Wednesday, April 15, 2009

The Flight of the Valkyrie

In ancient Scandinavian mythology, Valkyries were warrior maidens who would transport the souls of those who fell in battle to Valhalla (the hall of warriors in heaven).
Now as they swept across the night sky, one could see the trail of glowing light across the horizon. The phenomenon in scientific literature is called 'Aurora Borealis' or the northern lights.
Its one of the most amazing spectacles that one could see in the star lit northern hemisphere.
The thing that once made the spectacle more magical was the fact that people would watch in earnest hoping to catch a glimpse of the Valkyries as they swept across the skies.

But in due course of time, as a consequence of scientific awareness it was alleged that the northern lights are caused by the bombardment of electrons and protons on the earth's atmosphere which gives rise to the nightly glow. Rubbishing the fact that that on no account is there such a thing like heavenly maidens leaving behind a magical afterglow.
That's one way of taking away magic from our lives.
And from that moment on, the Valkyries were lost from human memory. Never to ride amongst our dreams and our thoughts.
While there is nothing wrong in knowing the truth behind phenomena in nature, it isn't a crime if one ascribes it a bit of a more magical background.

Humans for centuries have dwelt in the land of make believe. Right from carving out giant Sphinxes in Egypt to the Dragon adoring masses in China.
While at the same time, the scientific community has always thought such practices as childish and ridiculous.
But I know, for a fact that deep within almost every human is a yearning for being amongst something magical and something out of the ordinary.

The thing about fantasizing, is that it takes you away from the sort of mundane world you dwell in, into a land of unlimited possibilities, a land of hope and a land of dreams.
Life as a crude realist on the other hand demarcates everything in and around into facts and formulations, which have a very limited scope.
If one remembers old Hindi movies, a common scene would involve the hero beating up nearly a dozen thugs twice his size. The audience would cheer in all earnest for the hero without doubting for a moment whether such a thing in real life is possible.
Today on the other hand, if we were to see something similar in cinema, the first thing we would do is remark, "what rubbish, there's no way he can do that".
Frankly, down the line, we have of late grown less tolerant to things out of the ordinary and look forward more to things with realistic proportions.
The thing about being a realist is that you end up planning and creating firm borders so as to what you can and cannot do.
And when realism grows out of hand, it can end up curtailing your dreams as well.
You lose the will to think beyond boundaries and restrict yourself in a cell of limited possibilities.

Fantasies do not exist to make a human ignorant or create false allusions.
Fantasies and dreams exist to egg on the human race to look forward to better things in life.
They are not meant to dissuade you from your goals in life, but in turn exist to give you hope, that nothing out there is impossible. The idea is to stick to your real world while at the same time having a small corner of your mind dedicated to your fantasies and your dreams.
And frankly, "real" life is nothing short of a fantasy. You have paupers who turned into millionaires and the physically challenged who scaled great heights in spite of their shortcomings. Something a realist would have deemed impossible.

People were taught to behave well, because the big guy upstairs would reward them if they did so.
Soldiers were encouraged to fight hard so that their souls would find rest in the hall of warriors.
Its all about looking forward to incentives.
If one told a soldier that when he falls in battle, all he would do is rot in the ground for good (a realist's perspective), its easy to imagine the sort of morale he would have then.

If everyone had a realist's point of view, then there is precious little to look forward to. There's no heaven, no hell, no rewards for good conduct and no punishments for bad conduct either. Just a bleak realistic landscape, where you are nothing but an intelligent carbon copy who merely exists to survive and procreate till the end of your time.
And frankly I do not see the point of living that way.
I do not wish to abhor realism as a whole, for I know that we cannot spend all our lives amidst pixies and elves in the woods.
But at the same time I do not wish to sweep away the small iota of magic which exists in my life.
Just like the Valkyries of the northern sky.
For they exist somewhere in a remote corner of our minds.
Irrespective of what the realists say, there is no harm in looking forward to their flight in the northern sky.
Its all about the wee bit of magic in our lives.


rads said...

Hmm I wud say a dreamy post. Its like I've been to the fantasy world for the few minutes and come back. I'm a dreamer too. Love fantasizing about things around me. Very well written.

Sandhya Ramachandran said...

Beautiful! Beautiful! Beautiful!!!

Oh Vyas.. that was so dramatic.. the end! And yes! I completely agree with you in this, oh fellow kindred spirit!

Have you by any chance read the Anne books by L.M.Montgomery? If not, however 'girly' as that sounds, I urge you earnestly to read them.

And oh.. isn't there magic in Victorian writing too? :D


Sandhya Ramachandran said...

And I genuinely believe I'd see the Valkyries if I ever get to witness the Aurora Borealis. For, the heart that believes, sees...

And there ARE pots of gold at the end of rainbows, whatever those elders might say against it!!! HMPH!

Vyazz said...

@Rads: Thnx...glad you liked it. Much obliged!! Always a pleasure to meet a fellow dreamer!!

