Friday, December 19, 2014

The Brilliance of Tolkien

Every year since the movies came out, I revisit Tolkien's world in Peter Jackson's Lord of the Rings trilogy. I have the extended versions of each movie, which has scenes not viewed by the majority in the theatrical release.

This go-round, I was struck by the scene in Return of the King where Sméagol becomes Gollum. You can see a short clip of it here.

As the Ring takes Gollum, the former Hobbit-like being says, "We forgot the taste of bread, the sound of trees, the softness of the wind. We even forgot our own name."

He is so busy worshipping his new god, The One Ring, that he loses sight of every thing else. In the beginning, he weeps to be so alone, but eventually, he is more comfortable alone.

And so I began to wonder, are we all now Gollums, trapped here in our capitalistic society, where we worship not a single empowered ring but instead are so busy chasing after the worshipped manna (money) that we, too, have "forgot our own name."

You are saying, "Of course I know my name," aren't you? But it is not your given name that I speak of. I am speaking of your sacred name, your secret name, the name that life blessed you with. The name you would know if your feet felt the earth, the wind touched your skin, and you foraged for your own food. The name that you would own as yours, had you been given the choice. It's probably not the name you use now.

We have stepped away from simpler times, built ourselves concrete mansions and roadways, shied away from all that is natural and good, have we not? Our ceremonies are staid affairs, boring and culturally inclined - because we risk ostracism if we burst forth from societal norms and dance naked beneath the stars.

Our lives are singular now, built around devices that sneakily suck us in as creating connectedness. Instead, they make us more alone, so that we are fornicating with ourselves in the dark instead of making love with great passion to someone who has touched our soul. We sit in crowded coffee shops, a person to a table, or a group not speaking. Does anyone talk any more?

Today's society is built upon a past that apparently we decided, at some point, we must outrun, not embrace. Every morning my Facebook page, my newspaper, and my other information outlets have news foul enough to send me weeping into the farthest corner of my house, where I might crawl into a fetal position and hide my sorry head. I read it, as do you, as if it means nothing, as if the deaths of others do not diminish me. But we know that they do. We must know that, somewhere in our core.

We seem to have forgotten that each of us, no matter how small, can make a difference, and that our presence and our present matters to the future. We are living only for the next coin. How, I must ask, can this be healthy?

As we ravage nature, destroy her wonders, and plunder the earth, what exactly are we losing? Are we not losing resources as well as ourselves? I wonder if we are moving beyond that which is human, and evolving into some other creature. And if so, what kind of creature will we ultimately become?

We are not detached from this world. We are not Gollums hiding in caves, worshipping our golden rings. We are part of the universe, the greater good, and society as a whole. Why do we act then like Gollums, speaking riddles in the dark, knowing there is no one to answer?

It is time, I think, for a new revolution. We are free people but we have enslaved ourselves with consumerism, our passion for ownership, and our desires for more. We have no idea what it is like to dance naked beneath the stars, to feel the grass beneath our feet, to taste the tender softness of an apple plucked fresh from the tree. More worrying, most of us don't care about what we have lost, because we are so far removed from it. We don't miss what we've never known.

Christmas, alas, is the ultimate consumerist holiday, teaching our youth from a very young age how to ask for what they want, not how to give in return. I'm as guilty as the next person, I'm sorry to say, except perhaps in saner moments like this one in which I am writing. My eyes open occasionally to let Gollum go, freeing him to seek his Precious elsewhere. But the fell darkness that we have created doesn't take long to cover up whatever light I may stumble upon. My eyes darken.

I want this revolution, if not for the world, then for myself, and for you. Open your heart. I want to open my heart. I want to remember what it is like to love with yearning, to not ask for more than I need. In a world that is full of more, I want to learn how to do with less.

Am I strong enough to resist the call of The One Ring? Are you?


  1. I think I get stronger, the older I get. We start to realize what is really important and it isn't a house full of things. It is a heart full of love for our families and friends, and all humans. A great post.

  2. Passionate and insightful Anita. Human nature is to grab for the ring. Anything can become a god or an idol, whether it be money, work, sex...whatever we chose to worship. I tend to blame the media and marketing for feeding us materialism. Hollywood, the music industry, and the sports industry are the biggest drivers of young people's desires.
    There are good folks out there standing their ground against consumerism. You'll find them at the co-ops, at open air markets selling organic foods, on the mission field helping feed humanity. They're our public servants- teachers, policemen, firemen, who work for lower pay than they deserve because theirs is a labor of love.
    This is such a large encompassing topic at which we should all take a good, hard look.

  3. An interesting essay, Anita.


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