It’s only a passing thing, this shadow

silhouette of person standing on bridge
Photo by James Wheeler on

In case you don’t know, there’s evil in this world. Beyond that, humans experience tragedy that can’t be explained. Life can get awfully dark when the tide turns against you.

Enter my favorite movie series, The Lord of the Rings, based on the classic books by J.R.R. Tolkien. Like many, I instantly fell in love with these movies when I first saw them. And besides the incredible soundtrack from Howard Shore, I think it’s the deep, powerful themes they present.

Broadly, the main characters are tasked with a long and difficult journey which could represent a human life with all its ups, downs, dangers, and evils; we get to see the character use all of the tools we have to fight for our best lives—friendship, perseverance, love, and hope to name a few.

There’s one scene that always strikes me, and I’ll explain why.

The Tales That Really Mattered

It’s in the second of three movies—right in the middle. And this is perfect, because while beginnings and climaxes are the most interesting or intense parts of films and perhaps life, it’s the middle part where the most important stuff happens. It’s in the middle part where we decide what path(s) we take that will determine our fate tomorrow and beyond.

In this scene, Frodo becomes instantly relatable. Exhausted and with little hope, he says a simple, disheartening phrase.

“I can’t do this, Sam.”

Who can’t relate to that? How many times have I felt this way in the past couple of years alone? Too many to count. I’ve been or at least felt constantly attacked by circumstances beyond my control. I get it, Frodo. I know that feeling. That feeling is human.

Of course, this is an inspirational story, not a depressing one, and Frodo’s best friend Sam really delivers in this time of need. He responds,

“I know. It’s all wrong. By rights we shouldn’t even be here. But we are. It’s like in the great stories, Mr. Frodo. The ones that really mattered. Full of darkness, and danger, they were. And sometimes you didn’t want to know the end, because how could the end be happy? How could the world go back to the way it was when so much bad had happened?

But in the end, it’s only a passing thing, this shadow. Even darkness must pass. A new day will come. And when the sun shines, it’ll shine out the clearer. Those were the stories that stayed with you. That meant something. Even if you were too small to understand why. But I think, Mr. Frodo, I do understand. I know now. Folk in those stories had lots of chances of turning back only they didn’t. They kept going. Because they were holding on to something.”

I mean, that’s just beautiful, isn’t it? It inspires without pandering. Quite a bit better than “hang in there.”

I’ve written before about the temporal nature of things in life. It’s one of the most important lessons I’ve ever learned.

Good and bad things pass. All of them. Thus, we mustn’t get too comfortable in the good times or too distraught in the bad times.

What Are We Holding On To?

After Sam’s speech, Frodo asks, “What are we holding on to, Sam?”

At this point, having watched many movies, I can predict Sam’s cheesy and vapid response. “We’re holding on to each other.” Yawn. But alas! This book was written by Mr. Tolkien, and he knows better. Here’s the actual reply from Sam.

“That there’s some good in this world, Mr. Frodo… and it’s worth fighting for.”

How profound!

That is indeed THE answer to many of our struggles, wouldn’t you say? It’s so good that it even encapsulates the aforementioned cheesy response that I expected (“holding on to each other”). The people we love are a big part of the good in this world worth fighting for.

And it captures the purest essence of perseverance. We go on because there are things that matter to us. We go on because there are things worth fighting for! Not to show we’re strong, or to merely survive another day.

The worst thing that can happen to a person is loss of purpose. I truly believe that, because when you lose your purpose, you no longer see what it is you’re fighting for. It makes the battles you face feel like punishment instead of a challenge you face in your exciting and meaningful journey to destroy the ring and save a beautiful world.

What in your world are you fighting for?

Happiness? A friend? Your family? Your future? An important cause? A hobby or passion?

Whatever it is, don’t forget it.

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