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          It was a typical afternoon when I was hunting through the shelves of my school library for something to read and as luck would have it, I chanced upon The Fellowship of the Ring, a book that would later on enthrall and excite me. I browsed through the first few pages and pretty soon the images of Hobbits tickled my imagination, and I fell under the spell of JRR Tolkien’s storytelling. I just couldn’t put the book down anymore and I read one page after another, anxiously wondering how Frodo’s quest would turn out and if the people of Middle-earth would survive the Third Age.

          After completely reading the trilogy, I suddenly understood the respect and the love other people had for Middle-earth, and for all the characters that lived and died in its pages. I am not surprised that it became the book of the century, although critics may scoff and turn green at the very thought, they cannot deny the fact that Tolkien touched something within all of us, and with his words he managed to make our primordial fantasies and desires come to life. He gave them flesh, breathe life into them and placed them in a world where the child in us would jump at the chance of living in such a mythical land.

          It is no wonder then, that last night, the child in me was seized with the sudden urge to revisit that land of mystery and adventure that hovered between the verge of our dreams and reality. For the nth time, I watched the Fellowship of the Ring as directed by Peter Jackson. I was already caught up in the excitement of attending Bilbo’s birthday party, and while sitting down uninvited in his living room area, and idly listening to what Gandalf and him were talking about, I was suddenly struck by something he said. He told Gandalf that he realized, “It is not a bad thing to celebrate a simple life.” I stopped and thought things over; and the wisdom of those simple words dawned on me.

          We are always aspiring for one thing or another in life, always mulling over the fact that we don’t have the latest Versace shirt; that we haven’t eaten at this fancy restaurant everyone’s talking about; that our cell phone isn’t the latest model; or that everyone else has an iPod and we don’t — and heaven knows the rest of the brouhaha we are “dying” to get our hands on — thanks to society and marketing of course. We all dream of being rich and famous, always associating happiness with money and fame, that we forget that life is a journey into becoming a person of substance and compassion. That at the end of it all, we will die, our flesh would rot away and that no matter how much we pamper ourselves, the worms would still have their way with us.

          At the final stage of our voyage, we will face our Creator, and what would we have to say then? What would carry more weight, our Bvlgari watch, or how much of a person were we to others? Were we fair, were we self-righteous, did we think we always had the right answers, or did we struggle to rise up against our shortcomings to win some fight and lose others? How did we cope in the end? Or should I dare ask it — what did we do?

          Life is simple, we just manage to complicate things along the way. Enjoy the free things — the sun, the wind, the sea, the earth … your life … your family … your friends … your essence … your soul, because these were the gifts that the Creator in His wisdom and compassion gave you from the very start. I think, after everything has been said and done, Bilbo’s idea isn’t so bad after all.