Friday, July 3, 2020

Many Plans Made

This is the eighth 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.
The seventh is here. This saga continues below.
 Many Plans Made 

The Four Travellers had a subdued dinner and an evening talking quietly in the gardens of Rivendell. They were daunted by the task before them. No one more than Eleanor, who had taken it up. 

Ever after, she said she could not say why she needed to take this on and what motivated her to stand up and speak. She would simply say it seemed the right, and only thing to do.

Her friends felt her pain and knew the struggle within her. They felt their own struggle as well.

How do you go about and change how everything is done? How do you make something happen that likely has never existed before, from something that likely never been imagined and possibly does not exist, except as an idea.

They wrestled with these ideas all the next day. The wise people they met in Rivendell, elves, humans and dwarves, all spoke with them. All spoke on how they thought they would take up the challenge as Eleanor had.

None of the ideas these others came up with seemed to help them. “This is all well and good for Elves and Dwarves, but we’re hobbits! We’re sensible folk who do not like having things upset. These other folk go from one changing thing to another. We don’t! We like things to be the same today as they were last week. We like knowing that tomorrow will be much the same as yesterday. How will we do this?”

They spent what seemed to be days in this debate. One evening Gandalf joined their discussions. They were glad for his company. He was wise beyond measure. He had aided their fathers, mothers, and great grandfathers and back beyond their reckoning. Now, finally, he appeared to be aged.

He had been old before, but seemed ageless. Now, he seemed to be really old. They asked him why this might be. He laughed.

“The Rings are gone. When the One Ring was destroyed by Frodo and Samwise, the other Rings all lost their power. With them also went a great deal of the power of Magic in the world. Most would not know that. All the Wizards do.

Our time is over here. I came to help see you on your way. There is little I can tell you I have not already said. The same words I said to your father and his companions still apply.

You have grown. You are wise enough now to choose and make your own paths. I am glad I could see this before I return to the West, for the last time. You have proven the trust I had in Hobbits all those years ago. You do not need me or anyone to tell you your way now.”

With that, he lit his pipe and smiled. “I shall need to remember to bring as much Southfarthing leaf as I can bring before I go. I shall miss this otherwise.”

The four looked in wonder, amazed. Then Eleanor spoke.

“I don’t feel wise. I don’t feel at all like Frodo Baggins or my mother or father. They are wise. I don’t think I am at all.”

They all said she was wise, very wise in fact. More wise than any of them or most people they knew. She argued that she was not wise, certainly not as wise as they thought she was. If she was really that wise, she would not be in such a state, a dilemma over what to do.

She sat and looked into the fire in the brazier next to where she was sitting. She quietly held her cup of wine while her eyes took on a far away look.

“I think part of the problem is the experts who came in with changes and improvements talked to everyone as if they had all the answers to all the problems. They used words and terms people did not understand. They tended to talk down to people when they said they did not understand what those terms meant. They rather insulted people for not using the right words.

“Those same people were the ones who would need to make the changes a reality. Their bosses and managers were the ones who were demanding consistent language and terms they understood. These were the terms the experts said were wrong, did not mean what they thought and insisted they be abandoned without a strong understanding of what their new terms meant and how to get management and managers to accept them.

“The problem is, I think, our managers and these experts are invoking the power of the Lord of the Testing Rings as their source of authority. Both can’t be right. Both can’t represent the authority of the Lord of the Testing Rings, can they?”

She blinked. She looked at each in turn until her eyes met Gandalf’s. Then they opened wide in shock and understanding.

“Gandalf! You said when the One Ring was destroyed, all the other Rings lost their power. If that is the case, then there is NO authority anyone can claim as being the single, right authority for testing. Is there?”

Gandalf looked at her with a twinkle in his eye. He began laughing and the laughter carried all around them and brought them all into it.

“My dear Hobbit. That is precisely correct. They are invoking an authority that has no relevance now. I’m not certain it ever had any relevance except to those who would see the world ordered precisely as they would wish it. If it had any relevance it was in the effort to control everyone. How they work, how they think and what they do. That is nothing more than a small, weak mirror of Sauron’s desire.”

Then Eleanor said, “I think I understand now what must be done. I think we should get ready to head home to the Shire as soon as we can. If we spend tomorrow getting ready and making our farewells, we can leave the day after. The Road should not be too hard this time, afterall, we know where we are going.”

She sent word to Elrond of the decision. She, and all of them, appreciated his hospitality and counsel. They had arrived at a decision on how to apply that counsel.

