Early in my life I developed a love of fantasy novels. There have been many epic adventures that I have read, but the first was The Lord of the Rings. It established the basic formula that most other series would follow. There is almost always a person, usually a farm boy, who does not understand their true power. There is a journey with this individual along with a group of friends and a wise man or woman. On this journey the individual comes to understand themselves, and eventually they defeat a powerful foe.
There is something in these tales that can offer wisdom as well enjoyment. Each of us is the individual who can change the world if we can surrender to our situation, and yet not give up in working to change it. There is also the temptation to give in to the “dark side.” That is a term from Star Wars, but the same thing exists in all of these novels. It is true in our world as well. There is always the temptation to give into fear and hatred. There is the lust for power and the greed to acquire. In Tolkien’s work this is most represented by Gollum.
Gollum was at one point a kind and beautiful hobbit. The infamous ring gradually begins to pervert him, so that he eventually kills his best friend to ensure he would have it. He is fully compromised. His features begin to change, becoming a fearful, hateful leer. He no longer cares for what has had meaning in the past, and cannot be trusted even by those who love him most. His body becomes twisted, and he is fully consumed by his addiction to the ring.
It is such a beautiful illustration on how any of us can be changed into something we would never want to be. The lust for power and control creates ignorance, a bias that allows any thing if it brings access to “my precious.” The Clash have a great song called “Waiting for the Clampdown.” It says “Anger can be power. You know you can use it.”
However it can not be used. It uses, Anger turns into resentment, which gradually morphs into hate. Hatred turns us into Gollum. Driven insane by fear and greed, we are willing to accept anything from our leaders, and can even find ourselves willing to take part in some hate filled mob activity.
Choose the better of two witnesses. Choose your best self, the you the is formed by your most noble virtues. These are the values that are closest to our true self. Kindness, compassion, joy and positive indifference connect us with unconditional love. Fear, resentment, judgement and greed twist us into Gollum. Either path is influenced by the outer world, but chosen by our self. Which path will you choose?