Long have we gathered around the television to watch the Lord of the Rings trilogy.
For 12 years, this has been an indisputable part of our Christmas tradition. Nearly eight hours spent dwelling amongst the hobbits, dwarves, elves and men of Middle Earth each and every December 25.
We curl up in blankets, intertwined on the couches or sprawled out on the floor with pillows and beanbags.
We’ve watched these movies in Oregon, Montana, Alaska and Illinois, lost, as it were, in the magic of magnificent storytelling.
In the years before all of the films were released, we read the stories.
There has long been a stiff debate about what is the greatest medium. Is it literature or cinema, the novel or the film?
The digital side of me prefers the visual medium for the shear power of playing to our eyes, for filling in the gaps with spectacular moving splendor.
The literary side of me prefers the words that fire our imagination, leaving gaps to be filled in by our inner eye, each display as personal, as unique and individual as we as are.
As the pixels increase and digital manipulation goes molecular, so do my expectations grow. The so-called special effects in The Hobbit: An Unexpected Journey, released more than a decade after the first mind-blowing Lord of the Rings: Fellowship of the Ring, fill in the gaps like plasma, moving past the ability of our minds to catch the inconsistencies and the fallacies as they happen.
But they dampen the frames on the earlier works, showing those inconsistencies and fallacies more brightly as our minds work faster, our neurons and receptors firings so rapidly trying to process everything in real time.
For the first time in 12 years, I found myself pointing out errors in the trilogy, because it has slowed down to the point of being able to pick it apart.
And I was remorseful, because I love the wonder these films instilled in me the first time I watched them. I love the power they have to hold my attention for so many hours. I don’t want to doubt them.
But I do, now.
I remember when Super Man made me want to wear blue and red underwear all day and to lay on the arm of my couch, arms outstretched, pretending to fly.
It does not instill wonder any more, and I don’t want Lord of the Rings to suffer the same fate.
It’s a Wonderful Life still has wonder for me, but the painfully slow way of the old black and white medium means it cannot easily pass from me to my children.
I wonder if I shouldn’t put LOTR away for a few years, to diminish the wear and tear, so to speak.
I wonder if I should try to diet, to fast from the newer technology, the mediums that are faster than the neurons racing around my brain.
I don’t wish to be among the poor and piteous humans, as I am when I read Game of Thrones or in the violence-drenched contests of the Hunger Games.
I want to escape it all and rise into the fog of the Misty Mountains or shoot across the universe in the Millennium Falcon. I want the power of story, the simplicity of truth and the exhilaration of my imagination to power it all.
Don’t let age deny me. Don’t let it make me bitter and envious of former times. I want to be completely filled with awe at each new discovery, like Sir Francis Drake or James Cook in a world before Google Earth.