A Different Story (Gandalf The Great)

What would have happened if Gandalf had accepted Frodo’s offer of the One Ring?

Gandalf freezes, the shadow of the ring draws his hand nearer; and as the fire skips a beat, the ring falls into Gandalf’s pocket. “I shall keep the ring safe and unused. However if there is just cause to use it, I shall become the guarantor of peace”, announces Gandalf solemnly.

As night draws in, Gandalf looks back over the hills at the tiny flickering lights of the Shire. The Wizard whispers to himself: “There is much to do. Much to do.” He notices the weight of his robes and the precious Ring within.

Gandalf wanders, ruminating intensely upon the weaknesses of Elves and Men. He reasons that Elves are incapable of comprehending the true power of the Ring, and would foolishly wish to destroy the golden future of Middle-earth. He knows that mere Men are too easily corrupted by its power. Gandalf is absolutely resolved: he must keep the Master Ring his own secret, at all costs.

Gandalf sits on the crest of Weathertop. The days pass, the rain falls but Gandalf does not notice; he is lost in matters of deepest consequence. Then out of every corner of the darkness come the cries of The Nine: “The Ring. The Ring!”. Gandalf raises his staff and proclaims: “I am a servant of the Secret Fire, wielder of the Flame of Anor, your master, the Lord of the Ring!”. “The Ring. The Ring!”, chant The Nine. As the Ring slides onto Gandalf’s finger, the sky erupts with lightning. “I am the bringer of light”, exclaims Gandalf in triumph.

Gandalf of Many Colours imprisons Saruman the Traitor and unifies Elves and Men against Sauron, destroying the Dark Lord and his Dark Tower of Mordor. Much rejoicing is had by all. Gandalf announces that there is much more to do – to the consternation of Aragorn, who is executed for treason; with all his followers, kinsfolk and other suspected spies of Elrond.

Gandalf later wears an imperial gown of black and proclaims himself the Lord High God of all Middle-earth. He anoints his Ringwraiths Lords of Middle-earth, as a temporary edict to ensure order while the new Great Age of Wisdom is being forged. He puts his vast prison camps of heretics and traitors to work, building a bigger more magnificent tower on the ruins of the Dark Tower, called The Great Tower of Unity – as a example of beauty and perfection to all. Gandalf sits at the top of the tower in his golden throne room and ever-watches, ensuring his subjects are forever obeying his great will.

Gandalf is regularly overcome with anger at the disloyalty and ingratitude of his subjects, which necessitates public demonstrations of his great power, much to the amusement of the Uruk-hai. Transgressors of the laws of Gandalf are sent to Mordor to learn more of The Way of Gandalf – they are not seen again.

One day, as the Lord High God of all Middle-earth is amusing himself with the antics of his Hobbit court jesters, he sips from a chalice of poisoned wine carefully prepared by his servant Grima Wormtongue; he takes his last gasp as the Ring slips from his withered finger on to the finger of his murderer. The Great Tower of Unity is renamed The Dark Tower.

But Gandalf had foreseen and refused this fate, placing his hope instead on the unnoticed deeds of Hobbits. “Will you not take the Ring?”, says Frodo. “No!” cried Gandalf, springing to his feet. “With that power I should have power too great and terrible. And over me the Ring would gain a power still greater and more deadly.” His eyes flashed and his face was lit as by a fire within. “Do not tempt me! For I do not wish to become like the Dark Lord himself. Yet the way of the Ring to my heart is by pity, pity for weakness and the desire of strength to do good. Do not tempt me!”

A Contrast

A few years ago, out of curiosity and in the hope of encountering some benevolent souls, I went to a Buddhist centre in London. I could see the practical benefit in the exercises being taught and listened to some wisdom words, but was far less impressed with the paradigm of shared beliefs being advocated. There were several comments that jarred me, such as hero-worshipping and speculating in earnest as to who was the greatest recent guru; or the retelling of fantastical cosmologies as a matter of fact. My mind was truly decided, however, when music and singing was attempted: No doubt the purpose was to emote joy, but the result was a blank for me. Nothing close to truth would create art – the expression of the soul – that uninspiring.

On leaving, the assembly exited the front door past two Buddhist religioners standing on either side, giving their goodbyes. The first person was everything I hoped to find there – she clearly just radiated a sense of peace, compassion, joy and love. The second, who from the literature seemed to be the leader of the place, did not have the same effect on me. I had a feeling of disquiet and, to be honest, slight revulsion.

I never went back. I think the religion is great if it can help a person grow into the state of consciousness of the woman I encountered. More importantly though, the experience lasts in my memory because of the contrast presented to me between the two people: Do I want to be more like the one or the other?

