The end of the world - er, year - is near!
At this moment, I am sitting at the San Diego International Airport waiting to board a flight to Seattle. Anu is sitting some distance away, wanting to stay away from the television that is blaring its views upon weary travellers. I need power for my laptop, which restricts my mobility.
And perhaps that has been the theme of 2016 - unpleasant news on television (for more reasons than one), and a world that is seemingly coming apart at its seams. I can’t remember if last year was the same, or if my memory is just that short. Or perhaps every year is the same, and I’m getting that much older. But we all know what happened to all of those older civilizations that we talk about in the past tense - they became extinct. So if I did happen to say that the end of the world is near, I can safely assert that there is historical precedent.
In Leavenworth, Washington, the statue of the Nutcracker may be a source of warm comfort for its residents, but rest assured that winter is coming!
I suspect that one day, we will discover that golf is simply an excuse for spending a lazy day in the sun.
The experience of color is a gift to be marvelled at.
Reflecting on the moments that are strung together to construct our lives, we must, on occasion, pause the reel and capture the smile that lights up the day.
The Road goes ever on and on
Down from the door where it began.
Now far ahead the Road has gone,
And I must follow, if I can,
Pursuing it with eager feet,
Until it joins some larger way
Where many paths and errands meet.
And whither then? I cannot say.
I have always liked J. R. R. Tolkien’s The Lord of the Rings. This morning, I was pondering why, and felt compelled to explain to the interested reader why this fantasy novel is worth reading and re-reading. Naturally, there are plenty of detractors who are not sold on the book - it is slow-moving for some, juvenile for others and even racist according to some critics. Be as it may, there is something magical about the book that is worth delving into and ruminating on.
The fantasy world of Tolkien is a dry reflection of reality as we know it. Yes, there is magic - but where is it really? Is it in Gandalf’s fireworks, or in Sauron’s dreaded “one Ring”? Does magic manifest in the way the individuals are bent to the will of the Maiar? Then again, our heroes - even poor Gollum - distinguished themselves by occasionally breaking free of their captors, both physically and metaphysically. We are inexorably led to the question of whether this magic is real, or simply a figment of the characters’ collective imagination. The Lord of the Rings is the story of conquest of will - and if Sam Gamgee can do it, so can you.
This inherent relatability of the fictional world to the real is what is truly mesmerising. In the real world, there are no permanent heroes, but everyone can be a hero on occasion by making the right choices, and these choices have far-reaching repercussions. The most poignant example of this is when Gandalf chastises Frodo for wishing that his uncle Bilbo had killed Smeagol when he had had the chance.
Pity? It was pity that stayed Bilbo’s hand. Many that live deserve death. Some that die deserve life. Can you give it to them, Frodo? Do not be too eager to deal out death in judgment. Even the very wise cannot see all ends.
Gandalf words come back to Frodo eons later when he is faced with a similar choice, to strike Smeagol or let him be - Frodo takes the path of kindness and lets Smeagol live. In the end, it was only because of Smeagol’s intervention that Sauron’s power could be destroyed. The story unfolds as a series of small acts that build up into the crescendo of major events; it would be disingenuous for the reader to assume a grand plan being orchestrated by some powerful forces.
Even the best amongst us are fallible. The Istari are sent to Middle Earth to help defend it against Sauron, but only one of them, Olórin - better known as Gandalf, actually succeeds. Saruman gets enmeshed in his own greed, Radagast is helpful but perhaps off to satisfy his hobbies, while the rest are never heard from again. The Dwarfes and Elves are busy quarrelling amongst themselves, and the Men are easily tempted. The Hobbits are hardy in their own way, but otherwise rather weak. In this chaos, however, each character represents an innate human quality that you, the reader, can bring to life. The Hobbits represent perseverance, the Dwarves represent hard work, the Elves represent goodness and care in times of need. Gandalf represents kindness, wisdom and intelligence, always bringing hope and stability to those around him. Of Men (and Women), Boromir, Faramir, Éowyn and Aragorn each represent facets of the human condition. Boromir demonstrates the perils of power and greed (but conquers in the end, even in death), whereas Faramir shows us that this failing can be avoided. Éowyn and Aragorn both overcome difficulties in their own lives to grow strong and express true courage in unique ways. Aragorn represents balance and he, more than any other character, is the true protagonist, especially when you consider that the War of the Ring is in part a battle of wills between Sauron and Aragorn.
The journey to Mount Doom is a different experience for each of these characters, and not all live to see the end. But there is a courage and mirth to be found even in the midst of grief and fear - one only has to know where to look for it. Tolkien paints this vivid contrast by stitching together many different perspectives into one long, enchanting tale.
The Road goes ever on and on
Out from the door where it began.
Now far ahead the Road has gone,
Let others follow it who can!
Let them a journey new begin,
But I at last with weary feet
Will turn towards the lighted inn,
My evening-rest and sleep to meet.
I have always been fascinated by the idea of having a dream journal recording all of my dreams. Partly, I suspect that is because I expect my dreams to have some kind of deep significance (as do all - why else would you be walking down the street naked?), but it is also because I think they are a great way to unlock your creative juices and express yourself to the world. I have always maintained that self-expression is the primary need for the human mind, and to have an outlet for one’s emotional state, real or imagined, is a great relief.
Of course, the problem with a dream journal is the inherent lack of fidelity that it entails. Have you ever had the experience of realizing midway through the re-telling of a dream that you are making up the details on the spot, filling in the blanks where you no longer recall what actually happened in your dream (“I must have been heading to Canada, of course - I felt that, I’m sure.”)?
Speaking of Canada, did you realize that carrying a hockey stick in your car through the US-Canada border crossing is a big no-no? That is what I learned from my dream last night…although I cannot say for sure whether I was entering Canada or the United States. But don’t worry, I ran into an old classmate of mine who happened to be hanging around, and I figured he would help me out, no problem.