Return And Be Forgotten

I never finished Lord Of The Rings. I read all the way through the crowning of Aragorn and then saw that the rest of the book was just those pesky hobitses and couldn’t pick the book back up. Therefore, it came at a surprise that I chose to pick up the Silmarillion. The Silmarillion is to Tolkien fans what Leviticus is to Bible scholars, important for context and boring as crap. I, being the odd one in most situations, found it to be the opposite. I found it to be Tolkien in short form, which makes it easier for my reading style. It is layered like a perfect parfait (Have you ever met a person, you say, “Let’s get some parfait,” they say, “Hell no, I don’t like no parfait.”? Parfaits are delicious! ).

One particular instance that struck me deep could have been mistaken as passing commentary on a people Tolkien didn’t want to develop. He was telling how men, the second children of Iluvatar came over the mountain from the East. Melkor attacked them and basically divided them. There were those who heard the call to the West and would not turn back. Those were remembered for their valor. Then there were those who were afraid, turned back and were forgotten.

I read it this the first time and thought to myself, this is a big world and Tolkien just wants to focus on the humans that interact with the elves. The Silmarillion, after all, is a history written by the elves. Why did he add the word “forgotten” at the end? It seemed unnecessary. Then I remembered the context of the story. The highest honor was to live so heroically, or craft so magnificently that your name was remembered in songs and tales. To be forgotten was a shame.

I have a deep fear of being forgotten, of being meaningless. I stopped and considered this and the impact. Firstly, how the first humans heard the call to the West and answered, but out of fear turned back. They were like the seed sown in the shallow soil. Christ said their roots would grow fast but shallow and when heat came, they would wither quickly. Secondly, I thought of Lot and his wife as they fled Sodom and Gomorrah. She was called to go forward with Lot, but she turned back and looked at her old life and all she was leaving behind. The sin was still in her heart and she could not let it go and so was turned to a pillar of salt. Lastly, I considered how Tolkien didn’t use the word “fate.” Instead, he used the word “doom.” This seemed strange. Why use such a negatively connotated word for the end of life? As I read through the stories, I noticed a theme of valor and tragedy. The men and elves fought without hope against an enemy who participated in the making of the world. There was no hope of them winning, but they would not cower at their undeniable destination. They were going to die and they chose to fight anyway (valor). The point is not to win, that has already been written, the song has been sung. The point is to striving to maintain even a speck of light in world where darkness is caving in around us.

Is it better to live and be forgotten, or stive against evil and meet your doom?

The answer to that is also made clear in the Silmarillion. The men of the east were corrupted by Melkor and their own kind in service him. Those that served Melkor returned to the East and served as cruel leaders, a seed of evil that continued to grow unhindered. In the Silmarillion, to be forgotten is to be in darkness. In darkness, we are corrupted by the evil one’s lies. When corrupted by his lies, we willing chose evil ourselves.

AJ and I spoke extensively about calling and those conversations came full circle on me. Here in a single line, God used Tolkien’s masterful prose to reinforce what we concluded. We have a call. We are to answer that call and go ever forward, never turning back, never looking back, always forward. Our inevitable destination is doom. We will not see the victory. We are not the ones called to triumph over evil eternal. We are called to strive always forward into the West. We set our eyes on Christ and don’t stop until we set foot on the undying lands, until we reach His glory.

Don’t lose faith, dear heart. Carry on, further up and further in.

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