It was a confusing time for the country. We had our early form of democracy; claimed to have a parliament. Our platform for voices to be heard fairly. But your voice was only loud enough if you were of some means, a chieftain or priest, a wealthy merchant or well off farmer and landholder. An unsatisfying democracy for many. Most were in servitude, indentured perhaps or even if they were a freeman, they were not really free because they were still shackled by poverty. I wasn’t destined to be one of them; poor, unrecognized.
I don’t like to think that I just used Herdis, but if I’m honest with myself, what other way is there to think of it. She was a good mother. I was selfish and self-centered, though that is common when you have privilege, what else would you expect. It wasn’t until I was much older that I understood the existential pain of living with the consciousness of death.
I agonized with the dichotomy of action. I was a profound procrastinator, yet the moment I began an endeavor I became obsessed with its completion. That is how it was with my writing of the histories, the Eddas, the other stories, even my pursuit of power became part of it. I dreamed about it, in the other place. I could see no other path than to be a leader, although I was a good soldier too, I think. But I was reluctant sometimes and I feigned bravado and aggression, up to the point I could see my opponent was not afraid of me, not intimidated. It would cause me shame sometimes, but that didn’t last long and I soon rationalized my actions and was back in the throes of it again.
Yes, I was a leader then. I loved nothing more than to stand upon the law rock and recite the laws and adjudicate disputes, make judgements, and meet out punishments. I was fair; at least I thought I was fair. It was a land of men, a time of men. You could have what you wanted, the best food, plenty of good drink, power, women, we all wanted the same and I was very good at consuming all of it. But I was fair and wise for the most part, I think. Some called me a coward for my unwillingness to fight, but after all I rose to my position of power, authority and wealth without ever wielding a weapon in battle myself. Isn’t that a good thing?
I knew it was the right thing to do. I knew it because I was told so by my other self, that part of me that traversed the abyss to that place we go to between sleep and awake. That place where we are merged into the others life and live on the other side of Valhalla. Or I suppose I should concede and call it Heaven. That place where that woman lives, wise and deliberate and often guides me with advice that could never come from the mind of a man. I have searched for her here, looked in foreign places but I have only a muted recollection of her face. She may not even be here. Perhaps she is just a ghost, perhaps I am.
I don’t really know why I am the way I am, why I was the way I was. I should have felt bad about leaving Herdis to fend for herself with our children. It is common for men of substance and promise to deal with their own needs, if they want to make something of themselves. I felt more for the children, though I knew they would get over my departure as quickly as I would. After all, there was no real expectation of fidelity in a marriage arranged for commerce and I couldn’t be expected to drag children around with me.
There was a time when I thought ‘you can’t go back and make things right’. I didn’t wish to go back anyway to a previous time to correct mistakes. There is no point in making things perfect. And then, in that dream or in that place of unbid thought, it came to me, that there is no difference in the past or present and even things that will happen in the future are all divined, cannot be changed; there is no need. They all occur; they all occurred.
Don’t think I’m a bad man; don’t think we are bad. It really makes no difference what you think of me, it makes no difference what you think of anything, but don’t think it anyway.
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