There is an image in our collective consciousness that has become indelible, unmistakable: It is when, in the famous fantasy movie, “The Lord of the Rings,” the iconic character Gollum greedily clutches the powerful magic ring at the heart of the story and whispers, “My precious!”
Originally, Gollum was a good, peaceful hobbit, but twisted by his greed and obsession with the One Ring, he turned into the monstrous Gollum, a depraved and corrupted creature. The lesson of this great film based on J.R.R. Tolkien’s monumental book is that sometimes we need to give up what we think is the most precious thing to us, whether it be a sparkling jewel or political power, wealth or fame.
Some time ago, a friend of mine sent me a video of a touching story entitled, “Gratitude of Life,” which has moving background music. In that story, a man was walking by the riverside at dawn. While taking a walk in the dark, he stumbled over a bag full of stones. Bored, he began throwing the stones into the river one by one, enjoying the splashing sound.
When he was about to throw the last stone, the morning sun rose. Suddenly, he was stunned and aghast: A diamond was sparkling in his hand! He began to wail. People gathered and asked him why he was crying. He answered, showing his last diamond: “This bag was full of these diamonds a while ago. And I cast them all away into the river, not knowing that they were diamonds. Now I have only one left.”
At that point, the narrator asks a pointed question, “Are we not like him in the way we live these days?” It continues: “We cast away without a thought so many precious moments of gratitude and happiness only to regret later, having cast all of them into the river of time.” Then, it concludes, “We should live each day with the gratitude of knowing finally the preciousness of the one last remaining diamond we possess now.”
Indeed, we all have a bag full of God-given diamonds. Not knowing that they are precious diamonds, we cast nearly all of them into the river of time and regret it later. The precious diamonds we have may be our beloved family, friends or neighbors. The diamonds also may symbolize our health, strength, or happiness, which is so precious and easily overlooked.
Thanks to our belated realization, we feel lucky to have one last remaining diamond in our hand, which is a symbol of what is most precious to our hearts. It could be anything or anyone that remains with us, even after all others have left us. Now, we should treasure it or the person and be grateful for possessing that one last diamond. Then, we can make each moment, each day precious from now on.
Recently, another friend of mine sent me someone’s short essay, titled “If it’s Him, I will Consider,” based on a book by Yu Byung-sook. The author of the essay finds the title quite fascinating. He writes, “What will she consider? Will she consider going out with him or answering ‘Yes’ to his marriage proposal? Or will she consider going on a trip with him or working together? In fact, it could mean many things.” Then, the author ponders; “Could I be the person whom she would consider? Or can we even find anyone around us who might be ‘Him,’ the one she would positively consider?”
Unfortunately, such a person is hard to find these days. In order to become such a special person, you should be charming with an admirable personality. Besides this, you should have nobility, dignity and decency, too. You should also earn the respect, trust and admiration of others. Moreover, you should be a reliable, trustworthy person that someone could trust as a reliable shoulder to lean on. In reality, however, we realize that we are far from such an admirable person whom someone would consider as a dependable fellow traveler in life or at work.
When you grow old and look back upon your past life, you will realize that “All is fleeting, all will go in a flash,” as Pushkin wrote in his poem, “Should this Life Sometimes Deceive You.” Sitting on the riverside of life, some of us weep in regret, and others are like Gollum, still clutching political power, money or hollow fame, greedily whispering, “My precious.” However, Gollum’s greed for his “precious” ruins him eventually. At the end of the movie, he snatches from Frodo the magic ring that will give him absolute power. Alas, he falls into the fires of the volcano, thereby destroying himself and the ring.
We should always keep in mind, “What, in fact, is my precious?” Likewise, we should strive to be the person who could make a woman say, “If it’s him, I will consider.” Then, our life will shine like a diamond.
Kim Seong-kon is a professor emeritus of English at Seoul National University and a visiting scholar at Dartmouth College. The views expressed here are his own. -- Ed.