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Friday, September 19, 2014

All's Well as Ends Better

This week - our final week - we read "The Grey Havens."  The Shire has been saved from Saruman's cruelty, and the work of repairing it begins.  Houses had been destroyed and trees had been felled needlessly.  Sam is the busiest at work, taking the soil that was a gift from Galadriel and spreading it around the Shire.  It grows in the next year as much as it should have taken 20 years.

The Gaffer, Sam's father, says, "All's well as ends better!"  Given all the struggles we've seen, we should hope things are going to be 'better.'  In everyday life the quote is "all's well that ends well," but why not hope for it to be better?  Struggles and pain and slow progress are a poor payment for things to just be the same as always.  We want to see improvement.

Our text tells us how our four hobbits return to their life in the Shire.

Merry and Pippin lived together for some time... it warmed all [the Shires'] hearts to
see them go riding by with their mail-shirts so bright and their shield so splendid,
laughing and singing songs of far away...Frodo and Sam, however, went back to ordinary attire.

Merry and Pippin enjoy the spoils of their victory long after the victory is over.  There's nothing wrong in basking in that glory, but the text now leaves them behind.  No one likes an uncle Rico, but that's the extreme.  We can't find much fault in what they are doing.  However, they are not moving onward.  Not like Sam.

Sam gets married, and has a child, a daughter.  He and his family move in with Frodo at Bag End, and we are told Sam becomes Governor at a later date.  Sam goes on the Quest, but then when he returns, his great deed being done, he returns to his old life.  Sam does not hold on to past glories like Merry and Pippin, but nor is he stuck with them like Frodo (who becomes ill on October 6th (when he was stabbed at Weathertop) and on March 25th (when the Ring was destroyed)).  Sam represents those of Middle Earth who see great things, but then must return to the humdrum of life.  And he does.

We've talked a lot about what the message of our text is.  We've mentioned that war is the true enemy (so many times I even feel self conscious about linking to it!), and that we, like Faramir, must love only that which it threatens.  What does it threaten?  Let's broaded our  search, and go from war to conflict.

All conflict threatens peace and growth and love and peace.  I know I said peace twice - the first is a generic peace, a lack of conflict.  But the second I mean as an inner peace.  All conflict, all of the Rings which we bear - though we may not know where our own Mount Doom is - prevent us from living full and happy and peaceful lives.  We may live lives that are exciting and dramatic and full of twists and turns, but our text teaches us that those must in our eyes seem less desirable than peace and contentment,  Someone will get hurt in the excitement, the drama may be too much to bear, not everyone will be able to endure the twists.  We must all aim for the simple joy of living with loved ones, raising the next generation, and enjoying our time together.

Many stories in our culture end when the drama ends.  Alfred Hitchcock said "What is drama, but life, with the dull bits cut out,"  The scene ends at a dramatic point, montages speed up weeks or months of tedious practice, irrelevant conversation or thoughts of characters are not shared. But there is a toll to all of this.  Real life doesn't mirror stories.  It's rougher and more grotesque than that.  But here, the text is not a celebration of the War, or the Quest, or the Ring.  It goes on to detail "where they are now."  We're supposed to care about these characters fully, not just about their prowess in battle.

"All's end as ends better," is a fitting quote, then.  Things are even better than they were - but what good is that unless we enjoy it?  In Star Wars, Han Solo is supposed to sound selfish when he says "What good is a reward if you ain't around to use it?"  But there's some truth to that.  What good is fighting to defeat evil if you aren't able to enjoy the peace that comes afterwards?  Even if that peace is one of "the dull bits."

So our Creative Wizard takes us on a tour of post-War Middle Earth, where justice reigns and our heroes are free to live their lives out in peace.  We walk away from the text not just knowing Sauron has been defeated, but that life in Middle Earth goes on, even if we aren't there to watch it.

Enjoy the adventures life has for you, be sure to return with boons - souvenirs and lessons from your quests - and then, having returned, get back to the life you had been living.  Adventures are the fuel that drive our engines, but our daily lives are the car which that engine drives.  We must live for peace and joy and contentment, and not get attached to the battles and the drama.  We must ensure that we love "only that which they defend." (I guess I linked to that page after all...)  We must always be ready, eagerly, to return to the joyful humdrum.  As Sam says at the closing of our text (but the beginning of the rest of his own story) "Well, I'm back."

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