On Simple Learning in Suspicious Days

A Journey in the Dark


What truths are hidden in desolate lands? (Source)

“Quite simple,” says Gandalf. “Too simple for a learned lore-master in these suspicious days. Those were happier times.” Such is the reaction the revelation of the riddle: mellon, the Elvish word for “friend.” Though dwarvish doors may become permanently closed should their makers forget their keywords, these doors seem to need only a seemingly straightforward and obvious input.

Those were happier times. It is a danger, especially in suspicious days, to glorify the past or cling to nostalgia. But at the doors of Moria such recognition is warranted, for the land is barren, the Elves and Dwarves long gone, the road that brought them together now in ruins. Those days were ones of people and prosperity and unity for those people, and yet out of them came the present threat the Fellowship now carries: the forging of the rings of power, and the betrayal of Sauron. These desolate and empty lands are the priced that was paid for hubris of the Elves. The Ring travels through both its pedigree and its consequence.

In suspicious days, that which was known in the past becomes unknown, but not always by ignorance or forgetting. Instead, that wisdom can be considered irrelevant or unsophisticated for complicated matters: too simple truths for advanced and enlightened days. We live in such times, where much from the past is considered incongruent or impossible in light of our progressive and innovative age. These are suspicious days, where nothing can be trusted: the age of alternate truth and fake news, where all knowledge is accessible to all and yet none of it can be believed. Mellon cannot possible be the answer, but instead we must craft long and complicated solutions.

Yet, we look around. There much good in the world, much improvement, yet there are lands now desolate. There are realms now nearly abandoned and forgotten, where the rocks still cling to the memory of marvelous deeds, where there were once happier days when great wisdom and works were forged. Perhaps it was in greatness that led to that downfall: humans are not immune to prideful craft or delving too deep for the wealth hidden from view. But these realms – of the mind, of the spirit, of the world – have a wisdom in them, lessons that even the most learned lore-master would be wise to heed in suspicious times, lest the doors through which we must travel be permanently shut.

We cannot forget the mistakes of the past, nor pretend as if we live in them. But we also cannot jettison from our memories those “happier times,” when simple truths could be made more easily known. In resisting the temptations of the Elves of Hollin and the Dwarves of Moria we raise up no further Saurons. To defeat the Saurons we already stand against, however, we must relearn the simple truths, the mellons of happier times.

2016’s Reflection: “On Mithril
2015’s Reflection: “On Darkness


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