[The following is an excerpt from Be a Hobbit, Save the Earth]
There is a seed of courage hidden (often deeply, it is true) in the heart of the fattest and most timid hobbit, waiting for some final and desperate danger to make it grow. Frodo was neither very fat nor very timid; indeed, though he did not know it, Bilbo (and Gandalf) had thought him the best hobbit in the Shire. He thought he had come to the end of his adventure, and a terrible end, but the thought hardened him. He found himself stiffening, as if for a final spring; he no longer felt limp like a helpless prey. [italics/bold, mine] —LOTR: I, Fog on the Barrow-downs
Destruction of the Ring, and the Birth of a Hobbit
The first step to being a Hobbit, is to begin thinking in a new way. We cannot change the world, if we don’t first change ourselves. That doesn’t mean that you have to perfect your mind before you start changing outward stuff, like turning off lights, recycling, and eating better food. In fact you should start working on the practical stuff immediately, but don’t neglect the internal transformation while reaching for your cloth shopping bags, and putting on your organic, cotton T-shirt. Because the change of mind is the most important part, and it’s easy to forget it.
Focusing on the external problems is a mistake made many times in the past, and by almost everyone today, myself included. The problems of the world aren’t the cause, they are the symptoms; the cause is our flawed mentality, the Ring. For example, the hippie movement of the 1960s, in many ways was focused outwards on what was wrong with society and civilization.
Their main question was “how can we fix society?” They had figured out what to fight against, but not the root cause or exactly what to fight for. They had a pretty good handle on what was wrong, but not exactly what to do right. I’m oversimplifying and generalizing, of course. There were some who had a very good handle on what needed to be done and did work on their own inner turmoil first. But the majority of the movement tended to drift because they were reacting to outside forces instead of focusing on the chaos within.
Most only had a vague idea of what kind of world they really wanted. Vagueness never leads to anything. You cannot expect to hit a target that you haven’t chosen to hit. But the first target should always be ourselves. We need to focus on the Shire we want, not the Mordor we don’t.
In order to Save the Earth, we need to start at home where you are. And home means in your noggin, your head, your mind, your skull. Start by thinking small, like Hobbit small.
The First Step Out the Door
To think small means to reevaluate our needs versus our wants. This idea is almost cliché these days, but it’s extremely important. We have to turn off the noise for a while and look at the things around us in a more objective way. While I’m speaking metaphorically, physically turning it off is the best way to accomplish it. Turn off the TV, the computer screen, commercial radio, and toss the weekly newspaper ads, too, for a few days.
A change in thinking involves many other things, but the biggest message that I want to get across is rethinking our needs. What do we really need? Are they just wants? Wants and desires are not evil, in and of themselves but our attachment to them screws up our priorities.
Do we really need more stuff? Is that what a Hobbit would want? Is that what life is about? More stuff means more space to store it and that means more money to purchase or rent that space, which means more time working for Saruman and less time building our Shire, eating second breakfasts, and blowing smoke rings in the garden. And isn’t leisure time with our families and friends, engaging experiences, meaningful work, and good health what we all really want out of life? Down deep?
It might be helpful to break down this inner transformation into smaller parts, too.
Think of it this way. We first need to work on the mind, our psychological health. What can we do to lower stress, increase our focus, and be more productive and happy?
As part of that, we need to work on our body, our physical health. What can we do to improve the way we feel and function?
And lastly, we’ll look at what actions we should take to change our personal lives to make them more Hobbity. So, mind, body, action.
And let us remember the words of President Theodore Roosevelt:
“Do what you can, with what you have, where you are.”