The next day, the Travellers filled their packs. The Elves gave them generous supplies of food, including their waybread, which would help speed them until they arrived at Bree. If they carried plenty of food and water, they would not need to spend time hunting for food and could move more confidently. The packs would be heavy to start, but would lighten quickly as they travelled.

They also had notebooks and references, transcribed and saved so they could be packed easily with little weight to them. When all was made ready, they joined a farewell banquet given for them. It was then Gandalf said he would like to travel with them as far as Bree.

“As you no longer need my counsel, or protection on the Road now that the King has restored order and peace, I’d simply like to travel with you on this part of your journey. I’ve a mind to see old Barliman one more time at the Prancing Pony. I always liked that inn.”

The Travellers were extremely happy. They had heard tales of Gandalf travelling with Samwise, Frodo, Peregrin and Meriadoc. Now they would have him with them for a journey as well, even if only for a short time.

The next morning dawned fair and bright. Not too warm, no chill in the air. It was a perfect day for walking and talking and singing songs to make the road short as it is said.

Several days into the journey, as they were approaching Bree, Gandalf told them stories about the days when he first met their parents, and “uncle” Frodo. He told them how silly Peregrin and Meriadoc seemed. Esmeralda Took, daughter of Peregrin and Bell and Amaranth Brandybuck, daughters of Meriadoc, the companions of Eleanor, laughed. They always seemed so wise to them.

“Good heavens! They were among the most foolish Hobbits I’d ever met! And that is saying something. But they were all in their tweens at the time so had not really been expected to be serious. The journey with the original Fellowship forced them to grow. And grow quickly.”

“But Gandalf! None of us have 'come of age' at 33 yet! We’re all in our tweens as well!” said Bell.

 “Of course you are Bell! Remember many people, men in particular, don’t think much of women, unless they excel. People fail to notice the accomplishments of most women I find, particularly younger women.”

All of the Travellers cried out in protest. Esmeralda was furious. “Gandalf! That is ridiculous! Why is this? Why do we need to work harder and show more success than other hobbits our age with the same experience? Why is this?”

Gandalf looked very sad for a moment. “The reasons for that are many. Most are hidden from the Wise. I think, and this is only a guess on my part, the cause lies deep in the nature of most living things. Hobbits tend to be more willing to be open to other Hobbits. Dwarves the same with Dwarves. Humans tend to trust no one but other humans who look, generally, like them.”

 “If I needed to give you a single reason, I think that might be the closest I could give. In this we see another reflection of the power of Sauron. He is gone but his influence remains. Many Hobbits have gotten so comfortable in their lives over the many, many years, that things which upset the “natural order of things” are looked at with great scrutiny. I believe this is part of that. People in software have gotten used to not seeing many women in strong technical roles. Many have convinced themselves it is because women are not capable of doing that work. Nonsense of course. Still, it reflects what the world has become.”

Bell huffed, much as her father used to. “Gandalf, this is a ridiculous reason. The four of us are smart and hard working and understand problems better than most others we know, including those older with more experience! Why should we need to prove ourselves over and over?”

Amaranth, called Amy by her friends, very quietly said, “This needs to change. It needs to change NOW. It has gone on far too long. So many have gotten used to it that it became normal. It is not normal. It is wrong. But who can change this?”

Gandalf made no reply.

After going some way, they stopped for the night and made their camp. A fire was built and they prepared a meal from the food the Elves had given them. The Hobbits talked amongst themselves. They returned to the talk from the road. They repeated the points and concerns. Gandalf lit his pipe and sat silently.

When all fell silent and everyone was looking at the fire, Eleanor quietly spoke.

“We went looking for answers about testing and making software. We found ourselves in Rivendell talking with many important and great people. We found answers and are searching for how to apply them. And now we have more questions and problems to solve.”

“Gandalf said both sets of problems were part of the influence of Sauron. He is gone, but his evil lingers on in some small ways. Except for us, they are not small. They are big.” 

Gandalf looked at her with a strong intensity. She saw something in his eyes. She was not sure if he was sad or happy. Perhaps a mixture, a little of both.

Esmeralda looked at Gandalf for a moment then at each of the Travellers. “I know who will change this behavior and attitude. I know who will change all the problems we have been talking about. I know who will upset the apple cart of the people who want to be experts and in charge and control things. I think I know why they tolerate the behavior and attitudes toward people like us in software. I know who will change all of this.”

“We will.” She said. “But not tonight. We must sleep now if we are to reach Bree tomorrow and the Shire the day after.” With that, she opened her bedroll and went to sleep.