courage, nor should it be compared or judged against the type of courage displayed on that day in 1944. The type of courage I will be discussing is the courage it takes to stand up, speak up, to be who you are called to be. The courage to do the right thing.

courage-is-the-most-important 

This quote resonated with me the first time I read it. So astute, so simple, so true.

The first virtue on most lists you will find of the Nine Noble Virtues (9NV) is courage. This is intentional, I believe. Courage is the foundation of all the other virtues. Courage is critical to living a Principle Centered Life. Without courage to act on the correct behaviors there is no action. Living a Principle Centered Life requires action…you can’t just fake it until you make it – you have to do it; you have to live it. You must own it.

Going against the status quo is not the easy path. It order to accomplish something you have never accomplished you have to do things you have never done. This take on the famous quote by an unknown speaker/author demonstrates a truth that is timeless. Courage is the principle that is the natural law that governs the actions required to step out and do what you have not done before. Most people do not accomplish great things, most don’t even accomplish minor things of importance. This is because people do not have the courage to truly want something different, they are content in with their bread and circuses.

For many people it is easy to make the connection with courage and going against the grain when we are talking about things like starting a business or running a marathon. Again, make no mistake those acts are displays of courage. Do you consider it an act of courage to face the unaccepting world when you are born with a difference from the majority? Is it courageous when the young black woman works to become a fortune 500 CEO? Absolutely! How about when the Autistic boy wants to become a doctor (yes, I stole that one!) Of course, that is courage.

So, when the guy at work introduces you to his husband understand that is courage. Wait, what? Why is it an act of courage for him to introduce you to his husband? When I introduce you to my wife, I would not consider that an act of courage. I have no fear of rejection. This is a normal thing for most people. We need to get to a place where those two men are as accepted as me and my wife. When you find out that Samantha used to be Samuel, that should not be a source of shock, it should be as acceptable as when Judy bought new boobies because she wanted to be a D cup, or when Frank got a nose job. All these examples are people choosing to match their bodies to their identity. Please do not think I am marginalizing any of these choices. I understand the decision to have sexual reassignment surgery is not the same thing as getting bigger tits. I am only bringing it down to the root for a common denominator.

You know what is also courageous? Accepting people for who they are without judging them based on your own paradigm. Remember that golden rule we all learned as children? Well, surprise, it is outdated. The platinum rule is the new, better rule. Instead of treating people how you would want to be treated try treating them how they want to be treated. This requires empathy and understanding other people…this means you have to get to know them. Which, you guessed it, requires courage.

As an end note I want to make it perfectly clear. There are people who should not be accepted. Toxic, harmful, dangerous people are who I am talking about. You should never accept toxicity from anyone (this includes yourself). Those who physically or mentally are dangerous to you should not be accepted, ever. Racist, bigots, and those who refuse to accept the differences in others are also not welcomed. It doesn’t need said but I will anyway; pedophiles are not acceptable. I understand that pedophilia may be their true sexual orientation, but consent requires a person mature/capable enough of understanding what they are consenting to. We must protect those who not capable of defending themselves.

From the words of the Allfather: When evil comes to you do not keep quiet or let your enemy find peace. (Havamal 126 – TAC study version)

Verðandi

The cycle of life is something that has perplexed man for as long as man has existed. The concept, the mythology, of the Ancestors discusses a complex idea of how this works. They used an analogy of the great ash tree, Yggdrasil – the tree that connects the nine worlds. Yggdrasil is rooted in the Well of Wyrd (Urd or Destiny) and acts as a conduit to all life in all the nine worlds. Connecting everything back to the Well which describes the fate of all living beings. The three Norns – Urd, Verðandi, and Skuld – write, also seen as weaving, the fate of all living beings. The three sisters are often associated with a linear time line – Past, Present, Future – but the Ancestors seen this as a much more complex concept. Time is cyclical not linear. The present, Verðandi, can influence the past and absolutely influences the future.

Norns 2

Urd is the oldest of the three sisters, and the most powerful and most worked with. She is the controller of history. That which once was, or what has already become. We work with her when we read a history book, when we explore our family tree, whenever we look to the past. Urd was once the sole Norn who controlled all three aspects of time/life. Therefore, she can influence, have dominance over, her sisters. That which once was, that which has become, is a powerful influence over that which is (now). Indeed, we build the foundation of our life on the past, on that which was that made us who we are now.

