“Into the West”, performed by Annie Lennox, composed by Howard Shore, from the LOTR soundtrack, (2003)
Thinking about my father, gone from this mortal coil some 33 years now, and still fresh in my memory as if I had coffee with him yesterday. Wishing, with all my heart, I could sit down and talk with him about things I have learned in those 33 years.
Death takes everyone … death is what binds us all together … no one escapes, no one buys their way out, no one. No one, no matter the extreme sacrifices made on the alter of self to appease the gods of our secular lives, no matter the banality of the attachments of this world of flesh and passion and decay.
No matter the pride and achievements in this short night in this bad hotel … no one … escapes … Brother Death.
Pippin: I didn’t think it would end this way. Gandalf: End? No, the journey doesn’t end here. Death is just another path. One that we all must take. The grey rain-curtain of this world rolls back, and all turns to silver glass… then you see it! Pippin: What? Gandalf? See what? Gandalf: White shores… and beyond. A far green country, under a swift sunrise. Pippin: Well, that isn’t so bad. Gandalf: No. No, it isn’t. ― J.R.R. Tolkien, The Return of the King
Here, at the end of all things, Brother Death takes our hand and leads us towards the light at the end of the tunnel of the tomb … and the light … is the glorious light of Eternity’s Sunrise, or the smoldering glow of Mount Doom.
“There, peeping among the cloud-wrack above a dark tor high up in the mountains, Sam saw a white star twinkle for a while. The beauty of it smote his heart, as he looked up out of the forsaken land, and hope returned to him. For like a shaft, clear and cold, the thought pierced him that in the end the Shadow was only a small and passing thing: there was light and high beauty for ever beyond its reach.”
― J.R.R. Tolkien, The Return of the King
I posted a couple of days ago about the serious shortage of “peace of mind” in our culture. It’s election time and idiots are thick on the ground and loud. I must be more than a little nuts to think about these things in the context of a Canadian election campaign.
We move through life with a lurking certainty that all is not well and waiting for the other shoe to drop, the axe to fall, with bated breath. A sense of foreboding has deepened across our land … Spiritually, socially, politically, economically, the fierce consequences of our choices as a nation whirl around us and threaten us with catastrophe.
The storm clouds gather; the thunder rumbles; the darkness descends. While the tempest approaches, many are asleep. Others sense danger in the air but are uncertain of its source and scope. This all sounds like the intro video for a new online game “Storm Clouds Gather!” BWAHHAHAHAhaha!
“It’s a dangerous business, Frodo, going out your door. You step onto the road, and if you don’t keep your feet, there’s no knowing where you might be swept off to.” ― J.R.R. Tolkien, The Lord of the Rings
But where is this much desired peace of mind we are all looking for, this holy grail of the psychologists and pharmaceutical companies and advertisers? We are agitated and disturbed because we are trying, without much success, to resolve everything, every issue, by ourselves, for ourselves, with no thought to the prevalence of our passions and appetites, our shortcomings and failings, our faults and flaws. It is like trying to carve a master work with a broken knife, or trying to see a reflection in a lake that is full of ripples and waves.
In addition we are continually at war with enemies whose existence we continue to deny regardless of the evidence and influence which they present, namely cosmic powers of dark and evil, not merely human enemies. We expect peace according to the reasoning of the world and with the motivations and desires that align well with the current cultural mentality that surrounds us. If everything is going well, and we are not experiencing any annoyances, any discomfort, and our material desires are satisfied, then it is certain that we will know peace. And yet it is not so, no peace, or no peace for long, our peace is only of a short duration at best.
“I am old, Gandalf. I don’t look it, but I am beginning to feel it in my heart of hearts. Well-preserved indeed! Why, I feel all thin, sort of stretched, if you know what I mean: like butter that has been scraped over too much bread. That can’t be right. I need a change, or something.” ― J.R.R. Tolkien, The Lord of the Rings
And so we are faced with a situation continuously anticipating peace, but never quite arriving at our destination. Maybe others can assure us, eh? Harper, Trudeau, and Mulcair. Fear, Uncertainty, and Doubt. The Three Stooges. The Three Horsemen of the 21st Century Apocalypse. Our own human resources and wisdom, with their expectations, precautions reservations and assurances of all sorts certainly do not suffice.
