I am eagerly awaiting the opening of the third installment of The Hobbit at my local movie theatre.
If you read my previous post, “What is Required of Me?,” you will notice that I am in that Advent sort of mood. I am beginning to take stock of my location and direction, to use spatial language.
As I do so, I am aware of how the Holy Spirit is teaching me to think about and live in the midst of time and the events of life. Fr. Stephen Freeman has been writing some elegant posts lately on how our understanding of the meaning and theology of history has gone askew (gone wrong) and the weird places that takes us as persons and societies.
My thoughts and considerations on this subject have brought me to a renewed view of The Hobbit and The Lord of the Rings. I notice, as the story unfolds (notice I did not use the word “progresses”) that the characters, who start out with a whole bunch of plans and presumptions and convictions and knowledge about which they are certain, are gradually required to let go of these for a different orientation, attitude, and way of living. “In the beginning” they have it all figured out one way or another. As they journey, however, the twists and turns of events begin to challenge their plans and convictions and knowledge.
The characters, at least the ones who persevere to the end instead of perishing, find they must let go of their certainties and plans. Events and people are too complicated for them to successfully navigate with these tools. People and events are much more mysterious and subtle than they had once conceived.
They find that compassion and mercy for one another and the need of it from their companions is more important than anything else. They find that they have to be willing to say not just to themselves but to others “I do not know” and let themselves “be led,” Somehow that way is more important and “productive” (life-giving) than figuring out the way to proceed. They find that the future/destination, is real and in light of it they live and act, AND the present is the only place where they can live and the victory of the “end” can be embraced. They find that they must make plans regarding the future and how to proceed toward their destination but hold them with an open hand in the present because that is where the destination will always be located.
This does not mean they are “wishy-washy” or passive or without deeply held convictions. No, just the opposite. They have been “reduced” and the truth has been encountered and integrated and released in and through them. They are grounded, strong, and unconquerable. All that they “had to lose” has been relinquished for what is truly essential. True identity emerges, taking the direction of life for those who choose it and death for others refuse it. And, even for those who die, in their dying they choose their true identity and we know they live and do not die.
The end, of course, is not the end but the beginning. And, the beginning, if it is a real beginning is the end (the goal — the whole point). The end did not come into being as a result of the “progress” the end was all true all along. In time it came to be fulfilled. “Be still and know…”