About fear and courage in times of trouble

Miran Černec. (Photo: Demokracija archive)

In the ancient Scandinavian poem Skírnismál we can find a verse: »There are always better choices than despondency if you have work to do in front of you.

One day long ago, my life was already shaped and my destiny was written down.« The verse is uttered by the hero of the poem Skírnir, when the capricious Nordic gods send him on a risky path that could cost him his life. Skírnir accepts the share assigned to him with stoic calm; he is aware that it has been decided from the beginning of time whether he will survive the journey or not – but at the same time he is reassured that neither he nor any of the other mortals know their fate. With free will, he can only do everything he can to turn things to his advantage.

The verse is by no means the only thing that reflects the unusual spiritual maturity of the ancient Nordics; it is, however, typical of their attitude to fear and to the confrontation with real and imagined dangers that inevitably loom over each one of us in this earthly existence. If anyone ever knew anything about coping with fear, it must have been the people who sailed the North Atlantic from the coasts of Norway all the way to Greenland and Vinland at least a millennium ago in their wooden shells; modern Slovenes could learn something from them – and in the year 2020 this would definitely not hurt us.

For it seems that the little gods who rule our daily lives want to arouse fears in us, not courage. Too often, unfortunately, they succeed. Just remember the sinister cassanders who prophesied back in March this year that the new coronavirus would kill at least a few tens of thousands of our compatriots by summer; or the poor souls wandering around Ljubljana in Friday processions because they are being chased in their heads by an imaginary dictator… So much fear all around us. But how many opportunities do we miss, how much anxiety do we sow, and how much bad fruit do we reap if we let it guide us despite the fact that we still live in one of the safest, healthiest, and most peaceful countries in the world? Come on, Slovenes. We are worth bigger things. Don’t be afraid.