The Havamal is weird piece. It goes easier if you just imagine that the speaker is Odin doing his best Mark Twain impersonation. Though why Odin would be impersonating Mark Twain a thousand years before Mark Twain existed, who can say? The gods have weird senses of humor.
Anyway, the Havamal is full of wisdom and bits of advice. Some of it is familiar. This may be one of the earliest instances of “Better to stay silent and be thought a fool that to open your mouth and remove all doubt.” for instance. But the general gist seems to be “be as wise as you can be.”
At least until:
Wise in measure should each man be;
but let him not wax too wise;
seldom a heart will sing with joy
if the owner be all too wise.
This is a verse that hits me right in the heart all the time. I really have put a lot of faith in the notion that knowing what’s going on helps, that figuring shit out is better than not knowing, that knowledge is better than ignorance. And it has been a very hard lesson for me that, often, knowledge doesn’t make a lick of difference. Often, all wisdom does is make it hard to ignore how truly stupid things are.
Thus is the case with my family.
My aunt and uncle are good people, in their own way. But they lie to their kids–to everyone, really–constantly. So, my uncle is going in for a heart procedure tomorrow. And he’s scared shitless. Not that he would say that. In fact, he says the opposite. So, it seems both his kids are out of town tomorrow.
And I can tell that this hurts him–that he’s having this major procedure and that his kids aren’t going to be there for it. But I also know that he has utterly downplayed to them how serious it is and told them that it’s so minor that it would be ridiculous for them to be around for it.
But how weird would it be for my cousins to try to live, and rightly so, as if everything my uncle tells them that matters is a lie? I can’t imagine what a mindfuck that would be. How can you genuinely love someone you can’t trust? How can my uncle not see that them taking him at face value is because they love him? And yet, how also can’t understand why a boy, now a man, in that family would put an almost impenetrable set of booby-traps around him so that no one can touch the true him? And yet, I know in talking to my cousins that they don’t know how their father was raised, so they can’t understand why he would lie to them about important things like his health.
I see it all, you guys. All laid out so clearly before me when I’m with them.
It doesn’t help. It doesn’t allow me to say the things that will fix this. It doesn’t let me avoid being caught up in it. I can’t help but want to know. But knowing makes no difference, except, somehow to make it worse.