Saturday, January 08, 2005

A gecko's tale

Watched the third installment of Peter Jackson's The Lord of the Rings the other evening. Remarkably true to spirit of the book, as I am sure Tom -- a longstanding Tolkien fan -- will agree.

One theme that flows through Tolkien's trilogy is what the author calls "the bewilderment of the treasure," represented most forcefully in the influence of the One Ring, but associated with all accouterments of wealth and power. As Tom Shippey suggests in his book on Tolkien, the "bewilderment" starts as intellectual curiosity (read "science"), develops into craft ("technology"), turns into greed and desire to dominate. Saruman's orcs start by felling trees for furnaces, and end up felling trees for fun.

As I write, I look across the room -- my G4 PowerBook, my iPod, the music system, the books, the electric coffee maker by the kitchen sink. And there at the window above the sink, clinging to the screen outside, a gecko, head nodding above the sill. Two tiny "hands" appear. Body, "feet," dangling tail.

A little Hobbit restraint might serve us well as we edge our way into an ever more affluent future, embracing the beneficent artifacts of knowledge, but holding fast to all things that live and grow and breathe.