Have you ever asked yourself who you really are? I think you have. We all have, I guess. It’s an existential question that tend to present itself from time to time. And even after having done some serious soul searching, most of us can’t really come up with a good answer.
I think I know why. The question in itself is wrong. Rather than asking ourselves who we are, we should ask where we come from. We are the result of our ancestors’ struggles and victories, their marriages and their love affairs. It is their genes we carry in our blood, and when we are born, that is all we are.
Don’t get me wrong here. I am a big believer in being master of one’s own destiny. I do not believe genes need to be a huge factor in our lives at all. It is not the biggest talents who become the greatest sportsmen and -women, but rather the ones with an iron will and a merciless self discipline. It is not the most intelligent individuals who become our greatest scientists, but the ones with that insatiable appetite for knowledge. I see our genes as something to build on, our genes are what we are if there is nothing else.
That’s right, our genes are what we are if there is nothing else. I repeat that because I think this is immensely important. So important, it can even save lives.
Let me explain. If you know where you come from, you are never nothing. When I worked as a therapist, depressed people complained about what I would call the nothingness. But if there is nothing in your life, if you have no friends and feel like you have no future, you are still more than nothing. You are your ancestors’ blood and bones. In a sense, you are never completely alone. And that, my friend, is quite amazing if you ask me.
I like to walk up in the forest behind my house. There is a grave mound there. The stones have been scattered around and most of them were probably used to build fences many centuries ago. But still I feel the connection to those who were here before me. I know some details about my Norse ancestry, and I know about my grand-grand-granddad who were sent as a convict to Australia to work for 14 years on Van Diemen’s Land. I know about the artists, the rebels and the baker who each morning carried two huge sacks of flour up that steep hill near the house where I grew up. I know about Skjalm the White and how he gathered an army to avenge the death of his brother.
But there are many, many destinies I have not yet learnt about. Still, knowing that I come from this land we now call Norway, and that many of my forefathers and -mothers lived their lives here, gives me a feeling of self-assurance. I know that I am never alone, and knowing that has helped me through some hardships. I urge you to seek this knowledge and when you find it, be proud. Your ancestors’ were not perfect, but they got through their lives somehow. If they hadn’t, you wouldn’t have been here today. And just think about the fact that all those lives resulted in you. It makes you feel strong thinking about it, doesn’t it? It’s because you are.
-Bjørn Andreas Bull-Hansen
Read more: The Loneliness of the Einherjar