I first read The Hobbit
in the late fifties when I was nine or ten. It completely blew my mind and instantly became a bible of sorts. Along with the later Tolkien trilogy, The Lord of the Rings
, Middle Earth wisdom has been a major influence. The Jackson movies were icing on the cake–brilliantly realized visions of a world I’ve loved for over fifty years.
Like most sacred texts, I find guidance in The Hobbit
‘s archetypal struggles–like wisdom speaking to fear, or hope ignited by courageously facing despair. A wonderful crisis-of-faith story is Bilbo and his companions’ journey through Mirkwood Forest on their way to the dragon-haunted Lonely Mountain.
Gandalf gathers them at the edge of Mirkwood and explains that he can’t accompany them because he has to deal with the Dark Lord (pretty good excuse I think). Then he explains how the forest is enchanted, dangerous, and tricky, but they’ll be fine if they just stay on the path
. His last words to them: “Good-by! Be good, take care of yourselves–and DON’T LEAVE THE PATH!”
Of course they screw it up and disastrously leave the path just shy of actually making it out safely. “Don’t leave the path!
” was the best advice they ultimately couldn’t quite follow–which just emphasized the value of the message.
“Don’t leave the path!” is especially important for men. Women like a guy who seems to “Do it right!” as best he can no matter how burned out, pissed off, wasted, provoked, or confused he gets.
Staying on the path
can also guide and comfort despairing couples–often hurt, angry, exhausted, and blaming each other.
I’m telling the Mirkwood story to Doug and Evie, tired of fighting all week, but who also have been making slow progress for months. The session has begun with a depressing litany of all the mistakes they’ve made since Saturday. Finally, tired of complaining, they look hopefully at me (not at each other yet), and I tell them the Hobbit story. They listen with interest, but then abruptly both faces fall. Doug says, “We’ve already tried so hard.” Evie nods.
They’re actually close to love right now
, but can’t see it, like Bilbo and his Dwarf buddies losing it at the last bit of Mirkwood. They need an experience to renew their faith.
I take a deep breath and say, “Look each other in the eyes.” They reluctantly comply. “Can you see Doug’s love for you, Evie? And Doug, can you see Evie’s love for you?” Instantly the energy changes as smiles curl at the corners of their mouths and the warmth they long for springs into being, quickly expanding. I let them enjoy it for a few moments before continuing. “This is always right here between you
if you reach for it at the same time. Practicing this
keeps you on the path.”
Like Gandalf, it’s my job to see joyful/loving futures. Such visions are compasses to guide us, though it’s always good to remember that many routes can lead to deeper love. Sadly, if one partner refuses to do any
work (take some responsibility for problems and change some perspectives and actions to make things better), the promised land is denied to the couple (though it might exist for either with other partners). Happily, if both commit to steady progress and walk the walk, they invite tantric transformation.
I’ve talked in many previous blogs about what tempts us off the path (#4
, and 71
among others). Suffice to say, it’s easy to stray and hard to stay. On the other hand, Gandalf, as usual, was right. When you find a great path, keep on it no matter what–“DON’T LEAVE THE PATH!”