In the 1937 book, The Hobbit, we were introduced to the creature formerly known as Smeagol. The name of Gollum was given to him later.
Of course, anybody who has ever read the book, or the subsequent trilogy “The Lord of the Rings” will know that the creature was in possession of a special ring for a very long time.
This ring actually extended his natural life and later he would die due to the relationship he had with the same ring.
Gollum had a way of repeating himself and one of his phrases regarded the ring that he labeled “my precious.” In the end, while he hated the ring, he also loved it without ever fully realizing the power that was held in the gold band.
The problem is that the “precious” controlled his life.
He tenaciously wanted to hang on to it even though it was also destroying him. Gollum went to great lengths to use the ring in order to get his own way with others.
The “precious” that he HAD to have was never good for him.
In some way, humans can be the same as the storybook Gollum. We may find a “precious” that we must have and we refuse to let it go. The reality is that what we find to be precious is something that we think we HAVE to have.
In a more dangerous position, sometimes the “precious” can become a crutch that we MUST have in order to make life work for us.
The “precious” can be money, a trinket, a hobby, or even a relationship. If the “precious” is not in our possession, then life becomes miserable and we can even use it to make life miserable for others.
Sadly, even life itself can be our “precious.”
We don’t want to grow old and we tend to fear what comes after. We watch our loved ones and friends grow feeble and die, yet we want to clutch them to ourselves. Sometimes, it can even be a selfish motive or reason.
As an illustration, I remember what transpired when we were living back in England and helping to take care of my grandmother.
She was precious to me and yet, as she was coming to the end of her life, I selfishly did not want to see her go. She had been an integral part of my life for almost 40 years. The end of her life saw her facing a great deal of pain, and finally, at almost 87, she succumbed.
In the years prior to that, I had also lost my British step-grandfather, who was very special to me. He died at the age of 96. My brother, who was just shy of his 23rd birthday, passed away from a massive heart attack.
Through all of this, there were times that I selfishly wanted to hang on to them.
They were best friends, not just relatives.
Yet, I can look back to those days shrouded in pain and grief, and I realize that part of life is learning to let them go. There is absolutely no way that I would want to bring them back to this dark world or keep them living in pain just so that I could have them as a crutch.
I have written about using things or people as a crutch before, but it is good for us to be reminded that crutches can be dangerous.
Instead of having a simple appreciation for the possession, or a profound love for the individual, we can actually be a hindrance to ourselves as well as to them by making demands that only suit or work to our benefit.
There are a few reasons that crutches fail.
First, inevitably, they are only about us. Gollum did not care about others, even when he claimed to have Frodo as his master. Gollum only used Frodo to stay close to the “precious.”
Second, a crutch puts others at a disadvantage because it demands more than they are prepared to give. Or, what it unreasonably demands is something they are not aware of and that is being required in order for the friendship or relationship to remain in place.
When we MUST have a new car, or a new house, or a new computer, or even a new friend, then we are succumbing to the “power of the ring.”
All that occurs, in the end, is that we become a slave within ourselves.
Ultimately, when a person is involved, we are actually making them a slave to us and to our desires.
A relationship cannot be built on what we MUST have from another in order to make life work. A proper relationship is built by learning what and how we can share together. We can hold others in high esteem, but we cannot hold them back in life or in death.
How or what can we change so we do not become like Gollum?
1. Remember that life is fleeting and death comes to all of us. Our lives will come to an end sooner than we will probably anticipate.
2. Remember that possessions are temporary. Therefore, they come and go. Hold them loosely and give freely to others who are in need.
3. Remember that relationships must be cultivated to the mutual benefit of all parties involved. This takes hard work but it is rewarding.
4. Remember that life is not about what others do for you. Life is learning to be there for others, even in the hard times.
In conclusion, there is nothing wrong with having special things.
There is nothing wrong with building relationships with those you love.
It is what we do with those things that will make the difference in our lives and the lives of others.
— Originally written for “Live Your Life On Purpose” at Medium.com