Even the very wise cannot see all ends.Posted: December 28, 2016
A few nights ago I watched The Fellowship of the Ring, which, for me, is like going to church. If you’ve never heard me say it before, The Lord of the Rings—along with The Chronicles of Narnia—is my holy scripture, functioning in my life like the Bible might to a devout Christian, or the Bhagavad Gita to a devout Hindu. I don’t remember a time when I didn’t know them; they’re the stories through which I see my own life.
The first time I saw the film, my Mom had just died. I was a junior in college on Christmas break. I went to the theater alone because I didn’t trust anyone else to take it as seriously as I did. I remember thinking, after all the anticipation, The Fellowship of the Ring was not only good, but appallingly good, good beyond hope. Also, I saw everything in terms of Mom’s death: the encroaching darkness from Mordor was my encroaching depression, and my quest was to beat it back. When Frodo nearly gave in to his wound on the riverbank, I gave myself a headache crying. All my pain had found expression.
But this time, the story means different things to me. I saw everything in terms of the recent dark turns of the world: Syria, Russia, Putin, Duterte, Trump. Though I can only draw the metaphors so far, what struck me about the film this time was the total hopelessness of the quest, and how thin the thread of faith was, that sent the fellowship south.
I wish none of this had happened, says Frodo, and Gandalf answers, So do all who live to see such times, but that is not for them to decide.
We could be entering a dark age, when the worst tendencies of humanity overwhelm the best. Or we could be entering an age of heroes, when the greatest evil calls forth the greatest good.