Wednesday 15 May 2019

The Mighty Thor: Mjolnir. Weorth. Weorthscip.

As we all probably know by know, I am a geek, and I am also child of the eighties. Raised in the period of Mrs Thatcher, perms, shoulder pads, and the best Saturday morning cartoons ever. But we’ll get back to them later. The cartoons, not Mrs Thatcher. Or perms.

So it will be no surprise that the other weekend I watched Avengers: End Game, the culmination of eleven years of superhero movies. A three-hour bladder straining marathon if ever there was one. It was also quite thought-provoking that the twenty-somethings at the cinema had probably grown up with the movies, which also really made me feel very nearly but not quite forty.(there’s two years to go).

The films tell the story of a group of superheroes called the Avengers – no, not the ones with Mrs Peel and John Steed – rather Captain America, Iron Man, Thor, Hawk Eye. Creations of the late Stan Lee at Marvel Comics in the 1960s. Born Stanley Martin Leiber in 1922, he was from a Jewish immigrant family. Born in Manhattan, and originally trained as a dress-maker, after WW2 he became a comic book writer and publisher and working at Marvel Comics created some of the best-known comic book heroes such as Spiderman, Iron Man, the incredible Hulk, Thor. When, late in life, he was asked if he believed in God he said ‘I’m not going to try to be clever. I really don’t know. I just don’t know.’ Whilst his faith in God may have been agnostic, his faith in humanity and humanity’s potential for greatness, for bettering itself was profound. In 1968, at the height of the civil rights movement he wrote:

Let’s lay it right on the line. Bigotry and racism are amongst the deadliest social ills plaguing the world today. But, unlike a team of costumed super-villains, they can’t be halted with a punch in the snoot, or a zap from a ray gun. The only way to destroy them is to expose them – reveal them for the insidious evils that they are. The guy who is an unreasoning hater – one who hates blindly, fanatically, indiscriminately. If his hang-up is black people, then he hates ALL black people. If a redhead once offended him, he hates ALL redheads. If a foreigner beat him to a job, he’s down on ALL foreigners. He hates people he’s never seen – people he’s never known – with equal intensity – with equal venom. Now, we’re not saying it’s unreasonable for one human being to bug another. But although anyone has the right to dislike another individual, it’s totally irrational, patently insane to condemn an entire race – to vilify an entire nation – to vilify an entire religion.

Sooner or later, if man is ever to be worthy of his destiny, we must fill our hearts with tolerance. With love. For then, only then, will we be truly worthy of the concept that mankind was created in the image of God – a God who calls us ALL - His children.

And it’s this idea of worth that was writ large in Avengers: End Game. The Mighty Thor, come down from Asgard, is a member of the Avengers, here to defend Midgard. Thor, the son of Odin the All-father, God of thunder, lighting and storms. The God of strength and protection; the God of Oak trees and fertility. He also has the power to heal – his chariot is pulled by two goats called Tann grisnir and Tanngjostr and once, when he got hungry, Thor killed and ate them, but thanks to the power of Mjölnir resurrected him and continued on his way.

He’s not just a member of the Norse Pantheon, but of the German one too – he’s referred to by the Roman author Tacitus.

He’s the reason why Thursday is called Thursday. Thors Day.

Sadly, the ancient Norse and German pantheon has been corrupted by white supremacists. It started well before Mr Himmler got his hands on it, and there is a very real spiritual battle going on between those who follow the genuine old Norse religion and those racists who have adopted it for their own ends.

Thor gains his power from his mighty hammer Mjölnir. Rather like the Sword Excalibur in the legend of King Arthur, or from my own childhood, He Man’s Sword of Power or Lion-O’s Sword of Omens. They can only be handled by the one true king, or handed down through generations and/or from divine beings.

Inscribed on the side of the hammer Mjölnir is the legend

Whosoever holds this hammer, if he be worthy, shall possess the power of Thor.

Whosoever holds this hammer.

The word ‘worth’ comes from the old English word ‘weorth’ and it’s also the route of the modern English word ‘worship’. In Old English and Saxon weorth is to do with being appreciated, to be well or highly thought of; honourable; noble; to be valued. Whilst weorthscip refers to a condition of being worthy, dignity, glory, distinction, honour. Or being the best. It was only in the C13th that worship came to be given it’s modern meaning.

