"A very fine morning for a pipe of tobacco out of doors, into the bargain. If you have a pipe about you, sit down and have a fill of mine! There's no hurry, we have all the day before us!" Then Bilbo sad down on a seat by his door, crossed his legs, and blew out a beautiful grey ring of smoke that sailed up into the air without breaking and floated away over The Hill.
"Very pretty!" said Gandalf. "But I have no time to blow smoke-rings this morning. I am looking for someone to share in an adventure that I am arranging, and it's very difficult to find anyone."
"I should think so - in these parts! We are plain quiet folk and I have no use for adventures. Nasty, disturbing uncomfortable things! Make you late for dinner! I can't think what anybody sees in them," said our Mr. Baggins, and stuck one thumb behind his braces, and blew out another even bigger smoke ring. --The Hobbit, page 13
The beauty, the genius, the near universal appeal of Tolkien's writings are summed up in this man of great imagination's ability to recreate in a world of fantasy the very truths that permeate our own Reality - though we know them not by the names with which he has named them. Indeed, he has haunted us with visions of the Truth that have more vivid clarity than that with which we approach our own lives, and if we have the heart to listen, we are certain to find ourselves in the silly, self-indulgent creatures with which he has populated 'The Shire'.
John Eldredge has said that three ultimate longings found in the heart of a man are for "an adventure to live, a battle to fight, and a beauty to rescue." Women too, he contends, long for the same thing, with an added relational angle - it is for "and adventure to share" that their hearts equally ache and yearn.
A thirst for adventure, set deep within the hearts of us all. A key ingredient in bringing our hearts fully alive, our lives fully awake, our waking full of purpose, our purpose full of joy.
So why is Adventure the last thing we seek in the way we choose to live our lives? Why have we settled into our own self-indulgent routine of comfort and avoidance of anything that might be classified as 'nasty', 'disturbing' or 'uncomfortable'? What sort of an evil enchantment has been cast over us that we, 'a stem of that victorious stock' which dared to create the Universe, and then gave His life in a daring raid to rescue it, should yet ourselves, choosing against our own hearts, choose the monotonous boredom of safety over against the daring of a truly great Adventure? What Power holds sway over us to teach us to lie to ourselves so? To gratify the appetites of our stomach at the expense of the longings of our heart, the very nature of what we were created to be?
What madness is this? Have we forgotten who we are? If comfort, security, and being well-fed are the greatest pursuits a Man can aspire to, why is it that there is more depression here in our comfortable Western "Shire" than in any other corner of the globe?
"As they sang the hobbit felt the love of beautiful things made by hands and by cunning and by magic moving through him, a fierce and a jealous love...Then something Tookish woke up inside him, and he wished to go and see the great mountains, and hear the pine-trees and the waterfalls, and explore the caves, and wear a sword instead of a walking-stick." -- The Hobbit, page 22
"And wear a sword instead of a walking-stick."
Oh, how that speaks to our deepest hearts! Can you feel something welling up inside of you even now - a longing to break out of the monotony of the life-long habit and culture of self-preservation and fling yourself headlong into a Great Adventure? To leave hearth and home and your provincial little sphere of knowledge and strike out into the Wide World on a journey full of risk and mystery?
'But think of the danger!' whispers that same cold voice that has chained us to our lives of quiet desperation for this many years.
"So Thorin went on: 'We shall soon before the break of day start on our long journey, a journey from which some of us, or perhaps all of us may never return.'
....Poor Bilbo couldn't take it any longer. At 'may never return' he began to feel a shriek coming up inside, and very soon it burst out like the whistle of an engine coming out of a tunnel...the poor hobbit could be seen kneeling on the hearth-rug, shaking like a jelly that was melting..." -- The Hobbit, page 23
Who can deny it? With bold and unblushing strokes, Tolkien has painted us well, and captured the inner struggle that we all face. We are, above all else driven by Fear - and so accustomed to its ability to seep into every thought, consideration, venture for the future - that we don't even recognize it for the work of the Devil that it is.
"God is love...there is no fear in love..." I John 4:16,18
The horns of a dilemma indeed. The voice of fear is the voice of a Liar, and yet we have been trained all too well to listen to it as the voice of wisdom, the voice of reason. We desire more; we fear the cost will be to high.
What then, shall we do?
(to be continued...)