Tolkien's Lord of the Rings is generating a lot of buzz nowadays, what with a based-on "major motion picture" about to come out. One expects publicity in the usual advertising-driven media fluff-outlets: TV shows about the entertainment "industry", newspaper current-event sections, and celebrity-fawning magazines. Given the literary nature of LotR, a bit of more thoughtful prose has also appeared in some idea-oriented fora.

But thus far, I haven't seen any commentary on the most serious question: What's the Ring of Power for our Age of the world? What's the attractive force around which our society revolves? What offers infinite rewards but inevitably corrupts all who grasp it? It's not science, in spite of the astounding technological progress we've made. It's not totalitarianism, in spite of the past century's unspeakable horrors.

Our Ring is money. Look at the driver behind the wheel of politics. Study the educational system. Analyze the allocation of national resources. Observe the heirs of the Tolkien estate, the Martin Luther King Jr. estate, the Chaplin estate, etc. See who is admired, envied, praised, and emulated in our society.

Thankfully, there are exceptions: people and organizations that refuse the Ring, step out of the limelight, and retain their honor. Bill Watterson of Calvin and Hobbes fame, for instance, comes to mind. He had to fight his own comic-strip syndicate to keep his creations from appearing on millions of schlocky promotional products. He won; so have others, many unknown to us.

It is as was described in LotR (Book II, Chapter 7) when Frodo offers to give the One Ring to Lady Galadriel. She responds:

'And now at last it comes. You will give me the Ring freely! In place of the Dark Lord you will set up a Queen. And I shall not be dark, but beautiful and terrible as the Morning and the Night! Fair as the Sea and the Sun and the Snow upon the Mountain! Dreadful as the Storm and the Lightning! Stronger than the foundations of the earth. All shall love me and despair!'

She lifted up her hand and from the ring that she wore there issued a great light that illumined her alone and left all else dark. She stood before Frodo seeming now tall beyond measurement, and beautiful beyond enduring, terrible and worshipful. Then she let her hand fall, and the light faded, and suddenly she laughed again, and lo! she was shrunken: a slender elf-woman, clad in simple white, whose gentle voice was soft and sad.

'I pass the test,' she said. 'I will diminish, and go into the West, and remain Galadriel.'

(see also NoblesseOblige)

TopicPhilosophy - 2001-12-18

(correlates: PlusUltra, ForUs, Rose Is Rose on Tolerance, ...)