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Friday, April 15, 2016

Wisdom of the Vikings Part 3: The Positive Value of Courtesy and Hospitality

 From the Hávamál:


The newcomer
needs fire
his knees are numb.
A man who has made
his way over mountains
needs food and fresh linen.


A guest needs
giving water
fine towels and friendliness.
A cheerful word
a chance to speak
kindness and concern.

While these very much carry on the basic message of the last entry, I think there is something particularly worthwhile in the shift from commending hospitality as a way to avoid offending others in a highly volatile, unstructured environment, to the positive commendation of hospitality and positive treatment of strangers as a good in itself. Online, as in Medieval Iceland, the flip side of the great risk inherent in a minimally structured and defended environment is the greater reward of new friends and a mutually supportive community. Much has been made (and will be made) of the joys of growth and encouragement to be found in the new avenues of connection the internet has made available, from online dating, to meetups, to discussion forums and the collaborative creativity of Instagram and Pintrest. 

But like meat-space communities, these digital friend-spaces and groups can only be built when a host is willing to offer an encouraging word, a comfortable and and safe space to the "newcomer" who needs fire, food, and fresh linen. By keeping a community open and welcoming to newcomers and guests we build strength, warmth, good fellowship, and good cheer; we keep out the night and preserve a protection against the trolls.

To follow this series from the beginning, click HERE

Part Four: Worldliness

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