In ancient Norse mythology, there are nine worlds, one of which is Midgard, the earth we live on. The nine worlds are connected through Yggdrasil, the “world tree.” One of Yggdrasil’s roots extends to a well called Mímisbrunnr, or Mímir’s Well. It was said that the waters of Mímir’s Well contained wisdom; so much, in fact, that Odin, one of the most revered of all gods, traded one of his eyes for a drink from its waters.
I first read about Odin giving up his eye to drink from Mímir’s Well when I was in the 6th grade. It seemed a little extreme, especially for a kid who frequently felt like school was dumb. Trading your eye for learning? You need to relax, Odin.
I like these old stories because they work on multiple levels. For 11-year-old-me, it was just kind of an interesting tale, a little gruesome, and it made Odin seem pretty hardcore. Now, however, this story has taken on a very different meaning. To drink from the well of Mímir, a sacrifice had to be made. Wisdom, the kind that could change a life, a family, or an entire society, came at a cost.
As I’ve gotten older, I’ve come to see the validity of this lesson. We can wake up every morning relatively secure in what we know about ourselves, others, and the world we live in. We can apply our understanding to everything that we do, and in so doing, we can be reasonably happy, minimize problems, and have a sense of control in our world. There’s just one problem: the more we try to “fit” our experiences in with our current understanding, the more limited we become in finding solutions to problems that are inherently created by our current understanding. Regardless of the scale, from personal to societal issues, dynamics exist that perpetuate our problems and make finding sustainable solutions difficult.
The only way to resolve systemic concerns at any level is to disrupt the dynamics that sustain them. Doing so requires making some kind of sacrifice. For some of us, that sacrifice may come as we let go of our expectations for ourselves or others. Others might sacrifice their understanding of what makes something “good” or “bad,” “right” or “wrong.” The sacrifice is made when my brain tells me that I can’t trust what an LGBT person or person of color is saying about their experience, and then I “give up” those thoughts and beliefs in order to make room in my life for that person’s experience.
To drink from Mímir’s Well is to let go of the things that we currently know, in order to make room for new truth. We may find that some of these sacrifices are ultimately more costly than losing an eye.
In this blog, I’ll talk about some of the things I’ve come to learn about myself, others, and the world we live in. My posts will primarily focus on topics that come up often in my psychotherapy work. For a long time, I’ve wanted to document some of my thoughts, and this blog represents an effort to do that.
As you read this blog, I invite you to open yourself up to looking at things through a different lens; to make the sacrifices that make sense to you, to gain your own wisdom that could change some things in your life.
I don’t know if any of what I’ll post is objectively “right,” or “correct;” I hope everyone who reads will share their own wisdom and that I’ll be able to learn more as well through your comments and experiences. Enjoy!