Index | About | Mission | Vor Vegr | Resources | Contacts | Book Store | What's New |


Authentic or Fraud?

By: Garman Lord


Wassail All!
Garman here.

I must say, the current thread seems to be one of those that pop up from time to time that possess an ability to get people talking more deeply and seriously than most.

Kwen makes some intriguing observations, such as when he notes that

>Sometimes folk-creativity stems from a scrying into the past.

Indeed, being in touch with the orlay in the well of its past is what makes a culture a culture, and not just a "McCulture" such as we have today, all made up of the merest kitsch of today, with no yesterdays and doubtful tomorrows. And here, if we look thoughtfully, we can find the answer to many a riddle, especially concerning the folk.

Often as not, to look at the folk, any folk, is to despair. In Theodism, there is a saying; the folk are a great brainless beast. Their potential is always so great, yet their grasp of issues so vital to their own well-being is so weak, superstitious, haphazard and fickle. They have no vision, nor any more sense or discrimination than to follow a bad leader just as readily as a good one, never seeming to know the difference until it's way too late. They may follow a great leader, or they may devour him, and only a fool would ever think he knows which it will be from one day to the next. One wonders if a folk could ever hope to accomplish anything at all. And yet, when one looks at any culture which has been around for awhile, inevitably it will be seen to have accomplished some great wonders indeed, whether it be great music, great poetry, great cathedrals, wines, cheeses, arts, crafts... whatever any culture may come in the world to be noted for, over time. The greatness that one sees in such wonders is the way they have of transcending mere utility to go on to become art... something, in other words, which is notably greater than it really needs to be just to do its intended job for the culture. And in each case, when you look upon such great art, you notice that there is never any signature at the bottom. In each case, it was no one genius who did this mighty thing, nor ever could have; it was the folk, the great brainless beast, with its great strength and all its million brainless hands. One shakes one's head at the mystery of such a paradox.

And yet, looked at deeper, it is really not such a mystery. What it really is, is a matter of time, time beyond any single lifetime, on into the Dream Time, and of cultural coherency and cohesion. It is not that any folk lacks wits or genius; far from it. It is only that any folk is so slow. It is slow because it is so big and powerful; like any great huge thing, it takes a great amount of time to maneuver. Thus it is that, given enough time, its accomplishments may eventually be as mighty as itself. But it will need that much time for its orlay in the well to finally give it the necessary focus and direction. And in the end, when you see the accumulated accomplishment of so many hands, you will never be able to single out any one pair of hands that actually made the difference.

Here, of course, we see the great difference in our present case, of an America which, as the pundits like to say, "keeps reinventing itself." What they never think to say is that if we keep on reinventing ourself, it can only mean that we didn't get it right the first time, and have never got it right since. As long as we keep on just perpetually reinventing ourself, like a cultural nervous twitch, we will keep on being a mere great mass of individuals, only interested in immediate gratification and the now now now. And of course greatness will remain perpetually out of our reach.

The reason a culture, in the ordinary sense, goes on to become a culture in the great sense is because it has given itself time to mature. No matter how great the vintage, if you are dumb enough to drink the raw murky new wine fresh out of the must, you won't think much of it, and you will never be satisfied with it. Any such great thing must age, and it is only a self-betrayal to let yourself lapse into being a mere worthless individual interested only in the now now now. But here of course is another puzzle; what is the use of hoping for anything if I can never hope to live long enough to experience it when it's finally good or great? Obviously there can only be one realistic answer there; any culture which wants greatness now can only hope to get it, by digging back deeply enough, and authentically enough, into its own orlay in the well; its own past. This is why Theodism has always had its obsession for becoming a true culture by going back into the past in search of the authentic old gods, rather than simply inventing a batch of new ones tailored more to our modern fancy.

Again, Kwen notes that:

> The king's duty is to be in touch with the folk soul and its rightful relation to the gods.

Precisely, and the above is the great reason why. A king is never great in himself, at best only potentially so, perhaps. If he is to discover true greatness, it can only be in relation to a great folk, and his only way to be in touch with the folk's greatness is to be in touch with the folk soul and its rightful relation to the gods. Any King who ever loses that inner vocation, who doesn't truly and instinctively love the folk, even in spite of themselves if necessary, will never realize the fruits of either their potential greatness or his own, and will only go on to become at best just another wannabe. The fact is, if he doesn't love the folk, then he is obviously just in it for the personal power. To be the great flawless thing that real Kingship must seek to be, it has to be practiced as an art-form. No artist, after all, ever cares to mar his own work; he is always seeking instead to perfect it. Power, on the other hand, inevitably produces bad art, since it can only corrupt and degenerate.

