An Open Invitation
A few weeks ago, Peter Jackson’s “The Hobbit: An Unexpected Journey,” the director’s latest cinematic venture into Middle Earth, was released into theaters nationwide. The film begins the story of the adventures and travels of Bilbo Baggins. Readers of JRR Tolkien’s book The Hobbit will remember that Bilbo is a hobbit who loved the comforts of home; indeed, he was, in Tolkien’s words, one who never “had any adventures or did anything unexpected.”
A nudge from a wizard, however, sends Bilbo on a fantastic (and altogether unexpected) adventure. Far be it from me to spoil the details of the story for those who have yet to discover it. I may safely share, though, that by the end of the story, Bilbo has grown to love the beauty and adventure that saturates the wide world beyond his doorstep and the concordant, almost indescribable “aliveness” that he feels as a result of his travels. He finds even the most discomfiting risks of the road exhilarating as he has learned that each step down the path may lead him to new wondrous, life-giving encounters. “The Road goes ever on and on. . . .”
A well-worn adage dictates that The Road stretches long before each of us, and that in life we are all travelers. We too have adventures and experiences in relationships and, like Bilbo, we grow and change in often fantastic (and altogether unexpected) ways. Much like Bilbo, the more willing we are to venture outside of the doorstep of our selves and connect with our fellow sojourners, the more enriching and fulfilling our lives become. The most poignant words of our greatest poets and the films and plays that touch us most deeply have only begun to describe the “aliveness” that electrifies us when, for instance, the bride and groom joyfully kiss at a wedding, or when reconciliation happens at long last, or when the prodigal son returns home and his grateful father runs to embrace him. An aliveness of a different sort is present, I think, in the powerful feelings of sadness, anger, grief, and loss we feel in response to the hardships and tragedies of life.
Indeed, The Road is filled with flights of joy and deep despair. Whatever experiences a day may bring, however, I believe that we feel most alive–most fully human–when we feel when we are authentically connected to others and to ourselves. In meaningful relationships in which we are free to be vulnerable, we can share our deepest hopes, feelings, and fears with another and know that the other cherishes every part of us, even those parts of us which we ourselves dislike. As a fellow traveler upon The Road with you, I invite you to join the conversation in this blog as I explore the healing power of authenticity, self-awareness, and vulnerability in relationships and how we might grow toward this healing together.