“Gollum had not actually threatened to kill him, or tried yet. And he was miserable, alone, lost. A sudden understanding, a pity mixed with horror, welled up in Bilbo’s heart: a glimpse of endless unmarked days without light or hope of betterment, hard stone, cold fish, sneaking and whispering.” ~ J.R.R. Tolkien, The Hobbit
Yes, I saw The Hobbit, and yes I loved it, and yes I cried when the eagles came to the rescue. I was predictably horrified over what I imagined would be the demise of that hottie Thorin (ok, he’s no Aragorn but still). My 8 year old (yes, the one who now owns this blog due to his superior wisdom) comforted me.
“This is scary, isn’t it? Aren’t you scared?” I whispered while holding on to his little arm.
He smiled. “Noooo, it’s not scary…it’s epic!” he whispered back while reaching for the leftover popcorn.
But this isn’t about our day at the movies, although I could write quite a bit about how wonderful it was. I really do love fantasy fiction…the books, the movies, the games. And I would love to live in one of those worlds, provided of course I could have a role of some significance, and not be one of the extras who gets knocked off a bridge into some abyss while the main characters make their way to freedom and glory.
This is about the Gollum or Mr. Smeagol as I like to call him. Witnessing his desperation at the loss of his precious, and sharing in Bilbo’s pity when he spared his life, led me to the conclusion that Mr. Smeagol is a very useful tool…a perfect visual reminder with a significant and immediate impact to be summoned at key moments of struggle or confusion in life by at least those of us who are LoTR fans.
Mr. Smeagol serves as an instant reality check and warning. Confused about authentic choices and what truly matters in life? Wondering what kind of life you’d like to have or should avoid? Stuck pursuing material or ego-driven goals at the expense of everything else? Wondering what a self-centered, empty existence really leads to?
Well, look no further than Mr. Smeagol running around dark caves, whispering, shaking with fear and fury while calling out for his precious. Whatever we do, we don’t want to be like him, even a little.
We don’t want to be slaves to our self-imposed impotence…or driven by obsessive, inflexible, and ultimately destructive instincts…by suffering and bitterness. We don’t want to end up insane and in a cave. Or with a life transformed into a nightmarish existence defined by all that is missing, because we sacrificed it for the sake of some ambition or pride. Nope, we don’t want to end up crippled by that pain of unfathomable emptiness turned into contempt for life itself. And we can’t allow any one pursuit or mindset to own and corrupt our minds and souls…even if that one pursuit or mindset hides some merit, as in appears to glitter just like that golden precious. Because of course we know that not all that glitters is gold, and what metaphor can top that.
Seriously…one look at Mr. Smeagol and the instant reaction is (or should be)…Oh my god, anything but like that! Anything but those “endless unmarked days without hope for betterment…with hard stone, cold fish, sneaking and whispering.” Indeed.
Many say that people will do more to avoid pain than pursue pleasure. I agree. And I find inspiration that comes with rainbows and unicorns can often seem too distant, abstract, and exhausting to keep up with when we feel defeated and powerless in our lives. But a dreaded image that speaks in no uncertain terms of a dreaded consequence chasing us, and off we break into a run like we’ve been training for years and have the latest Nikes on!
And I realized something else in the movie theater while sharing popcorn and a drink with my little boy. I looked at Mr. Smeagol and all that I want to avoid, then at the other very flawed and very “human” characters whose small acts of kindness, courage and love I do seek to manifest in my own life. Then I looked at my son, so happy to see that he enjoys great stories and understands how their magic translates with such relevance into our own lives. And then I thought how simple life actually is when we sum up guidance into one principle…I want to be the kind of person I would not need to warn my child about, or worse, protect him from. And not just my child…but myself, and anyone really.
So you see my point with Mr. Smeagol being such a great tool. He is not merely a harmless creature to be pitied, a miserable, isolated and forgotten soul. He is very dangerous…to himself and to everyone else. Because nobody’s emptiness or unhappiness belongs to them alone. Our consequences are everyone else’s as well.
My point being of course (ok fine, so I’m repeating myself) that nothing in this world is a singularity. We can never, ever be completely alone. Nor can we ever be completely self-sufficient or pretend we exist in a vacuum. Everything needs everything else, and affects everything else. So from time to time, and especially in difficult moments, it’s useful to think of Mr. Smeagol and rate ourselves on a similarity scale, just to make sure the identity and consequences we share are those we truly wish to manifest.
So yes, to sum it up in one sentence…when in doubt, think of Mr. Smeagol, it’s an instant cure, it will steer you out of the deepest rut and in the right direction.
And I am leaving you with another favorite Tolkien quote:
“Saruman believes it is only great power that can hold evil in check, but that is not what I have found. I found it is the small everyday deeds of ordinary folk that keep the darkness at bay. Small acts of kindness and love.” ~ Gandalf