Sam Reflects on the Things that Cross His Willful Path Violently and Recklessly

“We too must think of the tension between our desire to live a life that we can call our own and the tales that really matter.”

So ended last week’s thoughts on Sam Gamgee’s reflection on adventure in “a dark crevice between two great piers of rock” in the Pass of Cirith Ungol. Are we then saying that we cannot live a life of our own choosing and still be part of a tale that really matters? Carl Jung most certainly would agree with such a statement. He wrote:

“To this day God is the name by which I designate all things which cross my willful path violently and recklessly, all things which upset my subjective views, plans and intentions and change the course of my life for better or worse.”

In writing this, Jung challenged the sense that God exists in our psyche solely as a source of comfort for anxious souls. In doing so he was true to the great encounters with God that we find in the bible such as Moses meeting God in the Burning Bush and Mary meeting the angel who tells her that she is to bear the Messiah. A Christian would say that there is more to an understanding of the nature of God than Jung’s insight but would accept that his challenge is just. It is not through the achievement of our goals or the fulfillment of our dreams that we become our True Selves but through our response to the things that cross our willful path “violently and recklessly”In other words it is through the unexpected, even the unwanted, events that enter our lives that we grow. In his story, Leaf by Niggle, Tolkien tells of an artist who is constantly and annoyingly interrupted by the needs and demands of others and so is never able to complete his master work. After his death he discovers that his work has been completed, not primarily by his own efforts, but as a gift and the very interruptions that he found so irksome in his lifetime are the mysterious means by which this happens.

To come to realise that the deepest meaning of our lives lies in the things that cross our path rather than in our successful journeying down the path is not to mean that we will not have our own desires. Sam shows this himself when he replies to Frodo’s statement that at some point their role in the story will come to an end with the words, “And then we can have some rest and some sleep…And I mean just that, Mr Frodo. I mean plain ordinary rest, and sleep, and waking up to a morning’s work in the garden. I’m afraid that’s all I’m hoping for all the time. All the big important plans are not for my sort.”

Frodo may have thought only in terms of his own death but Sam longs for life and for life at work in his garden. As with all of us Sam’s Selfhood is made from the relationship between his longings and the events that enter his life. At the start of The Lord of the Rings  he longed to “see elves” and to experience adventure. That longing has been satisfied beyond his expectation but with it has come an experience of darkness from which he longs to be free. All who experience wonder will also know darkness. They belong together. Perhaps that is why for most people it feels safer to have limited ambition, to agree with Sam’s Gaffer in saying that “Cabbages and potatoes are better for me and you.” But although Sam now longs for cabbages and potatoes himself they will never be the same cabbages and potatoes as they are for the Gaffer. They will be transformed by all that he has been through.

Sam is being “Selved” (to use Gerard Manley Hopkins’ wonderful word) by his desire and by his experience and so are we. Key to this is that we stay on the journey and not turn back. Sam thinks of his own story in this way and it is to this not turning back that we will come in our reflection next week.

7 thoughts on “Sam Reflects on the Things that Cross His Willful Path Violently and Recklessly

  1. Beautiful post! I admire the way Frodo is willing to accept the consequences of his actions, but I also love the way Sam is determined to live a normal life, despite undergoing the grueling journey to Mordor.

    Oh, and one more thing – Why on earth has nobody commented on this one yet?!

    • They both bring their particular strength to the story, don’t they? The different ways that they do that would be worth a good reflection. I agree with you that Sam’s “normalness” is a mighty source of strength. I suspect that Tolkien remembered the soldiers that he fought alongside in the 1914-18 war, a large proportion of whom were country folk as any visit to a country church in England will show as you read the remembrance boards.
      Thank you for being the first to comment! It has been a good week for the number of views of the blog but perhaps readers are still thinking about it.

  2. “In other words it is through the unexpected, even the unwanted, events that enter our lives that we grow.”

    Yes. So much yes, as much as I often hate it when it actually happens.

    “I’m afraid that’s all I’m hoping for all the time. All the big important plans are not for my sort.” Oh Sam! Sam, Sam, Sam… this is why I love you’re fictional little self so darn much. Your plans are by far the most important.

      • I think if Tolkien gave us anything, (and I know you and I would agree that he gave us much!) it’s a glimpse of the upside-down world through the eyes of God. …only, if God is the one who sees the world like that, He must also be the one who sees it truly, and the rest of us see it in the way that is truly upside-down.

  3. I really like that thought that only God sees the world truly. It requires such a act of imagination on our part to see it as God always sees it, that “God chose what is foolish in the world to shame the wise; God chose what is weak in the world to shame the strong.” Still, on a day when I read that Mark Zuckerburg intends to give away a vast fortune to make the world better for his own child to grow up into I feel that he has caught just a glimpse of this and that encourages me.

    • I think I may catch glimpses of God’s view from time to time, and I know there are some people who get more than glimpses, but I have no doubt that it is the true Reality.
      The camel can pass through the needle’s eye because with God, all things are possible. 😉

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