Valhalla and YOLO

The epic TV series Vikings tells of the ancient Norsemen and their raids on Britain, from the 8th century. The Vikings raided for food, land and wealth at times when their own lands were growing overpopulated.

Fearless in battle, they were motivated to seek honour in death. Regularly, the chieftain roused his warriors by recounting that all who perish in battle, ride with the Valkyries to Valhalla, the hall of Odin.

To the Vikings, victory was sweet but death in battle was sweeter still. Eternal glory awaited.  Consequently, the Vikings were formidable warriors, raiding east into Russia, south-east to the Caspian Sea and Black Sea, west as far as Greenland and Newfoundland, and south as far as North Africa and the Mediterranean.

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Today the dominant narrative is that beyond death, nothing awaits. The epithet YOLO or  ‘you only live once’,  means to live without fear.  A modern iteration of “carpe diem” YOLO is the catch cry of youths living large – whether by risky behaviour, fun loving silliness or challenging norms.

The two narratives have vastly different emphases of what lies beyond space and time, yet come to similar conclusions of how to live now. Both advocate courage in the here-and-now, to live boldly in the face of death.

What narrative do we live by? How do we face the inevitability of death and make our life count?