Skuld is the youngest of the sisters. She is what should be, what shall be – necessity and obligation. She is also the Norn who marks and cuts the transitions in our lives. The births and deaths (including our own birth and death). She is seen as the youngest because she has yet to happen, yet the foundation is already set. She exists because there is a “what once was”; because there is a past and because there is a that which is now. There are always consequences for our actions, for our choices, Skuld is the controller of those consequences.

Verðandi, that which is now – the present, is the Norn which I try to do the most work with. Understanding the here and now is important in my life. It is the present in which I have the most influence, where my influence has the largest effect. What I do today, while influenced by that which was, is how I direct my future. I know how to influence my future. The Ancestors believed that Verðandi has influence over Urd. I don’t fully understand this, and I have little desire to work with the magics, which is how I understand that the present can affect the past. I, instead, choose to learn the past so that I can understand how to work with Verðandi to create a path to the future I desire.

I do not believe that we have absolute freedom in our choices, but I also do not believe that the future is stationary. Ørlög is the name given to the concept which describes fate of a person. Ørlög is the combination of luck and fate and is cumulative through our ancestry. Yes, this means that what our father and his father…and so on…did influences the choices that we have now. This is not to blame our parents, our ancestors, for our problems today. We still have the responsibility to make the best choices and to grow and make the best life we can. What this means is that choices our ancestors made influences the choices available to us. For example: If the parents move the family to a new town, state or country, the child has no choice but to move with the parents. No real choice anyway. Once relocated the choices of that child is affected – restricted – by their environment. As simple as the friends they can hang out with – they no longer can spend as much time with their friends “back home”. They can now choose to make new friends, or have no friends, or try to maintain a long-distance relationship with their friends. Their choices have been limited, reduced. This is an extremely simple example of ørlög, but the concept of ørlög is not the focus of this post so I am not going into full detail, only to set the stage so to speak. There are some places where this concept is better developed. If you would like to read more try here or here.

The point is this: we start life with a specific number of choices. A finite number, choices that are set by Skuld based on Wyrd. As we grow and begin making choices – even before making our own choices our parents make choices for us – every choice we make sets us on a path to a specific end. That end is not absolute, it is one possibility of many. Each choice we make, or allow to be made for us, reduces the choices available. We can never return to the exact place we were when we make a choice. We can only learn from bad choices, own the choice and reset ourselves. Making a different choice, even if the same choice we could have made is presented to us it is not the same as it once was. It cannot be because we made that choice already. By influencing the present, working with Verdandi, we can direct that path. So, I choose to work with the Norn of the here and now.

This choice has lead me to the life I try to convey in my postings here. Has led me to study the 7 Habits which led me to examine the correlation to the 9 Noble Virtues. This leads me to developing a principle centered life, centered on the 9NV. Working with Verdandi, working within the area of my influence, I can create the future I want to create. This will influence my ørlög and will affect the ørlög of my children and future generations. It is my duty, my obligation, to do this.

The Sound of a Chainsaw…

I arrived home from work early Friday morning. In the distance I could hear the sound of the neighbor running his chainsaw. The sound of a neighbor running a chainsaw is a neighbor inviting you to come help with some good, hard work. I knew he was working on cutting up one of the trees he had brought down last week. Art (the neighbor) and I came together to have a professional tree cutter bring down 6 trees between our two properties. Four on his and two on mine. His four were dead or dying but were too big for us amateurs to mess with. Mine were dangerously in need of being taken care of, again not something for weekend warriors.

I had a hickory that was rotting at the base and was about half gone from the ground up to about four feet. It was leaning towards my shop and we were concerned if we tried to cut it would fall on the shop. The other was an oak that had been hit by lightening a few years prior to me buying the place. It was close to the power line. Max, the neighbor on the other side of me, spent a couple decades cutting trees for a living but is in no shape to be doing that business now. He said that oak would come down in at least three pieces and there was no telling which direction any of it would come down. This actually prompted bringing in the tree cutter with his bucket truck.