The most common reason for which we loose our peace of mind is fear, caused by situations which touch us personally, and in which we feel threatened, apprehensions in the face of present or future difficulties imagined or real, fear of lacking something important or loosing something we already have or failing in an enterprise. These fears are myriad and touch every single aspect of our lives.
The Return Of The King, LOTR
“I don’t like anything here at all.” said Frodo, “step or stone, breath or bone. Earth, air and water all seem accursed. But so our path is laid.”
“Yes, that’s so,” said Sam, “And we shouldn’t be here at all, if we’d known more about it before we started. But I suppose it’s often that way. The brave things in the old tales and songs, Mr. Frodo, adventures, as I used to call them. I used to think that they were things the wonderful folk of the stories went out and looked for, because they wanted them, because they were exciting and life was a bit dull, a kind of a sport, as you might say.
But that’s not the way of it with the tales that really mattered, or the ones that stay in the mind. Folk seem to have been just landed in them, usually their paths were laid that way, as you put it. But I expect they had lots of chances, like us, of turning back, only they didn’t. And if they had, we shouldn’t know, because they’d have been forgotten. We hear about those as just went on, and not all to a good end, mind you; at least not to what folk inside a story and not outside it call a good end. You know, coming home, and finding things all right, though not quite the same; like old Mr Bilbo.
But those aren’t always the best tales to hear, though they may be the best tales to get landed in! I wonder what sort of a tale we’ve fallen into?”
“I wonder,” said Frodo, “But I don’t know. And that’s the way of a real tale. Take any one that you’re fond of. You may know, or guess, what kind of a tale it is, happy-ending or sad-ending, but the people in it don’t know. And you don’t want them to.” ― J.R.R. Tolkien, The Lord of the Rings
In every case these fears concern a good which is variable, material goods, money, health, power, or goods that we desire, or consider necessary, and are afraid to lose, or not acquire, or which we lack. This all conspires to rob us of our peace, the restlessness so generated by FUD causes us to loose any trace of peace we may have gathered to ourselves.
Who can guarantee him or herself the assured possession of any kind of good, whatever it may be, whatever it’s nature. Man is never assured of anything, and everything which he holds in his or her hands can easily slip from one’s grasp from one day to the next; there is no guarantee on which anyone can count absolutely except the continued existence of an eternal war against evil.
And mark my words, we are truly in it, this daily war against evil, every day, and every way, every decision, every “choice”, or even not making a decision or a choice.
“The enemy? His sense of duty was no less than yours, I deem. You wonder what his name is, where he came from. And if he was really evil at heart. What lies or threats led him on this long march from home. If he would not rather have stayed there in peace. (This) War will make corpses of us all.” ― J.R.R. Tolkien, The Lord of the Rings
We might even say that the surest way to loose one’s peace of mind is precisely to try to assure one’s own life solely with the aid of human industry, personal assets, personal projects and decisions or by relying on someone else. Because of FUD, and the “sum of all fears” WE end up with our current choice, to decide who will decide for us, an old Charlatan, a younger Poseur, or a raving Lunatic. This is truly the definition of insanity, revisiting the failed dance of political cycles yet again in the hopes that we might get a good result this time. We will never find a solution to all our fears and anxieties by continuously ransacking the outhouse basement for a missing answer. We should sell the outhouse to the Socialists, sell the midden to the Conservatives and move onward to the call of the horns, higher up and further in, across the ravaged landscape of our dreams to the green fields beyond and a quick sunrise.
“PIPPIN: I didn’t think it would end this way.
GANDALF: End? No, the journey doesn’t end here. Death is just another path, one that we all must take. The grey rain-curtain of this world rolls back, and all turns to silver glass, and then you see it.
PIPPIN: What? Gandalf? See what?
GANDALF: White shores, and beyond, a far green country under a swift sunrise.