Concealment and Revelation
[From IMDB Movie Poster]
Finding the ultimate truth about anything in this world is not easy. Science gives up its secrets only with much labour, endless experiment and focussed thinking. So also with philosophy. To the rigours of philosophical thinking there has to be added wisdom. And where does wisdom come from? It comes from wrestling with human nature which is notoriously devious and deceptive.
Concealment and truth is woven into the very fabric of reality, and is a ubiquitous theme of literature and art. I have almost finished re-reading Tolkien’s “Lord of the Rings”. [I’m at page 1054 in my edition – only 23 pages to go!]. Tolkien presents us with a string of characters whose first appearance belies their real nature. We meet the almost sinister ‘Strider’ in the Prancing Pony Inn – “a strange looking weather-beaten man…… he wore a hood that overshadowed his face; but the gleam of his eyes could be seen as he watched the Hobbits.” As the character of Strider unfolds we come to know him as Aragorn, heir to the throne of Gondor. And we see him finally in all his royal splendour on the day of his restoration to the throne:-
“But when Aragorn arose all that beheld him gazed in silence, for it seemed to them that he was revealed to them now for the first time. Tall as the sea-kings of old, he stood above all that were near; ancient of days he seemed and yet in the flower of manhood…..”
We have similar challenges to our perception in the fall of Gandalf the Grey and the rise of Gandalf the White. The Hobbits are halflings, and along with their Shire, small and seemingly insignificant. Yet their indomitable endurance and wholesomeness is the critical factor that saves Middle-Earth from ruin. Even the degenerate and desiccated creature Gollum, a ruined Hobbit – even he becomes an essential part in the overthrow of the power of Sauron.
Tolkien was staunchly Catholic, both in religion and outlook. I am not of his denomination, but I hope I am of his outlook. I think Tolkien would have approved, in this month of December, quoting some words that must have inspired his own understanding of how the unlikeliest of characters proved to be the ultimate Ring Bearer:-
“The land of Zabulon, and the land of Nephthalim, by the way of the sea, beyond Jordan, Galilee of the Gentiles; the people which sat in darkness saw great light, and to them which sat in the region and shadow of death, light is sprung up”.