An Arkenstone or an Acorn

Imagine this . . . your fingers are closed around a small smooth circular object, you can feel it pressing against your palm, the item’s value is immeasurable, you cling to it and refuse to let go. And then you are asked: “What is that . . . in your hand?”

J.R.R. Tolkien—and by extension, Peter Jackson—created an engaging world in The Lord of the Rings franchise. This world is populated by complex and compelling characters who are all desperately trying to teach us something about life. As I’ve been discerning my path—and striving to uncover what comes next—a particular scene from The Hobbit: The Battle of the Five Armies has resonated with me. You can check out the scene here.

If you haven’t seen the movie, this is really all you need to know. Bilbo is a simple hobbit who hails from the Shire—an idyllic homeland graced with rolling pastures, quaint villages, and fertile farms—but who finds himself embroiled in an epic quest; Thorin, the character who accosts Bilbo in the scene, is a dethroned king hell-bent on reclaiming his power, his kingdom, and his riches. Among Thorin’s lost treasures is the Arkenstone, his family’s prized jewel, his most coveted asset. Ironically, at this point in the film, Bilbo has both an Arkenstone and an acorn in his possession.

Both characters have starkly different values. Bilbo appreciates the small things: a warm hearth, a comfortable armchair, an engaging book, a gathering of good friends. Thorin is always craving more wealth, more prestige, more possessions, more control. Bilbo is content; Thorin is not. This scene brings their two conflicting world-views crashing together into a pure moment of reckoning. With this perspective in mind, I encourage you to rewatch the scene.

What do we value most? In quiet moments when we are alone, what do we appreciate and what do we care about? Some of us desire financial security in the years to come; others want family, big family, a family full of love; and still others want to be recognized, want to be heard, seen, felt, noticed. In this scene from The Hobbit, Bilbo has a quiet moment alone; he possesses both an Arkenstone and an acorn, and which one does he choose to grasp in his hand and appreciate?

An Arkenstone can be said to symbolize wealth, power, prestige; in and of themselves, these are not inherently bad things. An acorn on the other hand can be said to represent nature, simplicity, stillness, growth. I am not writing this piece to render a judgment or to advise which of the two is greater than the other. Rather, I urge us to consider whether we are in touch with our Inner Natures and whether we recognize which one we value most.

Some of us may know the answer to this question without a doubt. They can see an Arkenstone or an acorn simply resting in their open palm. But many of us are less sure; maybe we cannot see what is inside our clenched fist. Left to blindly feel the concealed object in our hands, revealing its identity can take time and an acute sensitivity to our inner-most values.

In the past, I’ve wondered: which one do I value most of all, which object will be revealed when I open my hand someday, an Arkenstone or an acorn? Well, experience is a great teacher, and experience has helped me learn something about myself. With that revelation has come clarity, a tremendously enriching and instructive sense of clarity. Clarity inspires purpose, and purpose motivates action. And though my fist is still clenched, I’ve felt what rests inside, and I have my answer.

So, imagine this . . . your fingers are closed around a small smooth circular object in your pocket, it is an Arkenstone or an acorn, you can feel it pressing against your palm, you know its value is immeasurable so you cling to it and refuse to let go. Then, in a still calm moment, you take the object out of your pocket to appreciate it, and you ask yourself: “What is this. . . in my hand?”

I hope you find your answer some day.

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