Some phone calls can transform an entire evening.
“I’m very pleased to tell you that the book is finally in.”
Ding-ding-ding! Never mind trying to find downtown parking near Barbed Wire Books on a Friday night. Never mind the chill of a January evening. This treasure had been a long time in coming, and it was perfect.
A used copy, for affordability.
Clearly in excellent condition.
And most importantly, the true object of my quest: a hardcover binding.
No wonder this one had taken months to search out. How often do you surrender a high-quality copy of The Lord of the Rings?
If you’re a regular here, you know that JRR Tolkien holds a high spot in my personal pantheon of heroes, both for the richness of his creation and the family history that it’s bound together. Dad introduced me to the lands of Middle-earth when I was in third grade, and from then until the early days of college, we read and re-read The Hobbit and his three-volume Lord of the Rings together. We pored over his old Ballantine paperbacks until they fell apart, got him a new set for Christmas, then started again.
Shortly after I got married to Heather (who is every bit as geeky as me), I found and quickly latched onto a single-volume paperback Lord of the Rings – a mass of paper that would probably stop a low-caliber bullet while leaving Elvish script embedded in it for good measure. That hefty tome followed us through the first 21 years of our marriage, coming along on camping trips, car trips, and numerous bedtime readings to an enraptured Missy.
It was during one of those Missy readings that the spine finally gave way, having provided service far beyond the ordinary literary call of duty. We finished its last reading in honor, laid it aside, and then began a new adventure. After all, if a thousand-page paperback book had lasted from the beginnings of Google to the ending of the first Marvel Cinematic Universe, how much longer would a hardcover hold up?
When you treasure something, you try to make it last.
And that’s true of more than just fantasy epics.
If you’ve owned a house or a car, you know the simple truth: maintenance is cheaper than repair. Take care of it and it will take care of you.
If you’ve exchanged rings and said “I do,” you learn a simple truth: that great wedding are far easier than great marriages. One is a singular event that is soon over; the other is an ongoing effort to build something anew every day.
And if you treasure a free nation, you know a simple truth: that it’s more than reciting the Pledge, learning the Declaration, and waking the neighbors on the Fourth of July. It takes work. It means facing up to what our country does and doesn’t do well, proud but clear-eyed at the same time. It means fighting to preserve what needs to be preserved, and to change what needs to be changed. It means speaking without fear, thinking beyond your own small piece of the picture, and building a nation that makes life better for all of us.
And most of all, it means holding our leaders accountable for the actions done in our name.
We’re not always good at that. Our brains like to simplify, and it’s easy to break things down into teams and colors and slogans – politics as sports, where the referee’s calls are just what “those guys” deserved but a gross injustice for “our guys.” Where right or wrong is less important than not giving in to the other side.
Breaking that is hard. And essential. We don’t have to be in lockstep – but without some common understanding and accountability, nothing worth keeping will endure.
When you treasure something, you try to make it last. Whether it’s the binding of a book, or the binding of a nation.
Hold it close. Bind it well.
And then, let it Ring.