This is the second in a series of posts on Morality. In the first post I explained WHY you should make your own morals. We looked at the WHAT and WHY in that post, and today we’re going to look at the HOW.
While I slammed pre-existing structures in the previous post, they do come in handy when you’re framing your own structure.
In this post, I’m going to use The Nine Noble Virtues as my framework. This is because I am not a Christian and using a framework from Christianity would not resonate with me.
It does not matter what framework you choose, but the closer its tenets are to your true beliefs, the easier it will be to frame your code of morality. Don’t think you have to use a religion’s system of values either – any culture’s values can be used for this purpose.
What matters is that their system of values is already close to what you believe to be right.
We will also be using the Nine Noble virtues as a demonstration of contextual differences. When the context is different, the implication of the word used is different. More on this later.
Now, for those who don’t know what the Nine Noble Virtues are, the following section lists them and describes them.
The Nine Noble Virtues
The Nine Noble Virtues are decidedly Pagan, in the original sense of the word. Pagan doesn’t mean “devil-worship”, despite what you may have been told.
Pagan simply means “Not Christian”.
In ancient Europe, that was an A or B issue – Christian or Pagan. Today, that isn’t the case at all.
Technically, Jews, Muslims, Wiccans, Buddhists, and Atheists all have the common trait of being Pagan…They are not Christians.
It’s for this reason that I avoid ridiculous terms like “Neo-Paganism”. Now, for other reasons, I also avoid terms like “Asatru”, “Heathenry”, and “Odinism”.
Those reasons are the same reasons I avoid Atheism and Satanism – it has nothing to do with what they claim to believe and everything to do with the kind of people they actually are.
Keeping that in mind, we are going to use my simple definition of “Pagan” listed above. The Nine Noble Virtues are simply “Not Christian”, even though many of these values seem similar to Christian values at first glance.
The Nine Noble Virtues are…
Someone put these values to words in the 1970s or 1980s in association with Odinism, but he didn’t come up with it. Instead, he was putting English words to the values of the men from the Icelandic Sagas, the Havamal, and other sources.
The Icelandic Sagas were tales of the exploits of men before the Christianization of Iceland, and the Havamal is called “The Sayings of The High One”, the actual words of Odin. Safe to say that these are Pagan values of Pagan men, and as such, the words used here have different meaning than what you might be expecting.
Courage, for example, is much easier to have when you believe in Wyrd.
That the moment of your death is predetermined and you WILL die at that moment no matter how cautious or cowardly you might act. If you are going to die, if it is a sure thing, then why wouldn’t you make your actions between now and then as glorious as possible?
It is less the courage of the man who IS afeared and acts in spite of it…and more the courage of the man who divorces himself entirely from the fear he feels. The fear is not accepted as normal, it is seen as a chain collar that must be broken if he is to live a life worthy of song.
He will die when his time comes whether he breaks that collar or not, so it must be broken with haste.
This is a gross oversimplification of Wyrd, of course. It isn’t 100% comparable to English words like fate and destiny, but any who understand the difference between destiny and Destiny should understand.
Then we have Honor. Going Viking meant going raiding – it was seen as an honorable exploit. To a Christian, killing and looting is hardly honorable. The people whose values were condensed into this list simply saw things differently.
To illustrate, in one of the sagas a raiding party is bested by the farmers they attacked.
The farmers tied the raiders up and left them indoors overnight – for what reason, I couldn’t say. Maybe they had intentions to have them dealt with by the local law. Whatever the case, the vikings slipped their bindings and began their escape.
The leader of the party obtained a chest of valuables from the farmer’s home and the vikings began walking back to their boat, only to stop in reflection. They were stealing, being simultaneously dishonorable, cowardly, and untruthful.
The vikings did not earn these valuables – they were obtained through larceny. They felt the moral obligation to either earn or return these goods.
So they issued a challenge to the farmers…by lighting their house on fire.
When the farmers fled the house, they fought and killed them. They had, in their own code of morality, now done nothing wrong. They earned their treasure in combat, they bled for it, and it was now their own.
I tell you this story so you see that the code of morality you are choosing as your framework must NOT ONLY resonate with you, but the cultural meaning of the words used to describe it must be put in the proper context.
Whereas a Pagan sees the word Honor and (should) equate it to drengskapr, a Christian might equate it to Chivalry. Ignoring context is another reason that people are less likely to make their own morals and more likely to adopt preexisting codes if they are of average or lesser intelligence.
Now, am I advocating you do something similar to the vikings in the story above?
What I am advocating is using a code of morality that already exists, put in the proper context, as the framework for your own code of morality.
How to Frame Your Own Code of Morality
Take your framework, in this example The Nine Noble Virtues, and begin to modify it. The framework will NOT completely describe how you actually think, so you have to modify it.
What you are doing is taking the original context and content of your framework and applying it. You are shifting the contextual focus from your framework’s to your own life…without changing the content. The closer the framework’s context matches your own, the easier this is.
I will be giving my example, and your outlook and beliefs SHOULD be different than mine. Even if they are similar, they should not be the same. If they are, then either you and I have led very similar lives…or one of us isn’t thinking.
You have to outline what the words actually mean TO YOU.
Feel free to do this in whatever medium is most comfortable to you – be that a word processor, your own blog, verbally with a recorder, or even with pen and paper. The important part is that you take words that symbolize ideas and then identify what they mean TO YOU.
