Tag Archives: Lord of the Rings

All That Glitters

So this is definitely the final stretch before my first year of medical school starts. Four weeks from today, in fact, I will be starting orientation week. I have so much to do during these few weeks that they will likely go by extremely quickly, and I will look around to find myself in the middle of medical school.

Possibly my grades after the first exams. We will see.

I have two more weeks of work, then a weekend of call, and then two weeks “off” while I attempt to get my wife and I moved several hundred miles into a new house before school starts. The first weeks of school should yield lots of posts on this blog, as my wife will continue working at her current job for a few weeks after medical school starts, leaving me all by my lonesome.

I read far more than I write, and I write considerably more than most of my generation. Heck, I regularly exceed 140 characters when I post my thoughts to the internet, and I rarely abbreviate. Since I read often and quite rapidly, I spend a fair amount of time on Amazon or browsing book stores for something interesting and different.

NOTE: I read Jim Gaffigan’s new book last weekend, and it was incredibly funny. It is probably best read in short segments, but the in-laws were shopping last weekend so I had several hours to kill in a local mall. I laughed out loud so many times the guy next to me at Barnes and Noble probably thought I was losing it.

Like I was saying, I spend a fair amount of time browsing for new books. I am certainly guilty of glancing at a book and immediately making assumptions about it based on its appearance. I am sure that I have passed some very interesting reads simply because the appearance of the book was not what I was expecting or wishing it to be.

Everyone knows the saying “Never judge a book by its cover”, but the truth it teaches is worthy of illustrating to show some of the things I have learned over the past few days.

Right now I am re-reading the Lord of the Rings. I have made it a tradition to re-read the Chronicles of Narnia each Christmas and the Lord of the Rings in the summer, enjoying the familiar flow and cadence of each story, reacquainting myself with favorite characters as old friends. This particular copy of Tolkien that I am reading is the exact opposite of the story contained within. Grey, paperback, and largely featureless on the cover, the backdrop shows the Misty Mountains in poor focus behind a prominently displayed title. My book shows plenty of wear, between the bent corners and curved spine. Those that have read the story know that the tale told inside is of epic proportions, detailed, polished, and assembled over the course of decades by one of the most masterful authors of the 20th century. If I saw my book on the shelf in Barnes and Noble, I might very well keep walking. Maybe this is a bad example, because everyone and their mom has seen Lord of the Rings. Let me put in a huge picture to make up for my lack of pictures so far.

The three really long movies. Surely not everyone slept through them….

There. That should be huge enough.


That same idea (not judging by appearances) is a key theme throughout the story. The appearance of a character is inversely proportional to the role they play in the story. Aragorn appears to be a dirty Ranger from the wilderness, but is in fact heir to the throne of Gondor and descended from a line of noble kings. Gandalf is a pivotal character in the story, counselling, fighting, encouraging, and rallying against Mordor, yet he is called Gandalf the Grey. The color grey itself implies vagueness and ambiguity, and for much of the story Gandalf does nothing to dispel the illusion of himself as a wanderer. Even Frodo, who by his resilience is finally able to bear the ring to its destruction at Mount Doom, is by all outward appearances useless in the fight. As a hobbit, he is small, weak, and totally unprepared for combat and violence after an idyllic upbringing in the Shire.

The opposite holds true as well. Denethor is Steward of Gondor, the leader who should be at the forefront of containing the evil of Mordor. Instead he does nothing, even squanders the resources at his disposal. Elrond and Galadriel, wise and powerful Elven rulers, do little more than offer shelter and counsel during the journey and climax of the story.

Given the pace of our lives today, it is our nature to make quick decisions and rapid judgement. Our actions weave a web of cause and effect that last far longer than the instant that it took to make those decisions. I am better at this than most, often picking meals from a menu in seconds (although that may also be because I mostly eat hamburgers. Bad example, sorry)

Pretty much the parts of the menu I can see

Pretty much the parts of the menu I can see


To put it another way, I am often quick to make assumptions on people based off recent status updates, despite knowing next to nothing about their lives. I don’t know what it is for you…maybe someone is bigger or smaller than you. Maybe they are better dressed, or more poorly dressed. Maybe they live their lives a way that you don’t necessarily understand (ahem, people who don’t eat at Chick-fil-A!) I do no one any favors by sorting through that new information in an instant.

To summarize before you go to sleep: I am hoping to find places and people with which I am not familiar, and spend enough time learning from them and about them that I am not doing them an injustice by an incorrect first impression.

Now I hope to spend a little longer before settling a matter in my mind. I want to give more than passing thought to what is subtle, and learn to notice the absence of something expected as easily as the presence of the unusual. I hope this makes me a better husband, a better friend, and someday a better doctor as well.

Thanks for reading!


Edit: After posting this, I have received tons of traffic from Lord of the Rings fansites. My best guess is they showed up because of the giant picture of the ring I placed in the blog. In an effort to drive traffic, I will soon begin inserting photos of famous people and upcoming movies into posts….just kidding. Maybe.