Writing is an Itch. This is a place to scratch.

Friday, August 27, 2010

My P-r-r-re-cious!: A Lesson from The Lord of the Rings

Scene: LOTR: Return of the King, Peter Jackson, Dir.

By Rattus Scribus©

My wife and I just finished watching, again, Peter Jackson's film adaptation of J. R. R. Tolkien's trilogy masterpiece, The Lord of the Rings, one of my favorite reads since childhood. There are many lessons I have gleaned from this series over the years. But for this post I will focus on one, "the precious."

Many people of course know that I am referring to Sauron's master ring, with which the Dark Lord of Mordor sought to enslave all Middle Earth under his evil rule. In a previous bid for total domination, Sauron failed. The ring was lost and eventually ended up in the hands of a "river-folk" hobbit named Sméagol, who killed another hobbit to get it.

Corrupted by the power of the ring, Sméagol became Gollum, a frightful and pathetic creature of unnaturally great age with a mind as demented and disfigured as his physical appearance.

Gollum, by Greg & Tim Hildrebrandt

In time, the one ring was lost to Gollum and was found (stolen as Gollum saw it) by the hobbit Bilbo Baggins of The Shire.

In the LOTR trilogy, it is the great burden of Bilbo's young relative Frodo, to take the dangerous journey to Mordor, there to cast the ring into the volcano Mt. Doom where it was forged and thus the only place it can be destroyed.

Throughout the epic journey Gollum pursues the bearer of the ring, and even becomes Frodo's guide into the "valley of shadow." But Gollum does all with one relentless goal, one purpose to the exclusion of all safety and reason: he must get back the ring: "We wants it. We needs it. Must have the pr-r-re-cious!"

I have often thought how people, myself included, have our own versions of "the precious." It can be a fault in our personality or habit that is simply not up for discussion.

"I'm not listening. I'm not listening."
Scene: LOTR: The Two Towers, Peter Jackson, Dir.

I've known some people whose "precious" is to make others feel bad, because they feel bad. "I get to treat you like dirt because life has treated me like dirt. It's my right, mine, my own, my pr-r-re-cious!"

Most of us at one time have our own unassailable precious like money and possessions, careers, even religious beliefs.

What makes these like Gollum's precious is not that we should never pursue or have things like possessions or careers or beliefs. It is that they can become unhealthy distortions. At such times, even a good can become monstrous.

When profit, possessions and influence are pursued at the expense of people -- sometimes at the sacrifice of millions of people, their livelihoods and lives -- those things become our horrible "precious."
When one is married or devoted to career far more than spouse and family for which the career is supposed to exist in the first place, that career becomes our "precious."

And, dare I say it, when belief trumps common sense goodness, then even faith becomes a corrupting "precious." While he was being tortured for holding certain religious beliefs contrary to "established church doctrine," the 16th century Anabaptist, Balthasar Hubmaier asked his tormentors this tragic question: "You burn a man to uphold a doctrine?" (On Heretics and Those Who Burn Them, 1524). The church said in heavenly fashion: "But this is my belief, my own, my pr-r-re-cious!" Then in hellish fashion proceeded to burn him alive. But they were wrong. Hubmaier was right. I am a definite subscriber to the dictum that one cannot claim to love a God they've never seen, and not love people one can see every day. (Matthew 22:37-39; 1 John 4:20)

Mt. Doom, by Tim Kirk

As I begin a new academic year of teaching college students, I will meditate on those things in my life that have become my versions of "the precious." So if you think of me, pray that I will have the wisdom and strength to cast them all into the mountain of fire.

Humbly yours,
Rattus Scribus

Tuesday, August 24, 2010

Look Out, Here Comes the Birthday Girl

We composed this birthday song in honor of our dear friend The Dutchess. (You can find her wonderful website here.) Sing along to the tune of "Spiderman" -- the 1960s TV cartoon. You can listen to the tune now playing, them shut off the sound and sing the words below.

Birthday girl, Birthday girl

Not a Duke, not an Earl.

Dutchess this is your day

Beat the drum, hip hooray.

Look out, here comes the Birthday girl.


Happy Birthday Dutchess.
From your devoted friends,

Rattus & Tea Rat

Saturday, August 21, 2010

The Light Shines in the Darkness

By Rattus Scribus©

My wife Anita from Castles Crowns and Cottages just posted an inspirational topic very relevant to me. For I am the type of personality that needs to be reminded often about the beauty and goodness in the world.

Ever since I was a child the harsh things of our world have tended to accost my attention and cost me no small amount of emotional labor.

The first time I saw Woody Allen's Annie Hall, I had to laugh at the young neurotic Alvy Singer (Allen), so distraught over everything, even the universe coming to an end billions of years in future.

(Pause the song on the playlist, see the 46 sec video clip here then return to reading)1

In a way, I actually envied Alvy. For I was a child who was forced to live inside his head, because unlike Alvy whose family took him to counseling, I had no such outlet. And so the darkness at times seemed to overwhelm.

Street violence that's senseless as usual, industrial violence on the earth that's business as usual, profit at the expense of people, tragic -isms, hell unleashed in the name of heaven, cruel words and acts that injure the innocent, graves filled with the wrongfully dead, oceans of tears, woes seemingly without limit.

But over the years I have seen the light in the darkness too, and in the words of the apostle: "the darkness has not overcome it."

I remember when Anita and I were first dating. One day we took a trip to a beach in Southern California. The sun was beginning to set over the water, and we walked hand in hand with the water dancing about our bare feet.

Then, dunderhead that I was, I looked out over the sea and told my soon-to-be wife this: "Can you believe all the pollution we've created? Isn't it sad?" We talked about this episode later: how while she was lost in the love the moment and was therefore more able to see the beauty in our surroundings, I threw a wet blanket on the whole thing with my, "sad state of the world" spiel.

Anita tells me often that I have inspired her in so many ways. Well, she has been my strongest reminder to see the sun through every gloomy cloud.

The magic in the deep forest.

The rainbow after the rain.

The arts that inspire us in ways we never previously imagined and show us what is possible that is good and kind and beautiful, full of hope and love unconquerable.

Yes, I do believe it.

"The light shines in the darkness and the darkness has not overcome it." John 1:5

1. Picture still from "Annie Hall," 1977, Dir. Woody Allen.
2. All other pictures found via "public domain" search strings