Tuesday, January 20, 2004

Tolkien inserts multiple verses and songs, some simple and cheerful, some sad and beautiful, that recall the rich oral traditions of ancient peoples. Currently, rhyming poetry is very much out of fashion, but these simple lines still hold magic for us. Here is the song both Bilbo and Frodo sing as they set out on the Road:

The Road goes ever on and on
Down from the door where it began.
Now far ahead the Road has gone,
And I must follow, if I can,
Pursuing it with eager feet,
Until it joins some larger way
Where many paths and errands meet.
And whither then? I cannot say.

Even those of us with a deep love for home occasionally catch a longing to wander, to go far afield on some adventure or quest. Bilbo's flight is voluntary while Frodo's is rather forced, but both of them feel the allure of the Road and its call to all who will wander. Just this week, our Oxford community had a dialogue about the fact that we, as mortals and as Christians, are pilgrims: this world is not our permanent home. We are all destined for eternity. Therefore we can never, and should never, be fully satisfied with where we are: something in us will always be hungering to move on, to go ahead to the next part of the adventure. The old paths can sometimes seem "too well-trodden," and our feet want to break new ground.

Frodo wondered what was in the "white space" he saw at the edges of maps of the Shire. Exploring the white space can be "a dangerous business," as Bilbo warned, but it is also exciting and an essential part of the journey of life. All of us in Oxford certainly wandered far from home this semester. A frightening step, yes, but an exciting one, and we are already witnessing the growth that comes from daring to step out in faith.


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