Monday, October 29, 2007

The Vikings and Hard Things

Vikings. If you lived in the 8th, 9th, or 10th century, that name would send a shiver down your spine. Dr. George Grant describes them as “big, blonde men, eighteen to twenty four inches taller than the average Brit, dragging their long boats across land on logs.” Imagine how terrifying that would have been. Borrowing the analogy from Dr. Grant, it would be like hobbits against orcs – peaceful villagers against huge, merciless beasts. Close your eyes for a little while and think of the terror that would give you: a man maybe two feet taller than you, huge and armed, running through your village – and not just one, but as many as fifty!
The Vikings were pagan until somewhere around 995, when one of their kings converted to Christianity. Coming from Scandinavia and parts of France, they were warrior-like men, raiding country villages and taking gold, silver, gems, and anything else they might find of value, perhaps a few slaves if they had room, then burning the village to the ground. Eventually the Vikings became a bit more sophisticated and didn’t burn the villages, and even later on, they settled in the places they raided.

But why did these Norsemen go pillaging, or, as they called it, on a Viking?

First, they lived in a primogeniture society. The firstborn son would receive everything when the father died, and the other sons would get nothing. Sometimes the firstborn would offer his brothers some of his inheritance, but to accept it was to be shamed. This forced the younger sons to go out and make a living for themselves. In a land where farming was hard, how was that possible? One had to leave the country or find a different trade. Thus, many went on a Viking. When they returned, they would most likely be rich enough to settle and perhaps begin to build a family.

Secondly, manhood rituals caused them to be fierce. Their primary god was named Thor, and the men strove to be like him. Thor was a warrior, and so were they. Boys would play rough games, and many were dangerous – like when one boy would hold a bolder and the rest would try to knock him over and crush him! For their coming of age, they would be blindfolded, taken out into the wilderness, then bound and left there. He had two choices: die, or find a way to make it back to the village. The lifestyle of the Vikings emphasized being fierce, strong, and warrior-like, so when put in a situation where one had to be aggressive, they did not know how to respond in another way.

Finally, many were exiled. Because of their wild and almost violent lifestyle, Vikings would often be exiled. When any matter of law came up, they would wait until the meeting of the Althing/Ting and decide the fate of the offender then. The worst punishment was exile. This did not necessarily bring about more raids, rather settling elsewhere – Erik the Red was not some great Viking who decided to go try to plunder some ice-covered land called Greenland. No, he was exiled for killing a family. A good thing about exiles, though, was that it provided more opportunities for younger sons – new places would be discovered, and the sons would have more opportunities for making a living elsewhere.

There is something else the Vikings, though. They did hard things. Quoting Alex and Brett Harris of The Rebelution, “Unlike the Romans, who used galley slaves to row their great warships, the Vikings took full responsibility for this strenuous activity. This tells us two things: 1) the Vikings didn’t feel that rowing was beneath them—they pursued competence in every area pertaining to their success, and 2) they were seriously ripped. No wonder the people of Europe were afraid of these guys—their muscles were moving twenty-ton boats through the water!”
Do hard things according to the Vikings. It almost seems funny how we think about these Viking warriors as people who took pleasure in raiding. Perhaps a few did. It was an easy way to get rich quickly (“A Viking’s Guide to Getting Rich Quick – Raid!”). In a sense, though, it was necessary. No, I’m not saying that if you’re not going to inherit anything you need to go out and take silver and gold from your neighbors. The Vikings could have done it differently. What I’m saying is that the Vikings were not people who were scared of work or doing hard things. They did incredibly hard things by rowing their own ships and pulling these many-ton boats across land on logs. Imagine being a young man during that time – all the things you were expected to do before you came of age!
Our society in has fallen so much. I look at my teenage neighbors and often I see people who don’t care about their future. Sure, they may want a college degree, a good job and maybe a family. But if they want a good future, they need to work hard for it now. They think life during their teenage years is all about partying and forgetting about the time of adulthood ahead. I fear that if I acted like that, I would reach adulthood and start failing. I’d be thinking, “I wish I could go re-live my teen years, I’d have done things differently if I had known this was expected of me!”
How different would the world be if we prepared more for being an adult before it actually happened? Would it be more peaceful? Less suicide? Less abortion?
How can we, as youth change the world?
I seem to have gotten off topic here. I’ve gone from Vikings to hard things to youth. It all fits together. Most of the time, the coming of age for boys was at fourteen. At fourteen, they’d be left in the wilderness to find their way home by using the stars. I couldn’t do that. So much was expected out of them at so young. People make up excuses by saying, “But they lived shorter lives back then. And they didn’t have technology like compasses and GPS’s to find their way back.” We shouldn’t make up excuses like that. Yes, they lived shorter lives. So don’t think about how much more time we have to party, think about how much more time we have to tell our non-Christian friends about Christ. Yes, they didn’t have compasses or GPS’s, but we don’t need compasses, GPS’s, spellcheckers, and calculators if we’d only work hard enough to learn how to do things without them! Instead of saying “I’m not a math person,” work harder at math and become better at it – excel in it. It only takes a little bit of hard work. You’re not going to explode.

People think aliens built the pyramids. Why? Most of the time, I think it’s because they don’t believe it’s possible for humans to do something like that. In this day and age, with so much fancy machinery, we find it hard to comprehend how men could chisel out these blocks and push/pull them to the top of a pyramid. But we shouldn’t underestimate our abilities as humans.
Push your limits. Do hard things. Reach for the highest you can. Live to glorify God. Don’t think there will be more time later. You could die tomorrow. Live today as if you’ll die tonight. Don’t say your life will change when you’re an adult. Many people have said that, and they don’t. More excuses are made, and maybe eventually they forget.
We need to make a difference in our society by changing it. We won’t do that by sitting around all day flipping through TV channels or surfing the internet. We need to get out there and do hard things – whether it’s just reading your Bible every morning, resisting the temptation to get online before your homework is done, not practicing an instrument because it’s “too hard,” or something bigger like going to college or building a rocket.

We can do it with God’s help.
Take a lesson from the Vikings. Do hard things when you’re young, build habits you’ll keep until you’re old. Build up strength in the Lord and be fierce in fighting the devil.
Set an example for the believers in speech, in conduct, in love, in faith, in purity.
Don’t let people think you can’t do something because you’re young.
Show them that you can do hard things for the glory of God!



Junior (Dave): They're big, I'm little
They go, I twiddle
Why can't little guys do big things too?
You're big! I'm little.
My head only comes to your middle
But I say little guys can do big things too!

Archibald (King Saul): Yes, but Goliath, he’s...

Junior: He's big! But God's bigger!
And when I think of Him, that's when I figure
With His help, little guys can do big things too!

Archibald: Oh, I see what you're saying!
Alright, I understand, now let's suppose that this is true
You still look rather wimpy, but I know what we can do!
Just step behind the curtain, it will only take a minute
There's a closet in the corner, and you'll like what I've got in it!
You'll find my royal armor there, don't dally, put it on!
Yes, now you'll look much bigger when the battle lines are drawn.
One more thing, I think - that's right, pick up my royal sword
It's a big one, and a beauty - the best you could afford!
Once you've got it all together, I think you will agree
You're bound to do much better if you try to look like me!

Junior: I think I should just be plain old me.

Archibald: Yes, but, have you seen Goliath? He's ... he's ...

Junior: He's big! But God's bigger!
And when I think of Him, that's when I figure
With His help, I know I can do big things!
With His help, little guys can do big thing too!

- Big Things Too ~ Veggietales

1 comment:

BananaBint said...

ha ha. Why has no one commented at all on this one? ha ha. I wonder why....