Gunnsmith says:

> Also, several people have alluded to the Gods requiring a certain level or kind of religious practice. Now, there are "Woods Theod".... Theodish,  and Asatru.. people here....
My question would be..... Dya mind explaining what "correct religious practice"  is in your minds

If you ask me, this is all just the same question, tied up in a bundle. The key to "Correct religious practice" is never, I think, in the place where most people tend to look... especially people still caught up in the host-cultural "cult of individualism." Here I have to mention the Theodish thesis principle, that "religion" is inherently a collective or communal, not an individual, issue. When you talk individual, you are necessarily talking about "spirituality," not about "religion." "Correct religious practice," wherever it may be found, can ultimately only be found by authentically, i.e., sincerely, making oneself part of a true, not just reified, folk, and going wherever that true folk's inner genius may happen to be leading it.

This is the crux of that other discussion going on here; that the Reawakening community has no prospects of either becoming a true religion or complex of religions, or of surviving and succeeding at all, until it can finally manage to become worthy of its own gods. And it can never do that as long as it is willing to tolerate so much treachery, politics and game-playing and so many worthless people in it. Notice if you will what is so painfully obvious to so many of us; that it only takes a few bad people to constantly keep driving out the good from our ranks. It then becomes pretty easy to see what may not be as obvious; namely, that by that same mechanism it only takes a few bad people among us to drive out the gods.

In actuality, I'm not sure that this is the answer that Gunnsmith was seeking, or properly answers the question that he was really asking. I only offer this answer instead because, for better or worse, it happens to be the only answer I know.

Again, Gunnsmith says, echoing an opinion elsewhere expressed:

>I think it may be difficult for them to give up this level of personal sovereignty to any kind of authority, political, moral or religious

Personally, I have to say that to really know the folk is to see this as a somewhat fallacious line of thought. One could say, for instance, that the Reawakening community is at best a tough sell, because its informing ideas are unfashionable, and so out of tune and touch with the times. Yet, to say that is really to forget just what a fickle thing popular fancy really is. It reminds me of something I myself learned, way back in my own schooldays... admittedly a long time ago, of course, but I suspect human nature hasn't really changed all that much since then. I myself was just some poor throwaway kid from the wrong side of the tracks, and tended to think of myself as going my own way, very much an outsider. One thing I certainly never did was go with the crowd... not necessarily because I was instinctively antisocial, but really for the more practical reason that most of what the in-crowd represented was status-oriented stuff that was "fashionable" and, basically, cost money, something that my poor poverty-stricken family didn't have. Accordingly, I always lived by my own fashion, which was just whatever pleased me.

However, strangely enough, that wasn't really the end of the story. One thing that I always noticed was that, outsider though I was, I was never really lonely; I always seemed, for reasons that completely baffled me, to have a sort of fan-club and following, everywhere I went. This despite the fact that I must have been, or at least thought I was, a fairly obnoxious character, who never cuddled up to anybody, and always just said whatever I thought, even when, as so often happened, it would lead to a fistfight or sometimes worse. It never mattered to me. I was me, me was all I had, and no amount of pounding on me was ever about to take that precious (even if only to me) thing away from me.

What puzzled me then, though, and for years afterward, was that such rebel-without-a-cause obnoxiousness never seemed to lose me my fan club; if anything, it only seemed to increase it. It didn't make people shun me and my ideas and ways; if anything, it made people tend to copy them and be like me, to some degree, more or less as if to say that if I was that determined to be what I was, then maybe I was on to something, and if so, others wanted to have the feeling of being onto something too.

It was years later, thinking back on my childhood, that it finally dawned on me what was really going in in all that schoolyard dynamic. The real reason that people were following me, even defying convention to do so if necessary, was that I was one of those originals around whom, wherever he goes, interesting things tended to happen. In other words, I was just people's escape from the boredom that descends on them whenever there isn't someone around who makes things happen. I was their daily sideshow, and they were willing to keep on applauding me indefinitely just to keep the show going on.

If the show had ever ended, of course, that same fickle crowd would have been mostly quick enough to just drop me like a hot potato and immediately start following, imitating and applauding somebody else. But of course the show didn't end, because I wasn't doing whatever I was doing just to draw a crowd, I was just being me, and never really even knew how to not be me. I was just following my own instincts, and most of whatever I was doing was, by necessity, highly original and creative, much of it was also very foolish and dangerous, but of course none of that ever seemed to matter to people... simply because they thought, in the end, that I was "cool." If I was cool, however, it was certainly a very strange kind of cool, since it was all entirely my own invention.

