The Battle of the Pelennor Fields
In the chaos and haste of battle, it is easy to see how things might spin rapidly out of control. Armies charge and retreat; bells ring out from the city, ships sail in from the sea; the injured, the fallen, and the dead become indistinguishable without careful consideration. So too in the chaos and haste of life, whether on the plains of spiritual warfare or the rolling hills of the heights and troughs of daily dwelling, one can rapidly rush to judge the merits of an action, the outcome of a choice, the consequence of a revelation. Yet the rush to judgement is fraught with dangers, and one must not be hasty if one is to discern them well.
For like the Witch-King of Angmar, the Captain of the Black Host, our rush to judgement can stir up hubris and haughtiness. In our finest hours, in our moments of triumph, when all our plans have come to fulfillment and our pride has reached our highest, we can stumble into our own demise. In our celebration we can forget the wisdom to consider all the iterations of words and deeds, and in our intensity of focus we can heed not the “worm in the mud.” Whether our cause is terrible evil and sin or righteous goodness and virtue, still our hour can be abruptly ended by a rush to judgment, by imbibing our own self-worth and merit, by marveling in our own strength and accomplishment.
And like Éomer, our rush to judgement can obscure detail and disrupt foresight. In the intensity of passion and in the rush of emotion, we can miss the subtle insights and necessary distinctions that separate life and death, victory and defeat, hope and despair: we can dismiss our loves before their time is spent, and charge into dangers before our time has come. Without the reflective pause of the Prince of Dol Amroth, the still-breathing Éowyn would lay untended in the White Tower and not cared for in the Houses of Healing; without the unhoped for arrival of Aragorn, Éomer would lay fallen within “a great shield-wall at the last” instead of triumphing over his foes. The consequences of rushing to judgement are not limited to ourselves, but all those who share the pages of our story.
And there are smaller moments, smaller realizations across the plains of Pelennor that impart the wisdom of restraining the rush to judgement. Elrond wanted not to send Merry with the Fellowship from Rivendell, and Théoden wished not for him to ride from Rohan; nevertheless, it was his courage and his sword that broke the power of the Witch-King. The wisdom of male rulers declared it folly for a woman to ride into battle; nevertheless, it was Éowyn who fulfilled the prophecy of the Black Captain’s demise. Éomer and the Rohirrim foresaw no good in the suicidal errand of Aragorn and the Grey Company into the Paths of Dead; nevertheless, the final force for the triumph of good came from Aragorn own foresight. The watchmen of Minas Tirith saw black sails upon the horizon and despair; yet upon the black was the tree, the stars, and the crown, and hope was restored upon its sight.
Our lives possess less martial glory, but not less intensity. Upon our own plains and battlefields we act, we decide, we choose, we judge. Without moderation to our haste, our emotion, and our passion, we might rush into judgement, and therefore judge poorly, to the detriment of ourselves and those around us. When the world is in chaos, we must have the strength to pause and think deeply, relying on the wisdom of both ourselves and others. In restrain ourselves from the rush to judgement, the acts we then do take more often find their fulfillment.
2015’s Reflection: “On Laughing in Defiance of One’s Certain Demise”