Pippin wakes up in a vision of hell as the prisoner of the orcs and a voice of condemnation cries out against him.
“I wish Gandalf had never persuaded Elrond to let us come,” he thought. “What good have I been? Just a nuisance: a passenger, a piece of luggage. And now I have been stolen and I am just a piece of luggage for the Orcs. I hope Strider or someone will come and claim us! But ought I to hope for it? Won’t that throw out all the plans? I wish I could get free!”
Of course the voice of condemnation is in his own head and that is where such voices always sound the loudest. Throughout the journey the young hobbits have been surrounded by intent and capability. Aragorn, Gandalf, Boromir, Legolas and Gimli are all battle-hardened warriors. Frodo and Sam share the task that must be fulfilled, the destruction of the Ring. But Merry and Pippin have no skill as warriors and no great task to fulfill. All they have brought with them is their loyal friendship. At this moment the gift they have offered since the unmasking of the conspiracy at the cottage at Crickhollow in The Shire seems to have very little value. They have simply been a nuisance and they have always been “looked after”.
As I speak to those who are growing older one of the things that strikes me is that this fear of being “a nuisance: a passenger, a piece of luggage” is one of the greatest of all their fears. Perhaps we carry that fear with us all through our lives. Only at one time in my life did I ever stand in the Dole Queue but it remains a powerful memory. At that moment I felt useless. The bus station in my town was just opposite the office where I had to sign on and each time I got off the bus I would take a walk around the streets for a few moments so that no one would see me walk straight from the bus in order to join the queue. I remember too the feeling of relief when I got work as a day labourer with an employment agency. No work felt too demeaning. I was paying my way, making my contribution to the household of which I was a part. Even now as I work freelance and find my work to be profoundly fulfilling there is a part of me that still seeks to keep the feeling of uselessness at bay. Will I be content and at peace in my old age? It is a discipline, the discipline of delight that I am still seeking to learn though I pray for it each day.
Next week we will think about what Merry and Pippin, the luggage of the Orcs, seek to do in their misery. The clue lies in the last phrase of the quotation of Pippin’s speech: “I wish I could get free!” But this week I invite you to share in their misery. Not in order to wallow in it but in order to examine yourself, becoming aware of the voices of condemnation that shout loudest in you, perhaps of your own fear of being “useless”.