This was originally published in Issue #2 of my weekly email newsletter. Subscribe here.
I am a big fan of the TV series Vikings on the History Channel. It’s basically about how the Vikings raided and plundered the UK and the rest of Europe in the 9th century.
Something occurred to me while watching the scenes of the first Vikings invading Northern England. There must have been an intense feeling of awe and wonder as they explored the culture, dress, weapons, religions, and architecture of this new world. Great stories were told about far away lands during the Middle Ages but you were never really sure of their truth until you experienced it first hand.
That level of awe is probably lost on modern man. No matter where we go or what we do, someone has been there, explored it, written books, taken photos, and written reviews. You will consume lots of that information before you ever go there. You’ve probably seen a lot of it even if you never intend to go there. You have a sense for what most of modern Earth looks like and acts like. You even know it’s spherical.
Several years ago I went to the Grand Canyon with my family. While the sense of scale is lost in pictures, I remember standing at the edge disappointed at the level of “awe” I was feeling. It was certainly an inspiring sight but I didn’t have the sense of wonder I expected. Perhaps my expectations were the problem but I think technology and the internet are numbing our ability to be awestruck.
As I watched Ragnar Lothbrok standing on the beaches of Northumbria with his ragged band of Viking warriors I imagined how he might have felt if he showed up and there were thousands of other foreigners with selfie sticks and funny clothes already there cluttering up the landscape. He probably would have just killed them with his battle ax. He wouldn’t have known any better. He didn’t get the newsletter.