All that glitters is not gold

Tolkien’s rhyme looks deceptively simple and yet belies a pit-reaching depth into the bowels of human psyche. Each morning we begin our daily grind to possess shiny crowns of self-professed gold which by evening turn out to be nothing more than a leprechaun’s jest. Each night, as we pull our blankets over our heads, the last thoughts before restless sleep are more plans to do it all over again tomorrow. Hope is both a blessing and a scourge of mankind. The proverbial end of the rainbow is just as far away no matter how much, how hard and how far we run. It moves with us matching our speed and stamina.

Too deep? LOL, probably. I think the overall philosophy is pretty sound, I may have gone overboard with its execution. The underlying logic does feel true. Each day, every day, we chase after things that deep within us we know to be transient and fickle. While the things we know to be worthy are neglected because of their apparent lack of sheen. And the world moves on each day with blinders on and the mind switched off while the stomach rules the realm of sensory perception.

What is the source of this sudden insight? This is Dusshera time in India. It is a major Hindu festival celebrated each year to commemorate the victory of good over evil. And in many places, including here in Bhopal, large fairs are organized with lights and fire-crackers and burning of huge effigies of evil demon kings of lore. This year, at the festival, there were hawkers selling the usual bows and arrows, tridents, maces, swords and spears made of wood for kids to play with and reenact the battles that took place in our mythology.

There were two types of these toys. One made of varnished bamboo and the other covered in brilliantly colored metal foils. I recommended my kids to take the bamboo ones but they wanted the ones with the glistening metallic foil. So we ended up with a whole armory of these toys. They did look cool. An hour after we got home, the foil started peeling off and for my younger daughter, if it peels, it will be peeled off. There is no way around that for her. She won’t rest till she takes the entire covering off, scratching and gnawing at it with her nails and teeth.

What eventually came out under the foil was almost crumbling plywood, most likely from an abandoned scrap pile. Within minutes after that the toys became useless. The blades separated from the handle, the bow collapsed on itself and the big lumps fell off from the maces. It was the thin foil which was holding the shapes together. I am sure the bamboo ones would have lasted much longer. It certainly didn’t look as glittery but a half-inch cross-section of plywood three feet long doesn’t stand a chance against it.

I guess that’s why I remembered Tolkien’s words and their far-reaching implications. We take too many things at face value and then regret the lack of value once the brilliance is tarnished sooner than anticipated. This isn’t just about the toys but mainly about some of the “glorifying” attributes of life we assume to be shining example of our own grandeur. And in our endeavor to establish our own undisputed superiority, we repeatedly choose to dance with the devil just one more time in hopes of gaining ground that we never quite manage to grasp.

Speak Your Mind


This site uses Akismet to reduce spam. Learn how your comment data is processed.