I’d like to relate to you, Dear Reader, an experience I had, as well as a lesson learned from it. This is the last week of the Dine Out Vancouver, an annual event that has restaurants provide a cheap set menu meal. Thus, being as I work in one of said restaurants, means it was busy. One day in particular was quite the ride. Dessert orders piling up, frustrated servers trying in vain to get their tables pushed up to the front of the line and running out of product faster than it was possible to replace it. On that night it was a sense of Duty and nothing else that kept me from walking out and never looking back. It was a humbling experience, to say the least. Despite that, there is a lesson to be found, namely that it doesn’t always matter how good you are at your job, things can still go to shit.
I have a long held theory that the Vikings practiced a form of Stoicism, and I try to slip in a quote from the Havamal or a reference to Norse mythology whenever I discuss Stoicism. Just for fun really. At any rate, there’s an interesting character that pops up in Norse mythology who also has parallels in other mythologies as well. That of the Trickster God. Loki, in this case. Way back when I took a college course in mythology. In this class we discussed several Norse myths, many of which seem to center around the companionship of Thor and Loki. My professor was at a loss to explain why Thor would tolerate Loki’s presence when the later was constantly trying to do harm to the former. Looking back I have developed a theory that I believe goes a lot farther in explaining it than, “Thor is kinda dumb” and also melds quite well with the philosophy of the Stoics.
Once again, humility is the key. Hypothetically, and keep in mind this is pure idle speculation, someone as powerful as a god of thunder and lightning would be prone to an extreme case of hubris. Therefore it seems to me that Thor has made a very stoic choice of keeping someone around to keep him humble. I believe Loki’s purpose is to remind Thor that he is not invincible, in many cases by trying to have hi killed. To grant him perspective that he needs and might otherwise be blind to.
In the end I think it does us some good to be torn down every once in a while. Sometimes hitting bottom allows us to see a better way to the top. Lying bloodied can grant greater determination to fight on. That’s a big part of why stoicism appeals to me. It gives you permission to fall down. But it also teaches you that staying down is not an option. Don’t get beaten, get better.