Don lives and works at Apple Farm.
Last autumn Barack Obama spoke of what is needed at this time, “The only way anything gets done is to recognize the truth of the person opposite you; get in their heads and see through their eyes.” Now autocratic governance, exemplified by arbitrary exercise of power, and assertions that those in power may act without regard for truth, or the well-being of all life and the planet itself, challenges our ways of response. Obama has put his finger on a basic and ancient truth.
We all know stories where virtues of empathy or compassion triumph against ruthless power. I have long thought that J. R. R. Tolkien’s The Lord of the Rings is a myth for our times. Most of us are familiar enough with this myth to permit me to pick up within the story. The hero Frodo is not trying to achieve a great prize. No, the task is to destroy something that appears to confer power on its possessor; to rid middle earth of the Ring of Power through which its possessor can dominate and control all others.
The Ring of Power must never be put on, even to try to destroy the power of domination. Those with legitimate authority can act from that authority but not with the Ring of Power. Aragon, the rightful king, can fight for the restoration of Gondor; Gandalf can fight against the evils of corrupted wizards; Frodo has inherited the Ring from his uncle Bilbo. Nevertheless the Ring of Power itself can’t conquer the evil of Sauron.