To Holmgard, and Beyond

\”We are plain quiet folk and have no use for adventures. Nasty disturbing uncomfortable things! Make you late for dinner!\”

If you\’ve not yet noticed, I am plainly obsessed with The Hobbit and, really, all of Tolkien\’s work. There are a multitude of reasons for this, but today I think I\’d like to discuss the main one, that being the issue of the reluctant hero. I feel like a hobbit most of the time. I don\’t want to be disturbed. I\’d rather be eating than off saving the world. I have a fond interest for things in my realm of experience, and not much else. I desperately wish I was a good gardener. Most of all, I have a Tookish side that can only think of mountains and far away places, but is quickly and severely silenced all too often.

Before I get far into this line of thought, let me preface it all by offering context: listen to this if you don\’t know what I\’m talking about (or, just read The Hobbit. I\’ll buy you a copy).

So there is a Baggins and a Took in me and, I think, in all men — probably all women too! The rub comes from identifying which part is talking and which part deserves to be engaged. Furthermore, what part is God bringing out? Which part of me does God want to see acted upon? For the Bible calls us to a quiet life, but also to the adventure of living out our faith, going out into the world and making disciples. God has instilled in us that part that needs to sneak into the dragon\’s den, or rescue friends from spider webs. It seems futile to interface with this notion without calling up John Eldredge, who said in Wild At Heart, \”In the heart of every man is a desperate desire for a battle to fight, an adventure to live, and a beauty to rescue\”. The man is more believable since he shaved his goatee, and I do indeed believe him in this.

It is part of why I like what I like. I like epic fantasy because it\’s an easy way to go on an adventure without leaving my own little hole. I like video games, particularly MMOGs, because it is a painless way to brave an adventure and fight a battle without actually doing it. Of course, it does not satisfy but it curbs those hunger pangs before they devour me. I love metal, especially the fanciful sort, because it inspires my imagination and takes me into those lofty, feigned places of adventure while I\’m stuck in traffic or out for a run. For all my longings, there is still the Baggins in me who is too worried about being late for dinner to do anything about it.

But what is there to be done? In the mediocre film The Ice Harvest, Oliver Platt\’s character says that \”there\’s nothing left for men in this country but money and [women].\” To an extent, this is true. All of our life\’s struggles, at least for employed, middle class folk, have been sedated. There is no need to go and hunt to provide for one\’s family — it\’s taken care of. There is no need to struggle with the land — we have grocery stores. There are no mountains to climb — they\’ve all been paved. There is no frontier to face and conquer — it\’s been turned into a mall. We have started jumping bikes off vertical ramps and base jumping off of ledges because modern western life has been castrated.  Who is there to blame? The corporations? The government? The church?

That is a line of thinking for those better read and less inhibited than myself. In the meanwhile, we are left to cry \”rather sold as a slave to the Saracen\’s than chained to your beds! Chained by your lives!\”

Suffice it to say that we\’ve only ourselves to blame. Nay, I\’ve only myself to blame. No wizard is going to come knocking on my door and drag me out of Bag End. Indeed, there is a \’calling\’ on my life (Christianese for the thing or things I am meant to do), and so in a sense adventure is ahead, and I do recognize the journey of life as such. But I am speaking of going there and back again. There is no mountain to climb unless I find it and do it myself, there is long journey in the dark lest I make it. That is the real trouble.

So perhaps this eunuch of a modern life we\’ve been given is cursed in its sterility, but maybe that is for the better. It\’s true, I would rather have adventure on my own terms than be thrust in to it when the government takes my land or when the Cowboy Gang comes to raid my town. So I\’ll keep the Baggins and the Took and make my own adventures when the time is right. For I am only quite a little fellow in a wide world after all, and thank goodness!

One comment

  1. For some reason Father Greg Boyle the Jesuit priest who founded Homeboy Industries seems to be the perfect example of a quiet yet adventure-filled life to me. Unfortunately his organization is in financial trouble, which is how I came to know of him. But his story of becoming a Jesuit priest, and then founding an institution to help rehabilitate Los Angeles gang members seems to embody the balance you are trying to strike in the real world.


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