“In a hole in the ground there lived a hobbit.”
Thursday night I finished reading The Hobbit by J.R.R. Tolkien. It’s a book that I’ve had for awhile now, but school was eating up all my time until last week when I picked it up and finished it. I was completely swept up in a middle earth adventure and found myself equally exhausted by the end, needing a warm home and a comfy hair with a spot of tea like Bilbo.
There are so many things I could discuss about this book, and I get lost in trying to organize them all. But I want to focus on and share simply three important lessons that this book has taught me, blessed reminders on how to live such a life as this one.
The first lesson I will share today.
A story which tells of a journey over the misty mountains, through the darkness of Mirkwood, and inside the kingdom of Smaug paves as a mere backdrop for the bigger story of the transformation of Bilbo Baggins. What began as a tiny hobbit sleeping in a tiny hole living a tiny life, comes forth a character who through a dangerous quest, is called to summon all that is inside of him and put it to the test.
But before Bilbo starts the unexpected journey and before he meets the dragon, he is faced with questions that decide the fate of his life. Is this enough? Is all this, all that I am? and Could there be more? He was completely frightened and shaken by the news of such an adventure as the one Gandalf proposed, a wizard who shows up on his doorstep. But when Gandalf says one of my favourite lines, “I am looking for someone to share in an adventure that I am arranging, but it’s very difficult to find anyone”, Bilbo is forced to ask himself, why me? While facing his fears within, he must have found a glint of desire, enough to make him wonder what could lye beyond all this.
And if that is not enough to grapple with, he has an even bigger factor to consider. He learns of a very important role he’ll play if he decides to go on this adventure. So here is Bilbo, trying to comprehend what it will look like for a supposedly small, fearful, and weak hobbit to go on a mysterious journey, while also having the responsibility of being a burglar; something which requires quick skill and bravery. Bilbo is convinced that he is the wrong choice, and baffled that Gandalf would even think of him for the deed. He knows the dwarves are questioning why he was picked, agreeing with Bilbo that he is not right for the part.
But a turning point takes place, making the beginning the best part of the story: “Then something Tookish woke up inside of 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.” When the story could either finish or move forward, when Bilbo had every reason to politely decline after being intruded by obnoxious dwarves and a peculiar wizard, when all his fears seemed real and the little he thought of himself was apparent, he chose to go anyway. Bilbo saw the flicker, and it was then he decided to trade in his comfortable hobbit life for an adventure that meant swords and bravery and all these things that were unknown to a hobbit like him. Bilbo concluded his own questions with his decision to go: perhaps all this is not all that I am.
I wonder how often something Tookish happens to us. How it can wake a person up inside and for that rare moment time seems to stand still and your world stops moving and all the demands and regularity of life falls behind your head, and with clarity you see that thing you want to be or that thing you want to do, and for those few seconds you believe it can be done, that life is only one chance, and yes, you must embark on the adventure.
But then the light turns on, as it does for us all, and the cars drive by, and somebody calls your name, and your phone goes off. In this moment you do either one of two things: 1) Your sobriety sets in so you let the thing go by swallowing it down with outdated excuses. It gets buried with the ‘if thens’ and ‘one time’s’ and eventually becomes a dead dream. Or, you do the second thing: in the moment of waking from the feeling of something Tookish, you decide enough is enough and that it is time to do something and it is time to see it, and with a small strength inside, you resolve that this will be the day you change, this will be the day you send the excuses back to hell and you finally decide to go hear the pine trees and explore the caves. This will be your adventure. And just like Bilbo, this is your turning point.
If I could only be reminded daily to be that hobbit, to be the her that remembers my something Tookish inside, and to go after it. In spite of all my fears and doubts, despite all that is unexpected and all that could go wrong, if I could find the strength and continue to choose daily to hear the pine trees and explore the caves and trade in my walking stick for a sword, then I could truly have a life worth living- not for silver or gold, not for recognition or popularity, but for living out the tiny spark inside me that knows there is more than all of this, that there are bigger things I want, and truer things I could be.
If we could be like Bilbo Baggins, to count the cost, to respond to our something Tookish inside, and to run for it,
then we wouldn’t be a belly of excuses,
but a world of living dreamers.