Volume 1, Number 8
The Bold Have the Best Lives

svir mar vakir um allar ntr ok hyggr at hvvetna er mr er at morni kmr alt er vil sem var
Foolish is he who frets at night, And lies awake to worry A weary man when morning comes, He finds all as bad as before.
Undoubtedly most of us have found ourselves lying awake at night, tossing and turning, our minds on all the problems that we must face the next day. Or we remember conversations that we had, thinking about what we should have said or done. We worry about what could happen in the future. Or we start awake in the dark at a strange sound, listening to our heart pounding as we worry about whether to get up and find out what the noise was, or remain still, afraid to go back to sleep as we imagine and sort through possible causes.

But would we consider ourselves foolish or unwise for doing so? Certainly we are not at our best after such a night, our eyes hurt, our bodies ache from the lack of rest, and we have rarely solved anything for the effort. Not only are things as bad as they were before, we have compounded them by reducing our ability to cope. If this is unwise, what is the way of wisdom? The answer is found in a following strophe of the Hvaml.
Mildir frknir menn bazt lifa sjaldan st ala en snjallr mar uggir hotvetna stir glggr vi gjfum
The generous and bold have the best lives, Are seldom beset by cares, But the base man sees bogies everywhere And the miser pines for presents.
Instead of lying awake the bold man goes to bed to sleep so that he can meet the challenges of the day rested and in good physical, mental and emotional condition. As Kostbera, Hgni's wife, in the Greenland Lay of Atli did in puzzling out the strange runes of warning, we can go to bed and sleep, waiting for the inspiration that comes in dreams. By remaining awake we deny ourselves a source of strength and insight, as well as weakening ourselves physically. We can sleep better also if we take care of problems immediately, not putting them off until they loom larger and larger in the night. Preparation and foresight are also important elements of valor and boldness.

There is an old story about a field hand that applied for a job on a farm. When the farmer asked him for his qualifications he said, "I can sleep on windy nights." The farmer was not sure what to make of that, but he needed help with the harvest and so he took the man on. He worked well, and the farmer had no complaints, but neither was he particularly impressed. Then one night a storm blew up suddenly and the farmer jumped out of bed and rushed to get the field hand up. No matter how hard he shook him or called his name though, the man remained asleep. In disgust the farmer left him and ran to the fields to cover the haystacks. He found that they were covered and staked down. So he hurried to the barn to secure the doors, only to find that they were already tightly fastened and all the livestock safely inside. He continued his rounds, found everything in order, and went back to bed, determined to also be able to sleep through the next windy night.

Certainly we would not expect a bold man, or woman, to pull the covers over their head and huddle in fear at a strange sound, unable to sleep and waiting for whatever might happen. It is far better to get up and face one's fears, than to do nothing about them except worry. There is even less reason for concern over things that have been said or done, as we can not go back and change them, we are far better advised to sleep after resolving not to repeat mistakes of the past. We will sleep lighter thinking about things that we can give rather then how to keep what we have or acquire more. We also find that instead of losing sleep over what one has, or hasn't got, sleeping well and rising in the morning provides its own reward to the wise man.
r skal rsa s er yrkendr f ok ganga sns verka vit mart um dvelr ann er um morgin sefr hlfr er aur und hvtum
Early should rise he who has few workers, and go his work to see to; greatly is he retarded who sleeps the morn away. Wealth half depends on energy.

Translation by W.H.Auden and P.B.Taylor

2001 Susan Granquist - Published by the Irminsul ttir - All rights reserved.

Irminsul ttir