Vyazz said...

@Sandhya: Mon always I am overwhelmed by your appreciation. What can I say? My cup runneth over.
Like I said, always a pleasure to write for such an appreciative audience!!!
I will certainly look into the books by L.M.Montgomery, once I return to India. Its a tad difficult to get certain English books here.
Once again..thnx..much obliged!!!

Sandhya Ramachandran said...

Oh! Please skip the formalities! :D You've thanked me enough.

And in case you don't mind the e-reading, well, the books are available online. In Project Gutenberg,etc.

Oh and talking about Russia, I love this book called 'Book about artists' by Konstantin Paustovsky. One of the two Russian 'books' I've read. But it fascinated me so! I have no idea why I'm warbling so irrelevantly. But then, I always do! :P

Vyazz said...

@Sandhya:..well frankly speaking I have not read the works of Konstantin Pautovsky, but will look into it here. Perhaps they might have an English version.
The only other Russian authors I am a tad familiar with are Maxim Gorky author of, "The Mother", and Leo Tolstoy's "Anna Kareinina."
And will look into the e site as well... :)

Namita Chandra said...

Valkyrie is also an english movie starring Tom Cruise about a plot in Germany to overthrow Hitler. Good movie. Now I know the origin of the word. Your post is a post for people who live in their own world -- dreamers. Quite russian. By the way we share the same profession

Anonymous said...

This was such a beautiful post. So enlightening. Had never heard about the Valkyries!

But I couldn't hep but remember two things while reading your post.
a. the movie, A Bridge To Terabithia
and b. the character JD played by Zach Braff in the ABC series Scrubs.


Anonymous said...

It was a beautiful post. Seriously, if we can omit the fact that Valkyries exist by believing in science, we can also stop believing that there is someone on the seven fold sky with his angels taking note of all our good deeds and bad deeds done by us.
By the way...have you heard about Eos? She is some goddess who brings light in the northern sky too. And this amazing spectacle is seen every day when she brings forth the daylight, :-D

Vyazz said...

@Namita: Thnx for visiting.I have seen the movie Valkyrie starring Tom cruise, and yes. I do suppose the movie attributes its name to the Nordic Valkyries. Nice to meet a fellow medical blogger!!

Vyazz said...

@Choco: Thnx....even the days of the week are named after the ancient Scandinavian gods. Tuesday from Tyr the god of war, Wednesday from Woden/Odin the ruler of the gods, Thursday from Thor a warrior god and Friday from Freya, the goddess of beauty. Even Scandinavia gets its name from the goddess Skadi the goddess of winter.
I have seen the movie, Bridge to Terabithia, and am well acquainted with J.D from the way they wander in and out of their dreams!!!

Vyazz said...

@Ramya: Totally agree with you!!...and yeah...I heard about Eos the goddess of dawn. Nice to know someone who is also into Greek mythology!!

Shadowthorne said...

People do not worship Dragons in China. It is a mythic animal yes, but mostly a symbol of power and the Emperor.

I adore fantasy; from the literatures of the Greek to the sagas of the Vikings. To me (and maybe many others) fantasy is a gateway from the hurly burly of the real world. I daydream a lot, even at work - killing pirates or saving damsels in distress from ravening monsters - in my head. It is great fun.

You should play the PS3 game; the Valkyria Chronicles - a most entertaining strategy game.

p.s. - haven't watched 'Valkyrie'. I hate Tom Cruise :)

Vyazz said...

@Shadowthrone: I assumed that dragons are symbolically worshipped by the Chinese masses. Nevertheless, have looked into the error and corrected it!!
Nice to know that someone loves daydreaming as much as I do!!....
The movie has precious little to do with the Valkyries of myth actually.
Not a Tom Cruise fan either, but am a ardent history buff!
Will look into the PS3 game...

sammythewizzy said...

On a slightly different note, I was reading the book "Recapture the Wonder" by Ravi Zacharias recently.. It talked about the same thing.. About how as we grow older and get bruised and battered by life, we start losing the wonder of things around us and make our lives miserable.. Most of us lose the wonder and excitement that we have as kids.. Its a good book... would suggest it for everyone.

Great post, as always... :D

Pushkar said...

Wow love your fantasy world. Though my knowledge about fantasy world is woefully inadequate, I cherish every piece of information about the mythical world.

Kudos to you for writing such a wonderful article.

Vyazz said...

@Sammy: you said, we all end up becoming hard core realists by the end of our time. Its always nice to retain a little bit of magic so as to give you hope and solace when the going gets tough!!! Will look for the book by Ravi Zacharias!! Thnx

Vyazz said...

@Pushkar, thnx for visiting.....always glad to have a receptive audience.

Aquarius said...

lovely post...thoroughly agree with you. A little bit of magic and fantasy never harmed anyone. Also, you gave such really good information in your post.

Vyazz said...

@Aquarius: Thnx for visiting....always happy to oblige!!!