“All the pathos and irony of leaving one’s youth behind is thus implicit in every joyous moment of travel: one knows that the first joy can never be recovered, and the wise traveler learns not to repeat successes but tries new places all the time.” – Paul Fussell
In my last post I stole a lyric from The Smiths which asks “Has the world changed, or have I changed?” That was partly trying to be clever, but partly a serious question. I approached coming back to Germany like the anticipation of meeting an old friend you haven’t seen for a very long time and had a lot of the same thoughts running through my head: Will we still get along? Have the paths our lives have taken made us such different people that we no longer know, or want to know, each other? Was I going to be able to move past my idealized, nostalgic version of Germany and be able to accept the reality?
“It is said that your life flashes before your eyes just before you die. That is true, it’s called Life.”
― Terry Pratchett, The Last Continent
I recently received a signed copy of Snuff by Terry Pratchett. It’s his latest book, and I had pre-ordered it before it was released. I guess that isn’t a very big deal these days because it’s easy to get a signed book from an author if you want one. I have a modest collection of signed books. I don’t collect them intentionally, but if one is available from someone who I enjoy as a writer I pick it up. This book is special to me not because it is signed, but the circumstances under which it was signed.
“It’s like in the great stories, Mr. Frodo. The ones that really mattered. Full of darkness and danger they were. And sometimes you didn’t want to know the end. Because how could the end be happy. How could the world go back to the way it was when so much bad had happened…But in the end, it’s only a passing thing, this shadow. Even darkness must pass. A new day will come. And when the sun shines it will shine out the clearer…Those were the stories that stayed with you. That meant something. Even if you were too small to understand why…”
These are the words that Sam Gamgee speaks at the end of Peter Jackson’s The Two Towers. These are not words that Tolkien’s Sam speaks, they were written to tie up the end of a contemporary film. And yet I think that these words have captured something of what the Lord of the Rings has meant for me in my life.