On Forgetting About One’s Rope Until One’s Master Is Half-way Down a Cliff Side

The Taming of Sméagol

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Exhibit A (Source)

Samwise, you had one job: keep your master safe on his journey to Mordor. And here you are, not a few days from breaking off from the Fellowship, in the midst of a storm with Frodo blinded and half-way down a cliff side, and now you remember the rope? It was only a short while ago that, upon leaving Rivendell, you had a premonition of needing such a tool over the course of your journey and rued your own forgetfulness. You were spared further concern when the gracious Elves of the Golden Wood provided you, seemingly at their own initiative, with rope of a magnificent sort. And yet, during an hour of obvious use, your possession of such a thing needs the endangerment of your master to prompt? Get your head in the game, Gamgee.

If you had remember the rope earlier, Sam, perhaps the two of you would have been able to scale the rocky hills sooner. And certainly if you had not remembered the rope at this point, Sam, Frodo would be in quite the pickle, and a dangerous one at that. If your master’s peril hadn’t jogged your memory, Sam, then maybe you would not have had the rope at hand to tame Sméagol and bring him unintentionally in line. A lot of essential things seem to be hanging from this rope, Sam, and it’s a lucky thing you threaded the needle without permanent loss.

Yet, perhaps I shouldn’t be so judgemental on you, dear Sam. After all, how often have we all, dear readers, forgotten about our own rope until our friend was half-way down a cliff side? Never you say? Well, climbers among you aside, I am speaking with an element of allusion and analogy (for I dare not say allegory, lest Tolkien himself expel me from the Kingdom). For we all possess coiled ropes in our belongings that we bring out not frequently enough.

Perhaps it is an unexpected skill or seasoned perception. Perhaps it is an unpleasant experience or trying burden that offers wisdom. Perhaps it is a character trait or way of proceeding with people. Whatever our rope be, it is buried below much in our journey pack, and being out of sight, may be out of mind. And yet, we should not forget it, for nothing we have brought on this pilgrimage serves no purpose. Even the little box of soil given us by Galadriel may find its use if we can overcome the days ahead. When those for whom we care and love find themselves unmoored in the storms or depressed in the crevices of the road we travel with them, we must bring back to mind the rope we have stored away. It may be the difference between the speed we need and unsuitable delay.

So, like Sam, let us take a moment of reflection: like we did before we set out, let us take stock of what we are carrying with us in a period of prayer, meditation, or quiet conversation. Let us recall why we have brought each “thing,” whether material or immaterial, with us on this journey. Let us consider when they might be best to bring out for service. Then, just maybe, when the cries of the Black Riders come upon us unawares, we can have the courage and foresight of Sam, and set our ropes out to lend a hand.


2016’s Reflection: “On Admonishing the Sinner
2015’s Reflection: “On the Book that No One Likes

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