Tuesday, September 6, 2016

Life and Kicking Nazgûl Butt

For around 20 years, each winter I reread Tolkien’s The Lord of the Rings. I am not sure why I initially started doing this, other than every time I read these volumes I saw more and more of the truths contained in his mythology: truths that helped shape my life. That’s the thing about “classics,” as they can be read over and over again, and you always come away with more.

As a young man, I loved the stories of the great battles against Sauron and his minions, the 9 Nazgûl against the 9 companions. “This is what life is all about. Gather your band of brothers and go kick some Nazgûl butt!” After I grew older, however, it was the Hobbits that held my deepest interest. They led simple lives, ate simple meals, loved simple stories, and always had a song or a riddle on their lips—even when facing the enemy. And when they did get caught up in an adventure their hearts and minds were always drawn back to the Shire, a good beer, a long smoke and laughing with friends.

Recently, I have been thinking a lot about these Hobbits, as I see so many people whom appear to be defining their lives solely by The Cause, The Battle. Certainly there are battles that must be waged, but I wonder if fighting as a way of life, fighting as the reason for my existence, is healthy.

Think about this: When Abraham heard that Lot and his family had been taken captive, he gathered his family and servants and went off to wage war. He and his family were not roaming the countryside looking for a fight. They were living life, went to war, and then went back to living life. “Family” is who they were: war is what they did, when necessary.

The thing about waging war is one feels so important while fighting. The cause defines me and imbues me with feelings of significance and meaningfulness. But when the cause has been won or lost, what do I feel then? Empty? Alone? Defeated? Martyred? – Really? Your life is now meaningless because the battle, for good or ill, is over? Maybe this is why so many people hallucinate a minute-by-minute personal battle with Satan. Not being able to simply live life, enjoy life, and be grateful for the gift of life, I must create a larger panorama within which I can feel alive and significant. “Sorry Edith, no time for the kids: Satan has chosen ME!”

No one loves the smell of napalm in the morning more than I do (Lt Kilgore- Robert Duval, Apocolpypse Now) but come on: You’re a mechanic for Honda.  Don’t you think Satan has a few more priority targets than you?

When my life was centered upon causes and wars, I found that the measure with which I evaluated everyone and everything was in terms of the cause, as I defined it. “What? You’re not engaging in the battle of the century? What are you doing, drinking a good beer, having a long smoke and laughing with friends? Don’t you know that Armageddon is upon us? You treacherous invertebrate, get out there and man the picket lines, post 25 gotchya bon mots on Facebook every day, and pick some fights with the brain-dead Orcs in your office. If you’re not kicking Nazgûl butt then your life is worthless.”

Let’s allow St Paul to weigh in here: “Mind your own business, lead a quiet life, and work with your hands so as to not stand in need of charity.” Sounds like a Hobbit-like life, to me. If more of us focused on such matters, I wonder how much time we would have for all of our activism, which, all too often, is merely frenetic activity to mask the terrible boredom we experience because we have failed to grasp the joy and peace that is to be found in family, friends, work, the beauty of creation … and a good beer, of course.

Copyright, Monte E Wilson, 2016

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