Get Personal

In this my third post on Tolkien’s Keys to Happiness as discussed in the text The Lord of the Rings and Philosophy, I’d like to take a few moments to add some commentary to the author’s third key to happiness:

Get Personal

Throughout the chapter, the author continuously refers back to the hobbits as exemplars for living this happy life. He starts section number 3 with

“Hobbits are a clannish and highly sociable people.”

He then goes on to further describe the extents of their loyalty to and interactions between friends. He points out how deeply friendship is valued in the hobbit community, how this contributes to their happy go lucky hobbit life, then compares Tolkien’s description of these values to those of real life philosophers. He states,

“The importance of belonging to other people–of forming close, supportive attachments–is something many philosophers have noted as well.“

Friendship is important, we all know this. Further, many of us define our quality of life based off the friendships we have. Being on the road has been a journey not just through time and space, but through reflections on my own relationships.

I have had countless friends, both old and new, extend their encouragement and support. Several have reached out to schedule regular catch up chats with me, and many continuously reach out via email or even, *gasp*, real mail to stay in touch.

I’m lucky.

I’ve also met many wonderful people on the road. I was saying just the other day that I’ve yet to meet someone who has been genuinely unkind to me. Kinda crazy given how the world is portrayed to us nowadays, but I assure you it’s true.

Getting personal to me means exploring and deepening both types of interactions; friend and stranger. I’ve allowed myself to do so by being more vulnerable, open, and honest with both sets of individuals. In return I have not only gained new knowledge and perspectives, but have also increased my ability to get to know myself.

As this process unfolds, I find I have more confidence and increased feelings of self worth. I’m also able to extend more love and compassion to both myself and others.

I believe all of these characteristics are what contribute to happier and more fulfilling moments. And, as we all know, more happy and fulfilling moments make for a more happy and fulfilling life.

Score another for Tolkien and his happy hobbits!

Making Light of My Troubles

In this second post further exploring “Tolkien’s Six Keys to Happiness” (as defined in the book The Lord of the Rings and Philosophy), we look toward Making Light of Our Troubles.

In the book, the authors tell us that the exemplars Tolkien uses to demonstrate this component are, once again, the Hobbits of Middle Earth. It is said these characters’ abilities to both “remain cheerful and unbowed in the face of hardship and suffering” and “find hope and beauty in even the most dire of circumstances” [1], is what Making Light of One’s Troubles is about.

When I read this, I reflect on my own journey. I am definitely much more light-hearted about any troubles I’m faced with nowadays. But, as I think more about these troubles I’m stuck. Although I’m increasingly light-hearted, I also recognize the insignificance of the troubles I’m faced with. Allow me to explain.

One recent example of making light of my troubles is when a project got canceled 3 months ahead of schedule thereby causing me to lose three months of planned income. Instead of diving into the depths of the “how am I going to make money” despair, I saw the comedy in the firing. This opened me up to seeing an opportunity for much needed rest and rejuvenation. This rest and rejuvenation opened me up to understanding how toxic the project was in the first place, and reminded me I need to be more careful about the work I choose. You see, remaining cheerful and unbowed certainly helped me through this one.

Another example involves me seeing the beauty and maintaining hope in some whacky circumstances. Here let me share that beauty with you:

desert landscape
A Joshua Tree Desert View
desert landscape.
Another shot of the Joshua Tree Desert

Despite the fear I had while driving alone through the “High Wind Speed” areas and roads of sand that is Joshua Tree, (NOTE: I likened these road conditions to those of snow covered roads… just without the slipping. Another example of making light of my troubles? hmmmm.) I remained upbeat, humble, and grateful for the opportunity to meet up with friends in such an amazing place. This allowed me to be incredibly present with the people surrounding me when I arrived, instead of stressed from the drive.

These are seemingly all good points. However, the trouble for me is the unimportance of my examples. They are so small and so very inconsequential. Yes, of course they are important to me, but as I write them all I can see is how limited my thinking is; how self-centered and selfish. I feel guilty for celebrating such small, self serving accomplishments as examples of keys to one’s happiness.

I feel ridiculous, actually.

As I sat down to write these thoughts, I questioned whether I should share them. I thought of the judgement I had for myself and how I perceived others would judge me. That judgement sounded something like:

Really, Lis? You’re ‘making light of your troubles’ story involves finding enough “courage” to drive over sand in the desert? That’s not exactly life changing. Further, if it is, what kind of small life are you leading? Certainly not one I want to continue reading about!

