Walking is not something you can hire someone to do for you. You have to go through the effort of preparation (good shoes, loose clothes, a little water) and then set out. Once the walk begins the rhythm of the walk sets in and mind and body begin to work together as the discord of the day is somehow suspended by the present effort. The repetition of putting one foot in front of the other fulfills the deepest instinct to do the same thing over and over – yet this repetition delivers to a new place. Think here of the journey that constitutes Tolkien’s trilogy which ends where it began:

“At last they rode over the downs and took the East Road, and then Merry and Pippin rode on to Buckland; and already they were singing again as they went. But Sam turned to Bywater, and so came back up the Hill, as day was ending once more. And he went on, and there was yellow light, and fire within; and the evening meal was ready, and he was expected. And Rose drew him in, and set him in his chair, and put little Elanor upon his lap. He drew a deep breath. ‘Well, I’m back,’ he said.”

Sam has returned home and yet the familiar is now profoundly different. His old home is now seen through the re-imagined world of his long journey. Every walk is a holistic reworking, bit by bit, perhaps even monotonous in the particulars, which constitutes the recreation or renewal of the mind.

The journey, the movement, even if it is a journey back home, is not the compulsive journey of the neurotic or the addict, compulsively repeating, hoping for a different outcome. There is no shame in repetition; the problem is in its substance. As with Tolkien’s ring, the compulsion to repeat turned in upon itself, would destroy the compulsion by continually reinstating it. Gollum destroys his life in pursuit of the ring which he would rid himself of if he could. Freud’s death drive is the drive to be rid of the death drive – which is why he ties it to the compulsion to repeat.

Walking or taking up the word and walking continually repeats, but with a difference, while the sickness unto death compulsively repeats the same. The former suspends the latter just as in Paul’s notion of the suspension of the law through faith . The walk of faith suspends the law of sin and death in the same manner that every walk puts repetition to its proper use. Taking up the Word and walking is the repetition with a difference. It is the very substance of life, the breath of God breathed continually through the Word or through the journey that is the walk.

The desire to be done with faith and to move on to first order vision employs the logic of one who would hire someone to walk on his behalf. The Jesus made to walk for us is, in Kierkegaard’s description, a kind of false worship:

Christ comes to the world as the prototype, constantly insisting: follow my example. . . . The apostle imitates Christ and insists: follow my example. Soon the apostle (like Christ) was turned around, people worshiped the apostle. Thus the slippery slope. . . . The divine invention is one thing, that the only kind of worship God demands is imitation, the one thing man wants is to worship the prototypes.1]

The objectified faith, reducing Christ to an object to be received as a material substance, would continually consume Christ without reception of the sustenance of faith. With the apostles and saints reduced to the Christian version of Buddhist bodhisattvas in the theology of the blessed (theologia beatorum) faith is abolished in the name of the compulsion to repeat.

In Tolkien’s world this would amount to the deification of the ring rather than its destruction. Sam, Merry, and Pippin reduced to a Gollum like existence would only have the power of the ring – the power to be saved by being destroyed. This is the power of the living dead.


As Smeagol says to himself as Gollum: “I hate you, I hate you.”

Gollum: “Where would you be without me, gollum, gollum? I saved us! It was me! We survived because of me!”

The power of the ring or the compusion to repeat has become a cause in and of itself:  “It cannot be seen, cannot be felt, Cannot be heard, cannot be smelt, It lies behind stars and under hills, And empty holes it fills, It comes first and follows after, Ends life, kills laughter.”


[1] Kierkegaard, Papirer, XI A 158, from 1854 (Papers and Journals: A Selection, p. 585



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