Tuesday, February 5, 2008

Evocation and Hope: For me or for you?

When I saw Peter Jackson's first installment in the epic 'Lord of the Rings', I realised that Tolkien had been captured in film for me. There were discrepancies, of course. I had not envisioned the elves as embracing Art Deco fashions, nor was my vision of many of the characters, especially Galadriel, that of the actors who played the parts. Ultimately, it did not matter. He brought Middle Earth to life and now, childhood visions of the books are interwoven with Peter Jackson's epic film inextricably.

I found the following video on YouTube. Perhaps it will mean nothing to some one who never saw the film or whose soul does not resonate to it. That brings me to the oft-asked question: why do I write these posts? Is it a journal for myself, placed on the internet as a substitute for creating more stacks of papers in my room or is it for others?

Writers always have kept journals. Non-writers always have kept journals. One of the attractions of the 'web log' is the fact that there is a kind of in-built editing device. The fact that others CAN read the posts prevents too much self-indulgence and the divulgence of too many personal 'secrets' perhaps. One hopes that it forces the writer to be a little more interesting and a little less self-obsessed than otherwise.

When I watched this video, I understood that it had been made by an individual with as much emotion vested in Tolkien and 'Lord of the Rings' as I. It is not only the images themselves or the song, but the emotions that are evoked by them that invest the video with power. Like the bare image of a crucifix nailed to a wall, the images from 'Lord of the Rings' remind fans of the intense moments in the tale. We are reminded of the 'last stand' of the forces of good against the forces of evil. We are reminded of the extraordinary courage and devotion of Eowyn and the heroism at the Black Gate. We are reminded that there are causes that transcend our messy little lives...

An editorial in a local newspaper recently discussed a scam that is being perpetrated mainly against the elderly. It is a letter that contains a 'prayer rug' made of paper with an image of the Christ upon it. Follow the instructions and the eyes of Jesus are supposed to open, purportedly to show that HE is listening to your prayer and will answer it. Like many religious scams, the letter asks for 'seed money' and any money sent by some bizarre process of osmosis will yield fruit in the form of your wish come true.

Obviously, it is nothing more than a very old scam designed to obtain money under false pretenses... As I thought about it, however, it occurred to me that what is being marketed here may not be a complete fraud. It is HOPE. Every 'expert' in the human psyche will acknowledge the power of the Will and the power of 'mind over matter'. If a person BELIEVES, surely that is a potent weapon in his/her arsenal. The aesthetic portion of my soul decries the thought of a paper 'prayer rug' with an image of the Christ with eyes that open and shut, but what difference would it make to any one who believes in its efficacy and changes his/her actions to make the wish come true. I am not speaking here of the 'seed money' aspect of the scam but of the actions of the subconscious that could begin to work towards the fulfillment of the dream.

It is a great pity that some individuals will rely on the tawdry imagination of a scam artist to produce Hope for them but is the Hope itself negative or positive? Without hope, we become paralysed. On the other hand, the capitalist philosophy that brainwashes us into believing that one can place a monetary price on everything, including hope, is corrupt at its core in my view. Yet people do appear foolishly to value items that cost them dearly more than those that are free or inexpensive.

Recently, a study was made that involved wine connoisseurs. They were given a number of different wines to 'taste' with the price of each. The same wines were offered twice with two different price tags. Inevitably, the majority of 'tasters' chose the most expensive as the 'best', even though the same wine was offered with a far lower price attached to it! So much for the power of the mind and the inability to recognise intrinsic value if the market does not act as our guide!

Perhaps it is appropriate to address these issues today on Ash Wednesday. Last year, I devoted my posts to festivals and wrote about the festivals that occur at this time of year. Although the Islamic calendar is lunar rather than solar, 'Ashura this year occurred very near the season of Lent again. Many of the festivals that occur in January and February are devoted to sacrifice and rebirth, encouraging the soul to have faith in the light through the last dark months of Winter.

I never disliked Winter. I find it incredibly beautiful, especially in the North where snow falls and there is a very clear distinction between the trees that lose their leaves and the eternal evergreens. Were the trees not to be denuded of their 'garments', the magic of Spring could not exist, when every tree is clothed anew. The bright buds and leaves unfurl and the stark outlines of the branches are decorated with an incredible display of rich form and colour. Nature long ago taught us about 'fashion' in her rule over the seasons. Spring is glorious only because Winter paves the way...

Is it not enough for us to pay attention to Nature itself in order to obtain the Hope we need? Is not the sight of the first snowdrop far more potent than a paper 'prayer rug' with a religious image imprinted on it? Would not a real seed planted in the soil in autumn be far more potent than 'seed money' sent to a con artist?

In urban landscapes, it is far too easy to lose our natural direct connection to the land. It is possible in ANY place, however, to keep a plant in a pot. In Iran, the small plants that are cultivated for Nawroz are such, immediate proof of rebirth. They are the descendants of the ancient Adonis plants and like them, fragile but fast-growing, destined for a brief but showy life and ultimately to be thrown into the sea or river, a sacrifice of life FOR life.

In 'Lord of the Rings', I find all the eternal messages of hope and steadfastness and above all else, recognition that Self is less ultimately than the causes that transcend Self. The fate of the world is far more important than the individual fate of any human or animal... It is only when we forget this that we actually LOSE our courage and turn inward to a vision that is finite and ultimately lacks any future.

If we remember that we are part of the Earth, we cannot die wholly. If our hearts beat in unison with the great heart of Nature, then we live forever. I do believe in an 'afterlife' or 'hereafter' but even without that, we are part of THIS earth and THIS life after our bodies decay and are consumed by the earth. Moreover, those artists like Tolkien who create visions that capture the imagination of millions live forever in their work. True immortality may be that which inspires others from generation to generation.

'May It Be' Lord of the Rings and Enya

May it be an evening star
Shines down upon you;

May it be when darkness falls,
Your heart will be true.

You walk a lonely road...
Oh! How far you are from home.

Mornie utúlië (Darkness has come)
Believe and you will find your way.
Mornie alantië (Darkness has fallen)
A promise lives within you now.

May it be the shadow's call
Will fly away;
May it be you journey on
To light the day.

When the night is overcome,
You may rise to find the sun.

Mornie utúlië (Darkness has come)
Believe and you will find your way
Mornie alantië (Darkness has fallen)
A promise lives within you now.

A promise lives within you now.

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