One of my favourite sections of one of my favourite books is the chapter where Bilbo and Gollum exchange riddles in The Hobbit.
My first encounter with this wonderful piece of writing was when it was read out at a library program I was attending. Can’t remember how old I was but I must have been pretty young, because although I was inspired to want to read the book right away, I actually found it quite challenging. I ended up coming back to it about a year later and it’s been a fave ever since.
Of all the riddles, the one that most blew me away was Gollum’s final riddle:
This thing all things devours;
Birds, beasts, trees, flowers;
Gnaws iron, bites steel;
Grinds hard stones to meal;
Slays king, ruins town,
And beats mountain down.
It was the riddle Bilbo found most challenging, only able to answer it by a stroke of luck. Hopefully I’m not spoiling too much by revealing that the answer is time.
Sounds like a pretty dark and gloomy attitude to take towards time. Although I don’t see time in such black terms, I do have some idea of what this riddle is on about.
Of all the forces we have to deal with in life, time seems like the most brutal and unremitting. It continues to move forward, whether we like it or not. Every day, I have that sense that the clock is ticking and there’s nothing I can do about it.
There are so many things I want to do. So many stories I want to write. So many exotic places I’d love to visit. So many more occasions I’d like to spend with loved ones.
On the flip side, so much of that time seems to be spent doing things that are far from the top of my wish list. So many hours spent performing chores around the house. So many hours at work.
Like everyone else, I can only do my best. I can only try to manage my time as best as I can, savouring the hours spent on the things I enjoy and making the most of those other times – having a smile or a laugh even at the most inopportune moments.
I feel lucky enough that I should (hopefully) still have quite a bit of time left. Though my body is starting to send signals that I’m no longer as young as I was, it still does most of the things I want it to do. So it’s up to me to live every day the best way I can. When that final moment comes, I don’t want to feel that I’ve missed out on anything.
Posted by Jonathan Gould and tagged as