Friday promised to be a good day for working on this stuff. Weather was great, especially for a day in February. About 40 degrees at 8am and got to almost 60 by the end of the day. I changed from my work uniform into home work clothes. This meant jeans, t-shirt, button down work shirt, and steel toed work boots traded for jeans, t-shirt, button down work shirt, and steel toed work boots. My company pays for my uniforms so I don’t feel it is right to tear them up at home. I grabbed a cup of coffee, changed the chain on my saw, gassed it up and topped off the bar oil reservoir. Threw it all in the truck (saw, fuel, oil, bar wrench and chain sharpening file) refilled my cup and went to play with my friends.

We are giving almost all of the wood to Max. He uses an Outdoor Wood Burning furnace. Wood is burned in a firebox outside of the house which heats a water reservoir. The heated water circulates into the furnace. The air blows over the hot water coil. The air absorbs the heat and blows out into the house. Same way a gas fired furnace works which is what us “industry pros” call a direct heat whereas Max’s furnace is an indirect heat. It is a very good system and something that I am looking at putting as a backup or “off grid” option for my house. For now, the propane is a better option for me.

I say almost all of the wood because I plan to keep about a “rick” for my wood burner in my shop and the smaller sticks will be used in my smoke house (when I get it built). A “cord” of firewood is a stack of wood that measures (about) 4 feet deep x 4 feet high x 8 foot long – stacked neatly and compactly. It is 128 cubic feet of compactly stacked firewood. A “rick” is 1/3 of a cord. Typically, cut and split firewood is cut between 16 and 20 inches, with 16 inches being the “standard”. A “rick” would then be 4’x4’x16”. I do not know how many cord of wood would typically be used over the winter, but if you cut your own wood it can be a very cost-effective method of heating. Wood heat is very common in this part of the country. Back home (Southwest Kansas) it is not as practical because we just don’t have the trees.

Friday, we cut up two of Art’s trees and my oak. We got the tops – the smaller branches – moved to the burn pile. I worked until about 3pm. At that point I had been awake for about 20 hours and I hit that proverbial wall. A good day’s work and well-earned sleep to end it. Saturday, Art was over at about 7am burning the brush pile. We had a little rain Friday night so it was great timing to burn. Less chance of setting the whole yard on fire. I got the two boys up and out and we started on the hickory. Got all the tops moved to the fire and would have got the tree cut up but I cut in at the wrong angle and damaged my chain. Max’s son and grandson showed up around 9am to cut up the large trunk pieces of the oak and to start hauling it to Max’s wood pile. About noon I had to call it a day – I had to work Saturday night.

Good, hard work shared among neighbors creates friends. We all had a good time. Joking with each other, sharing stories – probably mostly lies (except mine were all true enough) – and all while making my place safer and helping out Max. So, remember, if you hear your neighbor running a chainsaw go see what they are doing. They may welcome the help.

Principle Centered Life

A paradigm is like a map. It is the interpretation of a place, it is not the place. Our paradigms are how we see things, our perspective on any given situation is a result of the paradigm we used to see the situation. Stephen Covey said, “We must examine the lens through which we see the world as well as at the world we see, the lens [through which we look] is how we interpret the world we see.” This means, to me, that it is more important to understand why we see what see than to understand what we see. The lens is the paradigm. To change our world, we must first change how see it.

Continuing the map analogy, if we have the wrong map we will never get where we want to be. Covey used the example of standing in Chicago with a map of New York City. The map of NYC may be accurate, but it has no relevance to Chicago so will not help us find anything in Chicago. So first, we must determine how we see the situation to determine if we have the correct map. The more aware we are of our paradigms the better equipped we are to take responsibility for our lives. In other words, we must know what experiences we have allowed to shape our lens so that we can compare that to universal principles.

Natural laws govern human effectiveness, they are absolute, fundamental and unchanging. Covey describes it this way: “It is impossible to break the [natural] laws; we can only break ourselves against the law.” This tells me that if I am trying to live outside of the natural laws my life will be broken, unproductive, and/or frustratingly unsuccessful. Our paradigms are a subjective reality that we use to describe objective reality – principles are the objective reality.

