Odin

2 Jan

There is a price to be paid for wisdom as Odin the chief the Aesir – the Norse Gods of myth discovered, when he went in search of Mimir’s well beneath the world tree Ysgadril. Upon drinking deeply from the well of knowledge Odin plucked out his right eye and gave it to Mimir, the well’s keeper, for the gift of foresight.

The Vikings

I was born in 1958, the year in which “The Vikings” starring Kirk Douglas and Tony Curtiss was released. When I was little, my dad used to drive my mum nuts by shouting “ODIN!!!” at the top of his lungs whilst in the bath holding a scrubbing bush aloft in lieu of a sword. I’m guessing he identified with Einar the character played by Kirk Douglas, son of Ragnar (Ernest Borgnine) and not Erik (Einar’s half brother sired by Ragnar) played by Tony Curtiss – who, whilst very good looking was not as butch as Einar. I like to think of my dad as a Viking – he certainly had the strength in his day and is, with 5 children to his name our ‘All Father’. Si and Dad, Yosemite

Here he is in Yosemite with his youngest son Simon, the youngest of the son’s of Littlewood. He, like me is a carpenter and he plies his considerable skill in San Francisco.

Wisdom flows from insight, in my case the knowledge that I have a disorder which renders me ‘blind’ to people’s motives ( see Two Towers). Because I am emotionally more labile than most I am given to an empathic response to the emotional state of others, especially when they are in need. There is a word for this: Eideteker – from the word ‘eidetic’ (used in conjunction with memory to describe an ability to recall something in great detail) – which refers to a person who can ‘see through the eyes of another’. It was famously used by Hannibal Lecter to describe the skills of the homicide investigator Will Graham in the 2002 film ‘Red Dragon’. It is a curse.

Given that most people follow their own agenda, I will empathise by default and often offer (unbidden) assistance. Favours, money, well meant advice, a well tuned ear, intuition …. This behaviour can be taken as interference, or more commonly, generosity of spirit. People I know think it is a good thing that I am this way – they see it as a ‘generous nature’.

I find it bloody exhausting – because it is like having no skin.

As a secondary school teacher I was considered gifted, partly because I had been a professional scientist before teaching the subject (I had real experience of making new science). In the main I think it was because I had no ‘off switch’ to the needs of students. I was promoted to Head of Year within twelve months of qualifying, becoming responsible for the pastoral welfare of over 200 hormonal teenagers. I counselled many youngsters, some I helped, all made deep impressions on me, through their emotional and educational need.

I was advised by my Psychiatrist to give up teaching after I came out of hospital back in 2002, and by a very helpful careers adviser. So I don’t teach now, apart from the occasional carving or cabinet making tutorial in my studio to help pay the rent.

Making furniture for a living is a solitary exercise, and therapeutic for me. I like it when my fellow artists sometimes wander down my dusty corridor for a chat, giving me the chance to procrastinate. But sooner or later I crave the peace and quiet of the workshop. Chisels, planes, set squares and marking gauges make no emotional demands, wood sings a quiet song best heard in isolation.

The price I paid for my insight was to give up teaching. Having already given up academia I felt the loss intensely. The loss of an eye is a terrible thing, the loss of a career, twice, could be seen as carelessness (Lady Bracknell). But I am lighter now in spirit and closer to the old gods and so I shout in my studio, axe aloft to the All Father, the protector of warriors and wisdom:

“ODIN!!”

2 Responses to “Odin”

  1. Simon Littlewood November 15, 2016 at 7:02 pm #

    Tools don’t don’t “require” emotion, but when USED with emotion the end results are magic.
    Nice piece bro.

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