I must say that none of my schoolday memories were ever pleasant ones; all I really seemed to remember much of was the pain and the fighting, and how glad I was when I finally graduated, somehow, still in one piece, and it was all over. And yet it was interesting to note how differently from that others seemed to remember me. In my old highschool yearbook, by now an archaeological relic from another age, is preserved the face of the dumb-ass wayward kid that once was me, and always so non-negotiably refused to be anything but me, and the little slogan printed under my name, just as every other face in there has a mysterious little blurb under it. Under mine it just says "Other people imitate; few, like him, really create." I never knew what hand authored that, and the first time I ever saw it I thought "How nice." I suppose I had actually been expecting mine to be some nasty crack; some highschool yearbook committee over-achiever's final revenge on the rogue kid who never went along with the crowd. As the yearbook collected dust over the years, however, it began to sink in that the statement from the hand of an unknown classmate was really a rather fine tribute, in not just being a nice platitude, but in showing me that there was some sort of mysterious folk-wisdom in that crowd that I always thought I despised that actually may have known me better than I knew myself.

My apologies for this long winded shaggy-dog story, of course, but in fact there is a point to it, which is this. It seems to me that there is no greater fraud in life than fashion or the popular fancy, nor any bigger liar than the fickle popinjay fad of the moment or trend of the times. You can always wear baggy low-rider pants and floppy unlaced sneakers, try to look like a black streetcorner pusher jailbird, tattoo your butt, pierce your bellybutton or whatever, usually all in quest of trying to become a person, and inevitably with the result of just blending indistinguishably as a non-person into the great crowd of other non-persons. If you do that, however, what it probably means is that you have misread one of life's most critical cue-cards in the middle of your personal sideshow schtick. You look at the crowd, what they do and what they're wearing, and you think what they are doing is instructing you in how to be cool, and of course you want to be cool, so you are perfectly willing to mutilate your body and dress up like a retard just to do it. And, in the end, what is the result? Does the crowd finally reward your efforts by calling you cool?

Actually, I'm asking; I wouldn't know, because I never did that, so you will have to tell me. What I do know, however, is what the crowd is or isn't telling you, at any given moment. Take it from an old incorrigible schoolyard rebel; the crowd ain't telling you shit, man, because the crowd doesn't have brains enough to tell you shit; the crowd doesn't know shit itself. And that doesn't just mean your own crowd, either; it refers to any crowd anywhere, from the streetcorner to Wall Street, to the high fashion salons to the university campuses to the White House. All any crowd is is a bunch of individuals trying too hard to con each other into thinking they're somebody, when in fact the only way to ever really be somebody is to already know you're somebody without having to be told by somebody else who's really just hoping you will tell him he's somebody in return.

The crowd, in other words, is not telling you anything, it's really waiting for you to tell them something, and if you can't or won't, they'll just move on to somebody else who can and will... somebody, anybody, it doesn't really matter who, just so long as he is not boring, and is enough authentically himself to give them something to imitate, so that they can feel like they're unbored and unboring and cool.

In which case, how about heathenry? Is heathenry cool? Actually, probably not, for some reasons that really ought to be obvious to us by now. Not so much that we are unfashionable as that we are inauthentic. Think about it; think of the kind of ideas we preach: folkdom, courage, honor, integrity, the Three Wynns, the NNV, all that good stuff. However, whether or not anybody else takes to such ideas, the first thing they discover about our community is that in fact we don't practice what we preach. We are, in other words, just as big a fraud as they are, and that's exactly what they aren't looking for, since it's something they already have themselves in abundance, so they just move on to something else, and very wisely so.

When the crowd looks at you, waiting to be told, they are looking at three things right away. Either you are, for better or worse, authentically what you pretend to be, or else you're inauthentic and a fraud, or else you're just somebody imitating somebody else = nobody, and it is especially those latter two that they see through in a heartbeat, as being nothing better than themselves and definitely non-cool, and avoid like the plague. So when it comes to heathenry, our choice is either to just stay like we are, put some lipstick on this pig and try to sell it to the masses on SCA fantasy-hype and make it fashionable, or else do what we probably should have done all along, and make it authentically heathen, by being authentically heathen ourselves, and just let the crowd decide for itself. If we do that, then, will the popinjay crowd begin to buy into it? That's difficult to say, of course, but then, will it matter? After all, if we were really being heathen, we would probably be too busy being real heathen to very much care.