Wednesday, March 30, 2011

I Think I'm a Viking

Hellish Perspectives
Does anyone else sit around and think deep thoughts about stuff? I do. It sure beats real work. My most recent deep thoughts revolved around hell. Granted I was guided towards these thoughts. They didn't just float in out of nowhere. I'm often fascinated by the progression of thought patterns. Here's how hell popped up into my head...

I was reading a Bernard Cornwell novel. I enjoy his writing. He's well researched and takes the time to develop mostly accurate historical fiction. In the series in which I was immersed, the main character was set around the time that Christianity was overtaking Norse theology in England. Our hero was basically raised a Viking despite the fact that his family and king were Christians.

The Vikings were warriors and loved the fight. Should you fight and die, you were guaranteed a place in Viking heaven, which was simply a banquet hall with all the booze, eats, and women you could handle. Should you die without a sword in your hand, you go to hell. Helheim. It's description, "...cold, dark and misty abode of the dead." Viking hell is cold. 

Christianity is distinctly different. Hell is hot. And sometimes, you get cast into the inferno for killing with a sword in your hand. Banished to the underworld, you are to suffer eternity in a constant blaze of third degree burns. As a guy who requires a constant slathering of spf 30 and above, I can relate. Sadly, The Book is mostly vague if they force you to bike and run while down there.

Now, here's where the deep thought comes in (and chances are that, with my menial levels of intellect, I've gotten it wrong), but it seems to me that each of those cultures had picked a hell based on their origin. The Vikings were Northlanders. Winters were harsh and cold. There was never enough food. Being frozen was an unfun fact of life. The Christians toiled in the desert, sometimes for years on end. It's no wonder that they wanted out and didn't want to go back. I can hear the threats from the elders to the youngsters, "You want me to ship you back to the desert. Huh? Now shut it and behave." (Sort of the old fashioned version of "Don't make me stop this car and come back there.")

The Vikings May Have Gotten It Right
Coming off an exceptionally long winter, one that started back in early November and has yet to let go its grip, I find myself relating to the Vikings. I'm pretty sure that, if you do your research correctly, in one old drawing of Helheim (in one the original texts of the Danes) they drew a picture of my house. How they knew I have no idea. As I get older, I find myself growing weary of the snow and cold much earlier in the season (read: November). I relate to the retirees who migrate from my neighborhood to the plush subtropic realms of the nation and stay there long enough for the snow to melt. They returned last week only to hear that the highs were in the 20s/30s and snow still covered their lawn. Based on the looks on their faces, they are Vikings too.

As a prediction, I am assuming that I'll come full circle in mid-July. Smacked dead in the middle of a temperate climate and quite proximal to a Great Lake, summers here can become very Christian hellish. The upper 90s with relative humidities in the 80th percentile range guarantee that your sweat glands will get the extra work they've been lacking around the turn of the calendar. My skin changes from a pasty white to a lobster-like hue even when I'm inside. No transition. No middle ground. Training gets pushed to the bookends of the day and can still be uncomfortable.

When that time comes, I may be a convert. Hell will have evolved from a cold wasteland of the dead to a hot wasteland of the dead. Until then, I'm a Viking. Now where's my sword, dinner, and wife? Time to pillage train.

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