Doing things differently since 1984
Though it seems disloyal to talk about it during Doctor Who 50th Anniversary season, I have always been a big fan of Lord of the Rings. The depth of the characters and the world in which they lived has fascinated me since I first picked up the books when I was 13.
So why, especially in this sacred Doctor Who season, am I talking about Lord of the Rings?
Well, for anyone following this blog, you know that at the time of my last update I was gushing in anticipation of a country move and a new chapter in life. To keep from rattling on too much about myself, I’ll just simply state that we’ve run into some complications.
While it can’t exactly be considered shocking that my unbridled optimism has led me to a situation being worse than I thought it would be, it has been an excellent test of my coping skills. You know – those things you do when life gets difficult, whether it’s your fault or not, to keep yourself mentally, emotionally, spiritually, and physically intact.
If you give yourself a minute, I’m certain you can think of a time when you’ve had little choice but to just cope. Money, relationship, and health issues rank high here. Whatever you did then, however you got yourself through it, you were building coping skills. These skills are what give rise to the saying, “Whatever doesn’t kill us, makes us stronger,” (a Nietzsche quote, if you can believe it) which in some ways is BS, but in other ways makes sense. You can probably also think of someone who seems like they’ve never had to face a single real difficult thing in their life. Do you like that person? We build heroes out of people who demonstrate an admirable ability to cope. I know I do.
Now, thanks to the incredible generosity and patience of some people (you know who you are!), my situation does not rank up there with victims of Typhoon Haiyan in the Philippines, or a parent who outlives their child, or a forgotten homeless person on the street. If you tallied it up worldwide and throughout history, you’d probably find that those in worse situations than me would probably outnumber those in better situations than me. But, you know, I’m a human, and I feel my pain more than I do the pain of others.
But anyway – Lord of the Rings.
What does Lord of the Rings have to do with coping skills?
If you’ve read the books (or watched the movies with particularly full attention), you’ll notice that every creature has its strong points. Elves are skillful, men are shrewd, dwarves are strong, and hobbits are…. well, what are hobbits? Resilient. Hobbits are resilient.
This is what first fascinated me about Lord of the Rings. We love to create heroes that are skillful, shrewd, and strong… but resilient? The mere fact that they could cope with hard times and temptations and not go mad? Yet, in this story, it became the one and only quality that could bear the corrupting power of the Ring and save the world.
I don’t want to talk about the resilience of Hobbits too lightly, or in too foreign a manner (after all, we live on real-Earth), because there’s a real-Earth truth to be found here that’s incredibly profound.
Let’s face it, at one time or another, and most likely at many times, we will all face hard times and temptations that put us in danger of going mad, or doing something stupid, or just going to a very dark place. To prepare for these hard times, we can be like Aragorn, and learn how to survive in the Wild. Or we can be like the elves, and have an escape route planned out. Or we can be like the hobbits, and feed an indomitable spirit that “values food and cheer and song above hoarded gold” (Note: If you think that means eating yourself happy is a good plan, you’re missing the point).
From my [admittedly limited] experience, a big savings account can save you from a lot of difficult times, but if you build a savings account at the expense of getting the point of life, you’re not really going to be prepared. Storms can sweep through our lives, taking away property, possibilities, and even people, at their worst. There is nothing we can do to make these times easy, but the only way we will cope through these times is to build such deep roots in the yearning for love, laughter, and life, that we eventually and inevitably find and create these things for ourselves and those around us wherever we go.
Does this means we shouldn’t ever be sad, or mourn, or make it evident that we’re struggling? Definitely not. Again, I’ll use the example of the hobbits, who in some cases (*ahem* FRODO) became a right pain to be around under the pressure of what he had to deal with. Even Sam, who in my opinion wins the award for Most Resilient Hobbit, sobbed and felt hopeless on many occasions. It’s very important to realize that the definition of resilient isn’t “tough as nails”, but “elastic”; being able to bend very far without breaking.
From a personal standpoint, I’m very happy to report that it feels I’ve already been bent as far as I’m going to have to be for this particular situation, and things are starting to get better now. As for the rest of you, I hope and pray that you find the part of you that makes you as resilient as a hobbit.