Cormac Mac Cuileannain, the king and poet of Cashel (AD 836-908) left behind a most excellent account of his deeds and moral guideposts in a work quoted by Peter Berresford Ellis for his book "Celtic Myths and Legends". I give it here, for in it, I find a most sublime and perfect guide for any human life.
I was a listener in the woods,
I was a gazer at the stars,
I was not blind where secrets were concerned,
I was silent in a wilderness,
I was talkative among many,
I was mild in the mead-hall,
I was stern in battle,
I was gentle towards allies,
I was a physician of the sick,
I was weak towards the feeble,
I was strong towards the powerful,
I was not parsimonious lest I should be burdensome,
I was not arrogant though I was wise,
I was not given to vain promises though I was strong,
I was not unsafe though I was swift,
I did not deride the old though I was young,
I was not boastful though I was a good fighter,
I would not speak about any one in their absence,
I would not reproach, but I would praise,
I would not ask, but I would give."
Cormac begins his beautiful litany with a focus on the sacredness of the natural world- and the attention and respect he paid to it. He continues with an account of his "skillfulness" with respect to how he dealt with people- always matching others with equal force and treatment.
He ends with an account of how he always kept his word, but, more wisely, how he never over-extended his word in promises he knew he'd never keep. He never became overly boastful- always keeping his focus on respect. This sort of balance is a rare thing in our days; we can all learn from it. It is a gem of the wisdom of the past, living deep into the Christian era.
It's clear that the Ancestors had no trouble with boasting- warriors were expected to, as a show of their excellence- but the key to their boasting was in how well they could support their boasting and defend it against all contrary voices. They took fair credit for their deeds. "Boast" today has a negative connotation; the reason why largely lies in how far Christianity (in line with ancient Hebrew thinking on the matter) devalued and downplayed the ability of humans to create things of value and to excel- it is hard, indeed, to applaud humans who must consistently "fall short" of the glory of "God".
But humans are channels of the divine, like all other living beings, and all other things besides. Many things come into being through the wondrous interactions of our living system, and that is how sacredness and even "perfection" comes to be, in the range of our senses. It is all here, before us, dancing in the sunset, and in the poetry inside us. If we "fall short" of anything, it is only because we have been told that we must, and held to impossible standards born in human fantasies about what "sacredness" really is. I know what it is, like my ancestors did- and it is well within our range, because we are part of it.
The Face of Justice
5 months ago