TITLE: A Lesson from Tolkien about Commitment and Ignorance AUTHOR: Eugene Wallingford DATE: September 26, 2016 2:54 PM DESC: ----- BODY: Elrond has just addressed the Fellowship of the Ring, reminding them that only the Ring-Bearer is charged with completing the task ahead of them. The others "go with him as free companions", to assist in whatever ways they are able. He enters into an exchange with Gimli:
"The further you go, the less easy it will be to withdraw; yet no oath or bond is laid on to go further than you will. For you do not yet know the strength of your hearts, and you cannot foresee what each may meet upon the road."
"Faithless is he who says farewell when the road darkens," said Gimli.
"Maybe," said Elrond, "but let him not vow to walk in the dark who has not seen the nightfall."
"Yet sworn word may strengthen the quaking heart," said Gimli.
"Or break it," said Elrond. "Look not too far ahead!"
This is a tension we all live: the desire to make unconditional promises about the future to our lovers and compatriots despite not evening knowing what is possible in that future. I love Elrond's response, "Let him not vow to walk in the dark who has not seen the nightfall." Members of the Fellowship found that their future contained evil beyond their comprehension and temptations beyond their imagination. Our challenge is to constantly balance this tension: to live with the confidence of Gimli, but tempered by the pragmatic awareness of our ignorance that Elrond offers. Sometimes, commitment gives us the strength to continue on in the face of fear. Sometimes, though, there is no shame in turning back. -----