I once had a friend in Seattle. He and I wrote music together. He was an aspiring fantasy novelist, well-schooled by the works of Tolkien and Robert Jordan.
One day, he told me had joined the Army. He was in his mid-20s at the time. He had graduated from college several years earlier and was working on a career. I thought it was a strange he would do something like that. Regardless, he left for boot camp a few weeks later.
We kept in touch for several months. Then one day, I received an email from him. He said was being discharged from the Army, after only a year of service. He returned to Seattle a month later.
When I saw him, he told me the story of what had happened. He had joined the Army out a need for quest and adventure. The stories he idolized—the Fellowship of the Nine, the Quest for the Ring, etc.—he didn’t find those type of stories in his everyday life, and he longed for them. The sense of brotherhood and serving a greater purpose; fighting and sacrificing for those sharing a common purpose.
His time in the military was a disaster, he said, nothing like he imagined. He couldn’t relate to the younger men in his troop (or whatever the Army calls it); he suffered physically from the extensive training. There was no battle. No great adventure. