As It Happens

I got an email asking me to clarify a little bit what I mean when I talk about luck and fortune and such in a theological sense and since I thought maybe others might be curious, I thought I’d expand on it here.

I think, first, though, we need to talk about the broader law(s) that govern the universe–wyrd and orlog. Wyrd means something like “fate” or “how things turn out” or “what comes to pass.” Orlog means something like “the primary law.” Orlog is what is and weird might best be viewed as the sizzling edge of what is–weird is what’s happening.

You affect and are affected by what is and what’s happening and the force by which you affect and are affected by what’s happening might best be called “Luck” or “Fortune.” So, someone may have good luck; they’re just lucky; for whatever reason they are affected by what is and what’s happening in good ways. Or they may propagate good luck through being in right relation with others.

(You may have noticed that “hap” there in “happening” and recognize it from words like “happenstance” and “happy” or “mishap” and “hapless.” If you look into its meaning, you see this sense of what’s going on being a matter of luck–“Chance or fortune (good or bad) that falls to any one; luck, lot.” In other words, when we use words that contain “hap,” we’re using words that still carry along with them this notion of luck. For instance, I’m happy because my Luck is good.)

I think you can get the sense, too, that all of these words are kind of ways of talking about different forms of the same thing. We might think of it like layers of dirt, put down over millenia, with orlog being the bottom-most layers of luck, set down by our ancestors and hardened into a rock-strong firm foundation. Wyrd might be the looser, newer layers that will, over time, firm up into orlog, but now are still (especially the youngest layers) malliable. And our Luck or Fortune, is the dirt we’re throwing down and mixing with others that makes up the wyrd and eventually the orlog.

So, how do you acquire this this?

I think we see it working on a personal scale the way we see it working on a community-level scale. We know that the Norns mark down the fate of each person:

Thence wise maidens three betake them —
Urth one is hight, the other, Verthandi,
Skuld the third: they scores did cut,
They laws did make, they lives did choose:
For the children of men they marked their fates.

And, for reference, let’s look at it in the original (no, I don’t speak Old Icelandic either, but now we know what we’re looking for, right?)

Þaðan koma meyjar margs vitandi
þrjár úr þeim sæ, er und þolli stendur;
Urð hétu eina, aðra Verðandi,
skáru á skíði, Skuld ina þriðju.
Þær lög lögðu, þær líf kuru
alda börnum, örlög seggja.

I have to tell you, even as much as I’m feeling like shit (thanks for nothing, Butcher), it’s stuff like this that gives me the most pleasant heebie jeebies.  Look at those last two lines.  It looks like they literally law-made some laws; they chose some lives; and there, in the last line, we see that they “seggja” them some orlog.

So, in order to make a distinction, we might say that “fate” is what it is.  It’s the stuff we inherited from our families and the circumstances under which we find ourselves –the shit that’s no one’s fault (or in the other direction, nothing anyone’s earned)–the stuff handed to us by the Norns.  You can’t change your fate (kind of).  Your luck, however, you can change, through your actions and the fostering of right relations with everybody and everything else.

This is one of the reasons that, when you’re reading old stuff (or, like Lord of the Rings, stuff written by people who read old stuff), they’re always going on about the lineage of a person or thing.  To be able to say, “That’s Sam, David’s son.  David, as you recall, was the son of John, who was the son of Tom… No, not that John Thompson, the John “the Bear” Thompson, who shot that grizzly back in 1946, when he came home from the war.  You remember that story…” and then they launch into that story and then another story telling you how the grizzly bear skin ended up in a chest over at Maggie Simpson’s house, which you must swear never to repeat around Maggie’s wife is very important because it tells you about the Fortune of the person–in this case “Sam”–and the Fortune of the bearskin, which gives you a kind of background landscape with which to understand why things happen to Sam the way that they do.

Can Sam change his fate?



Ha, there’s always a yes, but to these kinds of things, isn’t there?

Sam’s fate could change through outside action.  He might meet the greatest person in the world, fall in love, and find himself transformed by that.  Or, slowly over time, by hanging out with people with better luck than him, as their fates become entwined, he will find his luck improving.  But that kind of change happens very slowly.

Maybe the other kind of change happens slowly, too.  But that’s when you work at it.  You set out to improve your luck, either by your deeds or through right relationships with others.

The important thing is that we are all tied together.  We all share Luck to some extent.  I share the most with my family, then my friends, then my acquaintances, then my community, and on outwards.  And my Luck improves (or doesn’t) the Luck of the people around me.

Ha, well, that ate up my lunch hour.

Sympathy for the Butcher

The Butcher is so sick.  We spent the evening half-fighting about whether he should go to the emergency room.  Instead, he slept and puked and I sat there watching and being upset.

And yes, I know, when I inevitably get it, he will not return the favor.

But what can you do?  Fish gotta swim; birds gotta fly; I’ve gotta fret.