"I long to accomplish a great and noble task, but it is my chief duty to accomplish small tasks as if they were great and noble."
I have been revisiting the world of Middle Earth in recent days. TNT ran the original version over the past weekend and that has prompted me to haul out the extended version on DVD and wallow in the great story and noble characters once more.
I friggin' LOVE this movie. I know that all the buzz is about Avatar right now, but it will have a long way to go, in my humble opinion, before it approaches the pathos, ethos, & logos of the Lord of the Rings trilogy.
This story has it all: richly developed characters who grow and develop in unexpected ways over the course of the movies, characters you come to love and empathize with and care about and laugh and cry with.
A parable for the time at which it was written, as Europe fell into the ruin and disregard for human life that prepared the ground to receive the blood of countless soldiers in world war II. Heroes who fought for the basic human rights given us by our creator, who fought to preserve the world of men as we knew it.
A story that is still ripe with meaning for our world today as we grapple with the consequences of global warming and a disregard for the world of nature. I suspect the Ents would have much to add to our debates in Copenhagen.
A depth and richness of spectacle unsurpassed in movie making, with Ents, Faeries, & Wizards. Orcs, Ringwraithes, & Trolls. Small hobbits who accomplish great deeds & large monsters who fail.
A story rich in metaphor and symbolism, including the eventual and inevitable triumph of good over evil.
But most of all. what keeps me coming back again and again, what makes me pause the movie endless times, hoping to delay the sad, yet inevitable, time when the words, "The End" appear upon my small screen, is the heartrending and overwhelming sense of nobility and purpose held within the pages of the story.
Our society yearns for greatness. But we set a harsh prerequisite.
We elevate our sports figures into heroes, then feed upon them when they turn out to have feet of clay just like the rest of us.
We cheer a new president who ushers in a time unthought of for generations of oppressed slaves, but give him up just as quickly, once we discover that slaying the dragon is going to be neither quick, nor particularly stirring.
We read biographies & watch documentaries about Winston Churchill, and John Adams, & Martin Luther King and wonder why there are no men or women of such stature on today's front page.
Perhaps, I would propose to you today, we set our standards both too high and too low.
Perhaps, if we are searching for nobility, we should hearken to Mother Theresa's message, when she said, "I cannot do great things. I can only do small things with great love."
I see greatness of heart and nobility of purpose everywhere I cast my eye this January morn.
I see it in the loving care in which my fellow "Plurkies" (as we call the people on Plurk) enfold one who, though unknown and unmet by most of us, feels like an old friend. She is undergoing chemotherapy right now and she does not stand alone. We stand with her as she faces the dragon.
I see it in the fond good-byes and heartfelt good wishes as we bid farewell to a fellow traveler, who embarks today upon a new quest, moving far to the north to attend design school and open a new chapter in his life.
I see it in the commiseration of countless individuals when one is sick, or weary, or in search of motivation.
I experienced it firsthand a few nights ago when I confronted the darkness within my own soul.
And heroes rose up to greet me, to carry me when I could not stand alone.
There is greatness within us all, as we laugh together, cry together, make beauty together...
We are Gandalf on his white horse. We are Merry in his pint sized armor. We are Arwen with her decision to forsake immortality in favor of true love.
And most of all we are Frodo: the unlikeliest of heroes, who does small things with great love.
Together, we push back the darkness and overcome the evil in our world. Together, we triumph.
There is nobility and spirit and greatness, both within us and around us every day we walk upon this middle earth.
We have but to open our eyes & ears; our hearts & souls to know it.
That is our epic journey. And the story begins, as Frodo's did.
With one small step.