Remember, I am using the Nine Noble Virtues but you don’t have to. You can use whatever words from whatever culture and representing whatever values you prefer – the more closely it resonates with you, the better.
The Nine Noble Virtues and someone else’s definitions of them will be in Italics, while my words will be in bold.
#1 – Courage
“I face my fear and defend my family and kindred from all dangers.”
I will die one day. The people I love are the most valuable part of the life I have remaining.
I will do everything I can to guarantee their safety and increase their happiness while I am alive. I will do everything I can to help them live a better life when I am dead.
These things I will do, no matter how much I fear them, because I would rather defeat momentary fear than suffer eternal regret.
#2 – Discipline
“I do what is necessary and right of my own accord, without bribe or threat.”
I value Living Free above all else. What must be done will be done, and is not negotiable.
I value Living Free, so I seek to make enough money by my own efforts. No man can bribe me when I need for nothing.
I value Living Free, so I arm myself with steel and skill. No man may force my hand when his threats are only idle talk.
What must be done will be done, and is not negotiable.
#3 – Fidelity
“I am true to family, friends, kindred, and those to who I pledge my service.”
I would give anything, even my life, for those who are honored blood or honored-as-blood.
To anyone else, I owe nothing at all. I owe even less to dishonored blood.
#4 – Honor
“I stand by my oaths and honor my ancestors by keeping my name pure among the kindred”
My word is my bond to honored blood or honored-as-blood. I honor my ancestors in word and deed.
To anyone else, I owe nothing at all. I do not care what weight my name carries with them.
#5 – Hospitality
“I share hearth, food, and drink with my friends, my kindred, and the weary traveler at my door.”
I keep me and mine fed, clothed, warm, safe, and financed. If I have accomplished all of these, I may feed or clothe or warm outsiders in need.
Even if I do, though, it is not out of obligation.
Hospitality to honored-blood and honored-as-blood is a demonstration of love and community. Hospitality to strangers is a show of wealth, and by extension, strength.
The lazy and weak cannot care for themselves, much less an outsider. Only the strong are capable of being truly hospitable.
#6 – Industriousness
“I take joy in labor and hold nothing back from the work I pledge to do.”
I value Living Free above all else. This means that the work I do, I choose to do. I am then doing nothing difficult – I am doing the easiest thing in the world. Doing exactly what I want to do.
It is easy to do exactly what you want to do. Easy to throw yourself to it, give yourself to it, and become it.
In this way, I grow stronger. In this way, I honor my chosen family, my ancestors, and myself.
#7 – Perseverance
“I press on against all odds until my goal is met, the task is finished, and I have done all I have said I will do.”
The only failure is surrender. If I do not quickly accomplish my goal, complete my task, or fulfill my promise, this does not mean I have failed.
The only way I abandon my goal, ignore my task, or break my oath is by surrender or death. So long as I live, if I never surrender, I will never fail.
For this reason, I divorce myself from the very idea of surrender.
#8 – Self Reliance
“I learn skills and grow strong so that I may earn my way in the worlds and be no burden to others.”
I value Living Free above all else. Freedom is not true if it is dependent upon external forces.
I value Living Free, so I seek to make enough money by my own efforts. This guarantees that me and mine are fed, clothed, and solvent without any external intervention.
I value Living Free, so I arm myself with steel and skill. This guarantees that me and mine are fed, warm, and safe without any external intervention.
Being a detriment to my honored-blood and honored-as-blood is a result of surrender. I will never surrender and embrace the dishonor of a soft life of sloth, weakness, and dependency.
#9 – Truth
“I seek the truth even when it may be a hard truth, I speak true words or stand in silence. I defend the truth from those who do not honor it.”
I seek the truth even when it is a hard truth. I speak true words or let silence speak for itself.
Untruth is the greatest of failures, the greatest surrender, the greatest dishonor, and the greatest of weakness.
An untruthful man can not live a free life.
He lives in a prison of his own making, his fetters forged in his deceit. He will rot in his prison, live the soft life of a coward, and die the soft death of a coward.
I will never allow myself to be like him.
I’ve said several times through this writing that what you use as a framework doesn’t matter as long as you use one. As you may be able to tell from reading the section above, that is because what you personally believe is of no consequence to me.
It simply matters that YOU know what YOU believe. If you don’t, your life will be a miserable one. A life of commitment to concepts that you don’t care about is a life of surrendering what you do care about.
I cannot repeat this enough – it is critically important that YOU know what YOU believe. You should be able to say it clearly, loudly, with complete confidence and pride.
You should say it with no regard for those who may disagree with you who are not honored-blood or honored-as-blood. They are no one of consequence to you. They are outsiders.
When they object to your ideals, you should laugh. You know your own code of morality, your standards for yourself, as well as you know your own name.
Saying they disagree is fine, that is their right. But saying their disagreement is reason for you to change is as ridiculous as saying your name shouldn’t be George, it should be Robert.
An outsider’s feelings about your code are irrelevant.
Do not let their moaning move you. You know what you stand for.
If you waver, even slightly, then you are defeated. You become your own judge, jury, and jailer.
You become your own prisoner.
If that’s what you choose, well, that’s a shame. As for me, I’ll be following my own advice…