Whether the morning and evening of one day or of many days had passed Frodo could not tell. He did not feel either hungry or tired, only filled with wonder. The stars shone through the window and the silence of the heavens seemed to be round him. He spoke at last out of his wonder and a sudden fear of that silence:
‘Who are you, Master?’ he asked.
‘Eh, what?’ said Tom sitting up, and his eyes glinting in the gloom. ‘Don’t you know my name yet? That’s the only answer. Tell me, who are you, alone, yourself and nameless?
The Lord of the Rings are my favorite novels of all time and Tom Bombadil is my favorite Tolkien character. It is therefore slightly appalling* that coming on two years of writing this blog, I have never written about him. I might have to write a post or two to make up for that folly.
“Tell me, who are you, alone, yourself and nameless?”
We are learning who we are. That’s the purpose of life, to learn, and then to become fully, who we are. It sounds simple, but of course it is not.
If you remove all the false parts of your identity, if you strip away all the noise, all the stuff, all the diplomas on your wall and the medals on your chest, all the things you’ve done that aren’t you but that you’ve tried to make become you, what is left? Who is left? Who are you, alone, yourself and nameless?
If you take away even your name, how we’ve tried to lodge identity in these abstracts, if even that is stripped from you, do you have an answer?
In Tom Bombadil’s case, he is eldest. He is the one being in Middle Earth on whom the ring has no effect, holds no sway. I don’t want to ruin it, in case you’ve never had a chance to read the books (they’re pretty new and a bit obscure and hard to find), but Tom Bombadil knows who he is. He asks the challenging question that has always stuck with me, that continues to ring in my ears, and for himself he can answer.
We don’t know who we are. We have to start there. We’ll only begin to discover when we’ve admitted this to ourselves. By this I mean we think we have some objective view of ourselves. We don’t. None of us do.
Who are you, truly? What matters most in who you are? Or better, what alone matters in who you are?
I think standing before God is this.
*Can something be “slightly appalling?” I mean, clearly yes, because this is.