In the Movies Thor is played by the jaw-droppingly good-looking Chris Hemsworth: all flowing blonde locks and able to bench press 300 pounds. That’s 136 kilos. It’s nice to have God you can fancy. (perhaps fancy is too mild a word. Ahem).

In Endgame, however, Thor is defeated. He’s depressed. He’s let himself go and has turned into a drunken slob. Never stirs from his rubbish-strewn house. No longer a six-pack, more several kegs of lager. The film had been criticised in some circles for body-shaming, because of the banter between Thor and his friends in the Avengers who tell him to get his act together, to put a shirt on, put down the beer tins and cream cheese and do something with his life. As someone who has struggled most of their adult life with body image and weight, I didn’t find it body-shaming at all. In fact it’s the opposite. It’s empowering.

Because Thor, even though he no longer possesses a God-like body – the God-like body sold to us by Hollywood and the Media as the only thing for men and women to make us happy, successful and give us value – picks up Mjölnir.

Thor is still worthy.

Thor still has the power.

You don’t have to be a six-foot plus blonde Adonis to wield Mjölnir.

You don’t have to be a Chris-Hemsworth-alike to be Worthy.

You just have to be you.

I’m not saying it’s wrong to want to look like Chris Hemsworth or to aspire to such a level of fitness. I’m not saying you shouldn’t work out. But work out for the right reasons. In this Mental Health Awareness Week, sadly around 1.25 million people in the UK have or have had an eating disorder of some form, and that includes anorexia, bulimia as well as over-eating; the NHS suggests 6.4% of all adults have or have struggled with an eating disorder, with about 40% struggling with anorexia or bulimia as a result of trying to conform with societies’ and the media’s notions of being beautiful and being worthy. And, despite the public perception that eating disorders only affect teenage girls in fact 25% of those who suffer are males.

Exercise, being fit and healthy is good for you and proven to help with making you feel good and has many long-term health benefits. But you don’t want to be the person who, when it comes to write their eulogy or tombstone the most important thing someone can say is ‘they had amazing abs.’

Just as Thor in Endgame was worthy, so are we. We are Worthy for who and what we are right now.

And for many people – most of us in fact – I think that’s a struggle. To acknowledge that we are enough. We need to give ourselves permission to say ‘I am enough’ that ‘I have worth’. It can be easy to live in a bubble of self-doubt, self-pity, throwing ourselves into work and finding worth through ‘being productive’ or trying to like and love everyone but never doing the same for yourself.

This is what my Personal Trainer said the other day:

Breaking that bubble is scary. It’s a challenge. But it’s also a giving of permission. Permission to be happy. Loving and trusting yourself that it’s OK to do this. That it’s OK to be happy. That it’s OK to practice self-care. This will make you more you. Give yourself permission. Pause. Slow down. You can give yourself permission to do less; you don’t have to feel obligated to say yes to everyone and do things. That’s not what life is about. Go out there and do something that you want to do. Go out and try it. It doesn’t matter if it doesn’t work that’s OK. The important thing is you went for it. Did the work. Your worth isn’t based on success or lack of success. It’s based on you being you. You don’t have to be perfect. You just have to be the best you, and the most you, you can be.

We don’t need Thor’s magic hammer, or He-Man’s sword of power to be worthy.

We don’t need to look like Chris Hemsworth or any other A-list Hollywood celebrity to be worthy.

Because we are worthy as we are. And at times it can be hard to realise that, to remember that. So perhaps we do, at times need Mjölnir to remind us that we are worthy. Even Thor needs reminding that he’s worthy too – in one story when he’s lost Mjölnir and goes into a sulk, Odin asks him ‘Are you the God Thor or the God of Hammers?’

But it’s not from Mjölnir where Thor, or where we draw our strength or worth. It’s from within us. Because we weorthy. We are significant, of value, appreciated, highly thought-of.

And, to quote He-Man

The truth of love will always guide us.
The strength above will be inside us.
Forever more we'll be together.
Our hearts will soar with one another.
For the honour of love.
By the power above.
We Have The Power!

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