The high point of my Christmas was watching The Fellowship Of The Ring with the kids. Not for the first time, I was struck by the brilliance of this exchange:
FRODO I wish the ring had never come to me...I wish none of this had happened. GANDALF So do all who live to see such times, but that is not for them to decide. All we have to decide is what to do with the time that is given to us.
Tolkien, of course, knew whereof he wrote. During the First World War he had served as a signals officer at the Somme and fought at the battle of Thiepval Ridge. Had he not succumbed to trench fever and been invalided out, he would almost certainly not have survived the war to write about hobbits. By 1918 all but one of his male childhood friends were dead.
One can guess that the Gandalf/Frodo dialogue above echoes something Tolkien heard many times on the Western Front: the "why me?" we all feel when it is our misfortune to live in interesting times.
But hey Ricochet friends, I don't want to leave you on a downer as New Year approaches. On the contrary, I want to leave you with a message of hope. There's some incredible wisdom in those lines of Gandalf's: first in their humbling recognition of just how utterly insignificant each one of us is in the vastness of space and time; second, in their acknowledgement that we do nonetheless have within us the power to make a difference.
It was true in the trenches of 1916. It remains true now. The dark forces of Mordor are on the march. We really might wish it otherwise but such is life, such is fate. Are we going to stay cowering in the false security of the Shire, waiting for the Orcs to arrive? Or we going to screw up our courage, seize that ring and venture all on the perilous journey to Mount Doom?
I think we know the answer, Ricochet friends. We are the Fellowship and together we shall prevail!