Ash swirls through the air. Rocks rain down around him, and lava creeps toward the jutting rock that is to be his final resting place. Blood seeps from the open wound where his finger used to be, and the sound of his best friend’s weeping drifts faintly through the noise of the mountain ripping itself apart beneath them.
Frodo is blissfully happy. Lying back against the unforgiving stone, he exhales a sigh of contentment, and a little smile plays across his lips as he breathes:
“I remember the Shire.”
He tells Sam he can see it now, as he could not see it when the now-destroyed Ring was possessing his mind. Once more, he is capable of imagining the color green and the taste of fruit. Minutes from death, he basks in the reunion with this capacity: the reunion with his inner self. He is free, and the fear of death is but a pale abstraction next to this overwhelming truth.
Tell me I’m not the only one who always has tears in my eyes at this moment.
I can’t help it. It’s too sweet; and too true. That feeling of reunion with oneself; that feeling of inner authenticity so strong that the external world drops away. I’ve had flashes of it, and those brief flashes keep me going because I want more.
If you’re anything like me, you spend much of your life either acting on or battling fear, insecurity, shame, envy, or a thousand other things that make it harder to accept and love yourself completely. Whatever the external circumstances that cause you difficulty in your life, their effects are often outgunned by the pain created in that more complex kingdom within your psyche.
By the same token, a change in that inner kingdom can remove a lot of power from the external one. We’ve all known people who were improbably serene in the face of a situation we think is worse than our own: how can this be? I think these people are in closer contact with their inner selves: they “remember the Shire” and it means so much to them that fear and regret fade away.
They say that a spiritual void lies at the core of addiction and many other troubles common to the human condition. I’ve attempted to fill the hole in my spirit with many things, and after years of seeking I have met something that fits the hole like a key fits the lock. Only for moments, still, but what moments. I have felt what Frodo felt on that rock: a sense of wholeness, of consummation, of recognition so powerful that it casts out all fear and uncertainly.
I remember. Oh, God, I remember.