Metaphysics

The dictionary definition of “Atheist”, as a non-believer in God or Gods, isn’t accurate because anecdotally there seems to be many people who think the doctrinal teachings of religious institutions are cultural-based anachronisms – and so would be labelled “atheist” for not adhering to definitive religious beliefs about deities – yet believe in some higher spiritual power that they cannot define. This type of thought is different from believing that the universe’s purpose and function is completely explicable in terms contained within itself by matter and its interactions.

There are a lot of belief jumps in this sentence: The universe is a purposeless collection of matter that mindlessly configured itself by chance out of nothing, existing in time with causes and effects that had no beginning. A reasonable-minded adherent might be aware of the glaring uncertainties in this position, but state it is more parsimonious to adopt a materialistic concept of reality, than implant a God belief system as an additional layer in the theory. Yet the certainty with which many proponents preach this position as absolute truth, suggests a type of commitment witnessed in religious belief.

An Agnostic would state that the ultimate “why” questions are unanswerable, so from a practical perspective we should just be concerned with the “how” questions. The materialist’s objections to Agnosticism – based on the burden of proof for God being on the proponent – misses the point to an Agnostic who has already ruled-out religious explanations of God, but not higher meaning and purpose to reality. A particularly zealous materialist might overplay the remit of verifiable facts by stating that opinions about ultimate meaning are irrelevant if they are not scientifically falsifiable – ignoring the fact that their own conceptual model for reality contains unfalsifiable conjecture.

My own instinctive opinion is that I believe religions share the same spiritual root, although the core message was often corrupted by the doctrines and institutions that arose. This is my personal version of “spiritual but not particularly religious”. As I am most familiar with Christianity I can be labelled Christian; however I do adopt a filter and select only what resonates with me, mindful that the scriptures were written and edited by early practitioners of the religion; and that the Biblical canon was decided upon by the politics of powerful men in ecumenical councils, rather than being the unadulterated teachings of Christ. Looking back in history, the cruelties that have been perpetrated by professed followers of the religion, represent the antithesis of the message of Christ; for real spirituality – the root of Christianity – is always inspired by love, joy, harmony, peace and reconciliation.

Vantage Points

I believe that there are different modes of awareness. When I am inclined towards mystical impulses, I subscribe to something along the lines that: form ends on death, but time is just a perspective from one vantage point because the past, present and future are really one; all things are really a part of each other, connected and strands in the great tapestry of life; and maybe we have one foot in this life and one in other dimensions of reality. Maybe there are incalculable vantage points.

There is a part of me that is uncomfortable with uncertainty, but even my purely rationalistic inclination finds a materialist concept of reality difficult to accept, given the absurdity of a microorganism thinking the explanations of how and why reside in the realms of the observable petri dish.

I believe that to thrive at being a good human being is the purpose – and in doing so is helping the macrocosm of the universe to unfold as it should.

Replication

A pollyanna vision of the arc of technology is that if robots can do all the work at higher levels of productivity than people, then in theory everyone could be wealthy, enjoying the fruits of automated labour. People are then liberated from economic and social necessity to fully explore life; to hopefully find true beauty, love and self-actualization – instead of struggling, worrying and fighting over limited resources to survive.

Looking through the attic I came across something I wrote a while back, that was a little less pollyanna:

“School is typically a training in becoming a drone, with extra badges and gold stars for conformity to the set standards of assimilation into the machinery. The next life stage is to be oiled-up with the particular drugs of choice, to desensitize and negotiate the drone bot through the system, for the waiting skip at the end (unless not already fallen off into insanity).”

Made me laugh. Maybe I had watched too much Star Trek.

Intro

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Although life always has its funny way of testing assumptions about anything, I am an enormously fortunate human being, living in a time and place where I have an opportunity to explore varied possibilities of life and to express my thoughts without a serious risk of destructive oppression and inquisition.

This blog is intended to consolidate my observations, the only real conclusion being that experience has somehow shown me what I already knew but did not understand, as written by many people before.

Throughout history we have behaved like members of ant colonies: attacking, destroying and enslaving each other, with the added horrors of sadism and sexual violence, often led by one murderous sociopath after another. History is predominately one of brutalized, traumatized, confused people living in pain and subjugation – we in turn build statues to the monstrous and watch entertainments of the butchery.

Yet young children are joyous, loving, curious, imaginative, creative, alive – everything we as adults should be. Adults generally (despite the facades) are often lost in a mix of anxiety, depression, frustration, regret, vengeance, anger, fear and self-loathing; in varying stages of struggle and confusion.

Something happens along the way that drains the joy and implants the madness. If we are aware of what that is, can we become better adults?


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