Concerning Hobbits, and other matters
The customs and concerns of the four farthings can seem so distant to us. Yet in what a similar position to the hobbits do we find ourselves? For though the length of time may be shorter, there too is much beyond our living memory. For many of us, especially in the West, real war hardly concerns us, while famines and epidemics are cold concepts for the books, not our bodies. Some of us have never felt true hunger, true cold, true torture, true persecution. Even those in developed places (with safety nets and basic protections) who possess almost nothing have so much compared to many of our ancestors or those in strife-stricken lands. We think that peace and plenty, freedom and security, atomized materialism and enlightened secularism are the rules on planet Earth, the right of all sensible folks. We, too, are sheltered, and we have ceased to remember it.
In truth, nothing in life is guaranteed. Every right must be secured; for every good thing something must be sacrificed. The certainties we most take for granted are the certainties most likely to be lost. There is no law in heaven or on earth that says that history always progresses for the better: history itself teach us quite the opposite. It may be that our brief span in the sunlight is the exception, not the rule.
Recent geopolitical uncertainty and economic forecasting have begun to flush out some sense of this “being sheltered.” However, neither prophecies of doom nor rebel-rousing are the proper responses to this realization. Instead, we must recognize and imitate the labors of those that have made possible our long peace. And in doing so we recognize two actions.
First, we must give up. Hopelessness is not the aim here, but instead firmness and determination. We must toughen ourselves through sacrifice, and shed those material and habitual things that soften our souls. Whether thinking of the needs of our planet, our country, our church, our community, our families, or even our true selves, there is much that we could set aside, do less with, or excise that would serve the common good or preserve the things that really matter to us. What we choose to give up voluntarily now may be demanded of us later on. In learning to give up willingly, we prepare ourselves for the challenges that surely lay ahead.
Second, we must give out. There are many around us who have long labored to protect the true, the good, and the beautiful. There are many as well who struggle with burdens, hardships, and pains. Both need our care, our support both material and immaterial. They are both guardians of a sort: the former of our peace, the latter of our humanity. By ignoring either, we risk sheltering ourselves to a point beyond oblivion, while the winter and wolves close in around us.
We can no longer keep the world without: like the hobbits of the Shire, we too now trouble and are troubled by things greater than ourselves. Fortunately, with Lent fast approach, we have a perfect time to begin this needed abstinence and fasting, this essential charity and support. So let us gird ourselves and be set in our resolve, for the journey is long, and we have work to do.