I then asked myself what a Hobbit would do. (NOTE: I’m SURE this sentence redeems me. How could it not?) They’d make light of this trouble, of course! They’d write the post, chuckle at the stories, and let go the guilt their ego bestowed on them. They then would practice this act as bigger troubles and circumstances entered their life. In fact, they’d practice this cycle of looking their troubles in the eye, laughing at them, then letting them go so much that soon the idea of taking life or its troubles seriously at all would scarce cross their mind.

Reflecting on it now, I see this as the point Tolkien was trying to make. In the end, no matter what your troubles look like, you look them back in the eye and laugh. And, when you do, that’s when you free yourself from their phantom embrace.

It’s only when we do this that we’re free from the anxieties and what ifs that hold us in place. Sure, most of the times we glimpse this freedom only in the short burst of a moment, but oh how sweet and happy, that moment is.


1. Bassham, Gregory and Bronson, Eric. The Lord of the Rings and Philosophy. Open Court, 2003. Print.

Delighting in the Simple Things

Not to long ago I shared some reflections I had been having (and continue to have) in regards to what it is I’m actually doing on my current journey. It should come as no surprise that my realizations and musings related back to a book devoted to The Lord of the Rings and Philosophy. I’m a devotee, what can I say?

In the previous post, I briefly touched on “Tolkien’s Six Keys to Happiness” and I thought it would be fun to dive into each one a bit further and describe how I’m seeing (or not seeing) each play out along the path I currently walk/drive. Since this is my first piece in this series, I’ll start with numero uno:

Delight in the Simple Things

I don’t think the concept itself needs much explanation. For you LOTR fans out there, the way the authors of the aforementioned book tell it is Tolkien exemplifies both Hobbits and Elves (who are very different, but also very content beings) as happy creatures. He lends this as such due to the fact that both live uncomplicated lives close to nature, and thereby to each other, and both, in their own way, delight in life’s simplicities.

I do believe doing these things has been a major part of my journey thus far, and has also contributed to my increased feelings of fulfillment and contentment even after only a few months. In fact, by letting go of more and more stuff which I thought defined me (material goods, career perceptions, characteristics of ambition and power, etc) I find myself not only having more space and time to delight in the simple things, but I also see myself just DOING the delighting without prompt or feeling I need to.

For example, I know I’ve already shared with you pictures of the surrounding area here in Templeton and of the pets I’m lucky enough to be spending September with, but here are some more for good measure:

Vineyard on a hill, cows in the foreground.
I mean… who doesn’t want to look at this sight each day?
Sycamore tree
I think this tree is so interesting looking, I can’t help but stare at it each time we walk by.
Black Tail Deer grazing.
I love when wildlife allows me to watch it just… live.
Terrier on the floor looking up
I could stare at this face for hours!
English Spaniel looking back at me.
Another face I could spend some quality time appreciating.

I share these pictures for more than just good measure actually. These moments I’ve captured here are so incredibly simple. Yet, each fills me with a tremendous amount of gratitude and joy. I could look at them for extended periods of time and not NEED anything else. These simple things bring me delight.

Further, I can tell you this. I missed these moments for years as I instead used all of my brain space to figure out how to be “A Better”.

You know what I’m talking about. Thoughts like, “How will I be a better consultant?”, “I need to be a better friend.”, “I need to be a better woman.”, “How can I be a better adult?”, and on and on were constantly circulating through my brain. I would then determine I needed to actually DO these things and come up with plans and schedules and schemes which would get me to the Better!

Here’s the thing. All of this thinking and doing took a lot of my energy, a lot of my time, and never actually made me feel better. Go figure. Maybe I should have started living like a Hobbit a long time ago.

Now rest assured I still have these thoughts daily. In fact, I’m having them right now as I write to you. I’m telling myself I should be working on figuring out how I’m going to be making money when I start traveling abroad and being a more consistent and professional consultant instead of exploring the ideas I’m sharing with you.

My soul knows better.

Instead of giving into the better, I use the trust in myself and this process we call life to work to accept the thoughts I am having, but also to continue to write and explore what I’m sharing. For each battle my soul wins, I find myself naturally delighting more in the simple things.

I look over at my morning cup of coffee in awe. I look over at this face and want to cry and laugh and just feel:

English Spaniel on twin bed.
My writing companion encourages me.

In these soul first moments I see myself laughing at my anxieties and my human awkwardness. I then look forward to my afternoon entertainment of going outside to see if there is a bird in the bird bath, and if there is, watching it just being a bird.

In short, instead of striving to be something, I can finally revel in being me. And, instead of seeing myself as some separate entity moving about the Earth, I see my communion with the world and lives around me and I appreciate the profound simplicity of this communion. It was there all along, but I blinded myself from it.

Finally, I notice in these few minutes before the Better thoughts start up again that doing this reveling just feels really good. In fact, you’re right, Tolkien, it does make me happy.