Sometimes, you know, occasionally, I feel sad. Indescribably, often inexplicably despondent. Life seems too much and too little; I can’t breathe; my soul sinks down into my stomach, and stays there. I’ve toyed and Web-MD’ed with the idea that I have some mild form of depression or an anxiety disorder. Maybe I do.
But it doesn’t really matter, because this post isn’t about what gets me down, its about what gets me up again. I’ve been dealing with these sad spells for a long time, from when I was about 14-15 I think. I’ve obviously had to come up with a coping mechanism or I’d be a manic-depressive nutcase by now (no offence intended, of course these are serious problems, I don’t really mean nutcase etc etc).
Its Tolkien, for me. Friends, yes. Family, yes. Books, yes. Movies, yes. TV, yes, yes and yes. But above all this is the first world I fell deeply and eternally in love with: Middle Earth. Its not a love that’s just literary or fan girl-ish or whatever. Those things exist, of course, separately. I do own posters and write fan-fiction and know all of the lines. This is more spiritual than that. Its my happy place. Curling up with The Hobbit or any of the LoTR books or movies is comfort food for my soul. When that black chasm of despair seems to appear in front of me — this is not an exaggeration — when I’m searching for a point and can’t find anything, I close my eyes and conjure up the feeling I first had when I read LoTR. It was a slow, steady discovery. I knew I was going to love it, and I did. It’s that feeling of being 14 and a door opens up inside your brain and your heart. You didn’t even know there was this emotion in you, there was this capacity to wonder and imagine, and there it is. And I guess that’s what Lord of the Rings represents. Its my ability to dream, to imagine so clearly a world that does not exist that it then does. As long as I have that, I know I’ll be fine. Loneliness, failure, rejection, heartbreak; everything horrible that life throws at you can be chased away by a really good story, really well told. Its my patronus, my shining silver guardian angel against depression.
Don’t you dare tell me its unhealthy; its the healthiest defense mechanism on earth. It can’t be taken away from me, by anyone or anything. It always will exist, to pull me up and cheer me up and remind me what I enjoy and inspire me to create something beautiful of my own.
That scene with Gandalf and Pippin (it isn’t really even in the books) is the closest I ever came to feeling religious, and is the only after life I ever imagined. I know Tolkien intended it as a very much literal allusion to the after life. I’m not Christian, I don’t take it literally. To me it’s more of a symbolic faith that there is a space in all our minds where there’s beauty, and nothing external that happens to us can ever destroy that. Gandalf’s words, to me, ring profoundly true.
There’s another quote from the books, by Sam (I think its in the movies as well, in the extended version):
There, peeping among the cloud-wrack above a dark tower high up in the mountains, Sam saw a white star twinkle for a while. The beauty of it smote his heart, as he looked up out of the forsaken land, and hope returned to him. For like a shaft, clear and cold, the thought pierced him that in the end the Shadow was only a small and passing thing: there was light and high beauty for ever beyond its reach
It’s from Return of the King. Not bad, eh? No. Not bad at all.