Sunday Snippet: J.R.R. Tolkien (1892-1973)

“How do you pick up the threads of an old life? How do you go on, when in your heart, you begin to understand, there is no going back? There are some things that time cannot mend. Some hurts that go too deep…that have taken hold.”

Those words were uttered by Bilbo Baggins in the third and final installment of The Lord of the Rings trilogy, The Return of the King. His journey had already taken him so far and he had already suffered through so much. He began to question his ability to complete his quest, questioning his ability to “go on.”

While most of us had heard of the epic books by J.R.R. Tolkien prior to their big screen adaption by Peter Jackson, many of us had not actually read those books and we weren’t necessarily familiar with Legolas, Gimli, Aragorn and the rest of them. The mythology Middle Earth, populated by dwarves and elves and created by Tolkien, really came to life for the mainstream through these grand films, inviting us to follow the Fellowship on this most epic of adventures.

It’s probably pretty safe to say that the majority of us won’t be going on quests of quite the same scale as Frodo in our lifetimes. We won’t be tasked with something of such grand magnitude and we won’t have to endure the same kinds of hardships. That being said, we can still identify with Frodo’s struggle. Time only travels in one direction and once a decision has been made, it cannot ever be unmade. You just have to adapt.

We start our lives with a near infinite array of possibilities before us and each choice that we make, each step that we take, inherently narrows our scope. Each time that you choose to “go on” with something, you realize that “there is no going back” to life before that decision. Life consists of a series of choices and we must accept the opportunity cost of making those choices. We can still look back and some of those “deep hurts” will stay with us, but we must endure. We must learn from those “hurts” and go on.

As an aside, if you’ve ever wondered what “J.R.R.” in J.R.R. Tolkien stood for, his full name was John Ronald Reuel Tolkien. In addition to being a writer and a poet, he was also a university professor and Commander of the Most Excellent Order of the British Empire.