Two years ago, I found myself in Sioux Falls, South Dakota; one of the stops on a road trip a dear friend and I were taking from New York to Seattle. On the morning we had in Sioux Falls I was taking advantage of an opportunity to have breakfast with another friend in real life. Before we met up I hadn’t told this friend why I was in his native city, just that I was in town and hoped to see him.
After we arrived at the cafe, hugged our hellos, and made further introductions, my friend asked me two questions that have stayed with me.
“What are you doing here? Why are you doing this?”
To this day I’m not quite sure I know the answers especially in regards to my current adventures. However, due to some wisdom imparted by this book, I’m feeling a bit more grounded in my efforts.
In truth, I always looked at what I was doing as some sort of hero’s journey, so I suppose likening it to a quest makes sense. BUT, since I’m not trying to actually save the world, the connections weren’t as obvious for me. They became more so as I read the chapter entitled ‘“My Precious”: Tolkien’s Fetishized Ring’.
The chapter focuses on how Tolkien uses the fetishization of material objects (the grandest example is that of the One Ring), and the resistance of this fetishization, as a way to exert his philosophical viewpoint on humanity. That viewpoint being: Externalizing our passions and worth onto external objects will not lead to a happy life.
As someone who has actively been giving up many of my own material possessions, this topic intrigued me. The paragraph which hits home starts off “In order to benefits from these gifts, the protagonists of The Lord of the Rings have first to give up their possessions, their homes and families. The Quest of the Fellowship charts an attempt to deal with the fetishism of the object, and to restore relations with people and with things.”
Oh snap. Is THAT why I’m here? Is it why I’m “doing this”? Am I trying to restore relations with people, things, myself? I believe in a way I am. Part of what I’m loving so much about my life right now is meeting others and connecting in the moment. I’m seeing my appreciation for people, animals, and environments renewed, and I’m really, really loving this outcome.
Another chapter which has heightened my self reflections is the one entitled “Tolkien’s Six Keys to Happiness”. The idea is we move towards a more full life by taking the stance of the hobbit folk and following the 6 steps laid out in the book. Here let me share them with you:
- Delight in the Simple Things
- Make Light of Your Troubles
- Get Personal
- Cultivate Good Character
- Cherish and Create Beauty
- Rediscover Wonder
What stood out to me here in relation to my current journey is that I’m moving towards each of these points without intentionally meaning to. Indeed, once I gave up a home, many material things, and the “certainties” of life which I thought I held dear, a whole new world opened up for me. I care so much more about so much less. I feel fuller by emptying out the “junk”. It’s a truly beautiful experience.
As I think back on those questions, and reflect on the start of some answers, I realize I’m nowhere close to being 100% “right” with any of it. Who knows, maybe as I read more of the book I’ll have more answers to share. Or maybe the less I concern myself with the answer, the more it will appear.
I think by know we know what Tolkien would have to say about it at least.