Monday, April 27, 2020

The Fellowship is Formed

This is the seventh part of the story which began here. The second is here.
The third is here. The fourth is here. The fifth is here.  The sixth is here.
This saga continues below.
This is the hour of the Shire-folk, when they arise from their
quiet fields to shake the towers and counsels of the Great.*

Gandalf was silent. The Four Travelers shuffled their feet and looked around the room as if they were looking for an escape from his gaze. There was none. They felt like he was testing everyone in the room, but them in particular.

Then one noticed Galadriel was sitting quietly, next to Elrond. She looked at them and smiled a gentle smile, as if to reassure all of them that things would work out. She relaxed immediately.

It was then Gandalf spoke.

“Elrond has spoken of the past, the distant past some might say, of how electronic computers and software came to this point. Faramier, Gimly and Legolas have spoken with words of warning in their hearts. You yourselves, all of you, have seen the growing trends of late. The changes in wind and water. The unsettled energy all around us.

“Most of you here have been witness to great shifts though you may not have recognized them as such. The shift toward a regulated and controlled method of creating software has been subtle. Even among those who call out for more “flexibility” they are implementing greater controls than existed before.

“The idea of teams being ‘self-organizing’ is a threat to some organizations. They demand strict compliance. They demand fierce loyalty and they expect each worker to reject anything other than what they are told to do. Because the “Company” knows best. 

“We have heard these things before. The slave of Sauron and Saurumann spoke ever thus. The Haradrim or Southrons spoke thus. Though we defeated Sarumann and Sauron, we did not defeat all of the evil they drew upon and fed. There is still darkness here. Our challenge is to be diligent in searching it out, identifying it and destroying it. 

“The proud and fell Easterlings are still present. The Haradim still live. They reach out and corrupt ideas by twisting words to fit their purpose. Beware of them! Beware of the words spoken as reasonable people speak that run counter to what others might say.

“Beware those who belittle and demean others because they have different ideas. They will insist those ideas are false and must be overturned. They will speak from emotion rather than fact and truth. Remember, to the crooked eye, truth can wear a wry face.

“Their words will be comforting, as were Sarumann’s words. They will seem reasonable and draw you in to wish to appear reasonable as well. This is their trap.

“Beware those who tell you you speak wrongly or ill. They will find ways to undermine your heart and spirit. They will tear down how you communicate with others and insist their words are the only true words. If you question them you will face their wrath.

“You fear them. But you do not fear them enough. They can bend and twist your words around you then deny they are doing it. When they finish, you will be worn down and vulnerable. Then no one will understand your words when you speak.

“When you explain your new truth, you will become the outside to them. You will become the outlander who threatens all.

“Make no mistake, you will threaten them. You will threaten the ones who dwell in comfort and accept their lot. You will threaten their masters who hold them in thrall. You will threaten the order imposed from above. You will threaten their models and justifications. You will threaten all that they have built up, which others see as strong and powerful and ‘right’.”

Gandalf stopped and looked directly at the Four Travelers. Then he continued.

“This challenge is nothing more than the challenge taken on themselves by Meriadic Brandybuck, Perigrin Took, Samwise Gamgee and Frodo Baggins. They journeyed with great purpose, with people in this very room, to do a great task. They accomplished it. It was only on their return home they realised their hardship, suffering, challenges and loss prepared them for the great task no one could ask them to do.

“They arrived home and found it disordered and disturbed. Violence was present in ways it had never been before. The very values that were cherished by everyone in the Shire had been upended and tossed away.

“No person told them they must do this thing. They told themselves they must do this thing. Everything they had seen and done prepared them for the doing.” 

Then, looking around the room, Gandalf said “You four from the Shire, and all others here who would see a better world have the same challenge. Find a way to make your world better, or accept all as it is and be still.  No wizards can aid you. No elves or dwarves can help you. Our time is past.” 

With that he sat down. The room was silent. The Travelers looked at each other. They looked around the room. Most people in the room were looking lost, deep in thought. Some were frightened by Gandalf’s words. 

Then Galadriel spoke.

“All of you, heed the words of Gandalf, Elrond and the others who have spoken. I have words for you as well. Gandalf gives words of warning. Words to help you avoid traps and snares that will capture the unwary. These traps are not of the sort that you might think. But they are present nonetheless. Remember how comforting things seemed at first, the words and instructions you were given? Remember the result of following them? Remember what advice was given by those who advocated, then pushed, then demanded they be followed?

“We elves can see some outcomes. We do not know which actions lead to which outcomes. Our power is fading. Now is the time for those who believe they have no power to discover theirs. Now is the time for each of you, all of you, to consider in your hearts what it is you would have done and what kind of world you, your colleagues and your children will live in, work in and grow in.

“Many long lives of Men we have lived here in Rivendell. Many things have we seen start well then fade. Many things have blossomed unexpectedly and grown and flourished, when nothing was anticipated. This decision is on each and every one of you.”

Then she sat and looked to the center of the room and said no more.

For a long time no one spoke. Most looked down at the floor in front of them. Some were deep in thought. Even Gandalf and Elrond look uneasy. A stirring began inside one of the Four Travelers. She looked up. First at her companions then around the room. She felt herself rise silently. Everyone looked to her.

“I will take these words and ideas and warnings. I will go back to The Shire and spread them as my father spread the soil  from your garden you gave him long ago, great lady. I do not know what shall happen. I do not know what will come of it. But I will go and I will try.”

Then she sat down. Her companions looked amazed at her. She herself looked amazed the words came from her.

Gandalf looked on her with a soft smile, as if remembering deeds long past. Elrond looked at her with great pity. Then Elrond said, “Once, long ago by your reckoning, I told your father’s companion that no one could place the burden he was taking on him. No one could order him to take up his great task. Indeed, your father was hiding in that dark corner of this very chamber, behind that very plant.” 

The young woman looked where Elrond indicated, and was amazed. She had heard the tale but had not quite believed it. Then Elrond spoke again.

“No one can place this burden on you either, Eleanor Gamgee. If you take it up of your own free will, then so be it. This is a task that will bring hard labor and likely hard words. Your Father, Samwise and your mother Rose, have prepared you as best they can for any challenge. Choose companions who would do well and who can help and support you.

“As I said all those years ago, again, this is the hour of the Shire-folk, when they arise from their quiet fields to shake the towers and counsels of the Great. You have greatness in you. Use that greatness for good to overcome the greatness which is aiding ill.”

With that, Eleanor smiled. Her companions stood and embraced her. One by one, they pledged to work to make testing and all software creation better. Not with threats and intimidation and whips and cruelty. But with wisdom and compassion.

Wisdom and mercy in their proper measures, with determination and a will to succeed will do more than threats and fear ever could.

The others in the room looked at each other and nodded. Many murmured assent. All pledged to take up the challenge in the path shown by Eleanor, daughter of Rose and Samwise, and return to their homes with the same task.


*JRR Tolkien, The Fellowship of the Ring, ©JRR Tolkien, 1954, renewed 1982, Houghton Mifflin Harcourt Publishing, Boston, 2014, p. 264

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