This morning I was reading from The Silmarillion, where Tolkien describes the history of the universe he created that lies behind the stories in The Hobbit and The Lord of the Rings. The creation story here is magnificent (and I’m sure I’ll write something else about that), but today I’d like to highlight one particularly beautiful passage where Tolkien describes what it means to be in a meaningful relationship.
|Manwë and Varda, borrowed from here and here|
Following the story of creation, we read a description of the divine beings the “god” of this universe, Ilúvatar, brought forth and which inhabit the world. One of these divine beings, Manwë, is “dearest to Ilúvatar and understands most clearly his purposes. He was appointed to be, in the fullness of time, the first of all Kings: lord of [the world] and ruler of all that dwell therein.” The next being described is Varda, “who knows all the regions of [creation]. Too great is her beauty to be declared in the words of Men or of Elves; for the light of Ilúvatar lives still in her face. In light is her power and her joy.”
Separately, they are awe-inspiring. But something even greater happens when they are together:
Manwë and Varda are seldom parted, and they remain in [the home of divine beings]. Their halls are above the everlasting snow, upon…[the] tallest of all the mountains upon Earth. When Manwë there ascends his throne and looks forth, if Varda is beside him, he sees further than all other eyes, through mist, and through darkness, and over the leagues of the sea. And if Manwë is with her, Varda hears more clearly than all other ears the sound of voices that cry from east to west, from the hills and the valleys, and from the dark places that [evil] has made upon Earth.
There is something magical that happens when these two are in each other’s presence. They do not lose their identity by living together; rather, their closeness enhances their individuality as they can see further and hear more than was possible without the other.
On Valentine’s Day, this seems especially relevant. I’ve always felt this way about my beloved sweetheart. It’s difficult to explain, but I’m a better me when I’m around her, which is why I want to be around her so much. My senses are heightened around her—I can see more clearly what is truly beautiful, and I can hear more perceptively what is truly meaningful in the world. And in doing so, I sense how to become something brighter than I was before—something more uniquely “me.” But it’s only when I’m with her that I can become the “me” that I should be.
|"The Kiss" by Gustav Klimt (1908)|
Tolkien manages to depict this paradox of beautiful individuality amplified by unity in these brief sentences, and reading this helped me to better recognize and appreciate the miraculous transformation that can occur when we love and are loved by another.