Principles are not practices or values. Practices are situationally specific. Paradigms are not values; values can and do change with experience. Principles are hard wired, universally true. Unchanging, fundamental truth. Going back to the map analogy, principles are the territory that the map is describing.

The Nine Noble Virtues are a set of principles to compare our paradigms against. While the 9NV are not an exhaustive list of all the principles I believe that any principle will fit into one of the 9NV. If I come across a principle not already covered by the 9NV I will add this principle. If I find that a principle fits more than one virtue, then that principle should replace both virtues.

If we align our paradigms with the 9NV our map will be accurate (we will at least be in the city that matches our map). Let’s examine the 9NV as they relate to the study of the 7 Habits:

  1. Truth (Wisdom)

You don’t know what you don’t know.

This virtue is our yard stick when we examine the lens through which we see the world. This virtue governs the seeking of truth in the myriad of information presented to us from all directions in the information age we find now find ourselves. When we have access to the breadth of the world’s knowledge in the palm of our hands yet have very little facts being shared. When everyone is telling us their opinion of the facts without giving the facts. We must know where the truth is and how to discern it. This applies to all information and should not be limited to the mundane but applied to the spiritual as well.

  1. Courage

Do it anyway.

This virtue is our strength to act on the truth and not succumb to the trending ignorance (willful ignorance in many cases) that is prevalent in our society. The strength to do the right thing even when the consequences of doing the right thing are not beneficial. Yes, courage also is the act of doing the right the thing even when we fear the consequences. It is not the absence of fear, it is the action despite fear.

  1. Fidelity (Loyalty)

Stay the course.

This virtue has many interpretations. In comparing it to the 7 habits, I see this virtue as being loyal to the principled center. Staying the course and always examining, measuring, the results back to the principles, the 9NV. Also, this virtue helps us to determine priorities. To assign the hierarchy of importance and to remain in align with those priorities.

  1. Hospitality (Generosity)

Its not only about you.

This virtue tells us not to be self-centered. When we live a principle centered life we are more connected to the whole. That connection to the whole lets us know that we are not an island but a part of a greater continent.

  1. Discipline (Self-control)

No excuses.

Discipline is needed to stay in the principled centered life. We should strive to live a life that would not require us to ask forgiveness of anyone. Being disciplined to always do the right thing every time. Of course, we are human, and we are not perfect, but we should work towards that perfection anyway.

  1. Industriousness (Work/Perseverance)

Never quit.

We are not owed anything that we have not earned. If we do not put in the work; if we do not pay the price, we will never develop the mastery required of any of this. If we aren’t doing things, making mistakes, we will never learn anything. Nelson Mandela said “I never lose. I win, or I learn.”

  1. Self-reliance (Strength)

If it is to be it is up to me.

We make our choices, whether we are aware or not we have a choice in everything in our live. No, we don’t have any choice in what happens TO us. We do have the choice in how we respond to that stimuli. We can choose to be proactive in those choices or we can be victims – either way we choose. No one has any control of how we think, how we respond, to anything. We must make conscious decisions.

  1. Frith and Grith

Don’t worry, be happy.

The attitude with which we face life determines the results we get from life. You reap what you sow. Being miserable, always seeing the negative, will bring negativity into your life. Bad things will still happen, sad times will still exist, but a positive attitude will help to get us through those times and to see the good in all things. If we believe that everything happens for a reason and understand that we are not always meant to understand that reason life is easier to deal with.

  1. Honor

Actions out weight words.

“What you are shouts so loudly in my ears that I cannot hear what you are saying” – Ralph Waldo Emerson.

Your character is not what you tell people you are but what you show them through your actions. Honor is acting with integrity in living a principle centered life. It is not an act, it is not something that we can pretend to have for very long. We don’t get to decide if we are honorable or not. Those around us determines this. Honor is the command of respect – not the demand of respect don’t read that wrong. When we do the right things for the right reasons and respect those deserving of respect, we are we are living with honor.

A common misunderstanding is that principles, any or all of them, are subjective. They are not. The value of the principle may vary, but we do not define principles. They define us. Align your paradigms to the correct principles.