When you walk in the backdoor of my co-op, you are faced with a heaping pile of random tools, nails, broken light bulbs, and coolers. Right next to this clusterfuck is a door. When you creak open this door, you walk up a dark and shadowed staircase. When people walk up my stairs for the first time, they often say, “Where the hell are we going?”
“What is this?”
Or: “I can’t see shit.”
But the stairs curve to the right and you emerge into my shire home. My friends have named it the shire and hobbit hole because the burnt orange slanted walls and arching alcoves above the windows open to a magical JRR Tolkien den.
There’s a pile of pillows and a hot chocolate-brown couch atop the multicolored carpet, warm lighting, art sticky-tacked to the wall, patterned fabric everywhere, usually a cat, and good tunes seeping through the paper-thin walls and floors.
Just like a hobbit, I don’t really like to leave. It is my sanctuary and safety. I love being alone, or rather I’m comfortable being alone. I can sit with my thoughts, listening to music while I draw, write, do homework, or whatever and be completely fine.
It’s easier to be alone. This sounds selfish–and we have to be selfish creatures in some ways because it ends up benefiting us. Being alone has its merits.
There’s no one else to worry about; focus can be given to whatever is most important. Such as today, I tried for hours to get some sort of work done, but my productivity was bombarded by friends coming to talk to me or house responsibilities to take care of. I was a little irritated. But now I am free and focused and not worried about anyone else.
There are also drawbacks. I don’t think anyone wants to be Gollum, the twisted hobbit reject.
If I refused to leave my room for anything, or avoided social contact with anyone, living as a strange, creepy hermit because I didn’t want anyone encroaching on the thing I love (my room), I’d have a problem.
For one thing, no one likes a weird little dude that’s obsessed with his precious. And for another, I’d stop caring about anyone else and what they’re going through (such as Gollum fucking up Frodo’s mission to destroy the ring) because all that matters is protecting my precious.
And sometimes, all the countries that make up the Earth can fall towards the negative side of isolation, turning into little Gollums. We’ve all worked hard for what we call our own, whether it’s in our country or someplace else, and we want to protect that from other people, and not get our hands messy in someone else’s business unless we have to, unless our precious is being threatened (the hobbits taking Gollum’s ring).
This isolation, this separation we create with real and imaginary walls, makes it hard to care about someone else or someplace else because we don’t feel obligated to help them since they’re over there and we’re over here. Gollum didn’t give a fuck about Frodo’s mission–he just wanted his freaking ring back.
But climate change is knocking on these walls. It may be hard for people in Michigan to care about sea level rise since it won’t be our problem; it’s not going to affect anything that is our precious.
Now imagine for a second if climate change could cause the Great Lakes to rise and swallow up all the cottages dotting the coastline and rolling dunes–the places we love and care about threatened. It wouldn’t feel good, and it would feel even worse if no one would help us or stop the thing (increasing global temperatures) that’s threatening what we hold most precious.
We feel. We connect. We empathize.