Middle Earth is one of my guilty pleasures. Guilty because it feels like an escape from Planet Earth and I'm not escapist by nature. Pleasure because the whole of it fills with me such exceeding joy I feel as though I want to pause the movie over and over again so that my eyes can take in the vastness of the landscape and the detail that is often missed as the tape keeps rolling.
For the past couple years I haven't frequented nature as often nor appreciated it with my grateful gaze...this is one of the deadly dangers of preoccupation. I find that when I'm thinking about something else other than the thing I'm doing, or thinking about someone else other than the person I'm with, or thinking about somewhere else other than the place I actually am...it's impossible to have any relationship whatsoever with nature. Nature can't be experienced outside the natural. The more unnatural my patterns of living, the less relaxed I am to do much of anything naturally.
And so it is with creation. As I drive by the beauty of creation lost in thought, so goes my creativity. As my separation from nature cuts off the natural, so my separation from creation cut off the creative in me. I'm just trying to put something into words that typically just sticks around as a pesky feeling.
So back to Middle Earth...
I watched "The Hobbit" last night and after nearly 10 years since the Lord of the Rings trilogy, I think I was surprised how much I missed the landscape of this story. The mountains and valleys, rivers and waterfalls, mountain caves and crags, idyllic pastures and rolling hills. I missed the sweeping scenes of forests and valleys. I soaked in the colors and textures and layers of life found in the adventurous journey of the fellowship. I drank deep of the imaginative worlds and words of Tolkien. The languages, the songs, and the creatures all set within this great place called Middle Earth.
The storyline was secondary to the setting. Most of the time, the plot trumps the place for me. If the story stinks, I couldn't care less about the special effects or seismic scenes of grandeur. But Middle Earth cut me to the quick with the precision of a surgeon's scalpel. I can't innumerate the times when my arms were covered with goosebumps simply because the land opened up in front of me in all its vast detail. I felt like the man to whom Jesus gave eyesight...and I can identify with his simple response: "I don't know what happened or how it happened, all I know is that once I was blind and now I see." That's what those moments of transcendence felt like to me. Moments before, unbeknownst to me, I was blind and all at once I was given sight. Glorious and unspeakable sight. Where before I could see shapes and shadows, I could now see design and delicate detail with all its splendor. And when the scales come off your eyes after years of 'not seeing', there are no words to explain the simple joys of seeing. "I once was...but now I..."
I'm just grateful to live in an age that culturally can transport us to places that before were locked up in our imagination. Granted, nothing can replace the boundlessness of our imagination, but the movies that are being made keep pressing the limits and I, for one, am grateful.
Something about Middle Earth makes me want to live a better story on Planet Earth. But I haven't the time to explain that mystery. So I'll leave it at that.