“(Wealth) is a consolation to everyone,
although every man shall distribute much
if he will, before the Lord renown be
dealt in his lot” — Old English Rune Poem.
A few years ago, I made a translation of The Old English Rune Poem. Above is the first stanza. My translation is probably slightly different to others. But, here, I’m not concerned with technicalities of language, but what we might learn from the poem.
“Wealth” — whatever we might define that as — “is a consolation.” And I would suggest, that it is a “consolation” for the fact that we are mortal and will no longer experience life as we do now. “Wealth” represents the comforts of life.
What, then, does it mean to “distribute much”? On a basic level, we can assume that the poem means that if someone is wealthy they should give their fair share to look after our community. But there is a, perhaps, a deeper lesson — or a reminder — for us here. Just as there are different types of “wealth,” so there are different ways of giving. We can be generous with our money, with our time, or with our information, with our ideas and beliefs, etc. And, of course, we can be miserly with these as well.
A lot of entrepreneurs say that it’s important to give a percentage of your income to charity. But they also claim that by giving some money away the universe will reward you and you will actually receive more money in compensation for that which you gave away. There seems to be something similar in the idea in the stanza, i.e., of winning (being “dealt in [our] lot”) renown from “the Lord.” Why should we get more from the universe when we give something of ourselves?
Generosity is connected to courage. To be generous is to practice courage.
If you worry that you will need every last cent, you won’t give the homeless a dollar.
If you fear someone will steal your ideas, you won’t discuss them — and, clinging to them, rather than thinking them through, you won’t get many new ones. Instead, you’ll get stuck.
Of course, you have to have quality time for yourself, to train, to meditate, to read, and to work on your own projects, etc., but if your routine is set by others (when to work, when your favorite bar opens and closes, and when your favorite TV show is on — that you have to be home for), you won’t be generous with your time.
If you don’t work on your own thing, you probably won’t help anyone else with theirs.
A quick Google search turns up this definition of “consolation”: “a person or thing providing comfort to a person who has suffered.” “Consolation” comes from “suffering.”
In theory, the man who conserves his energy — perhaps relaxing and watching TV every night — should be the strongest. But, in reality, the man who rests all day grows weak; the one who exhausts himself — who “suffers” — in training grows stronger.
Strength, we might say, is the “consolation” of suffering in training; intelligence the “consolation” of the suffering of reading and thinking deeply and differently to others; and so on.
When we choose to “suffer” — “suffering for our art,” straining the muscles or stretching the ligaments in training — it does not feel like suffering at all. It is a kind of joy. As such, the strong give what they have and, as a result, grow stronger, more courageous, and gain deeper insights.