Friday, August 27, 2010
My P-r-r-re-cious!: A Lesson from The Lord of the Rings
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.
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'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)
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.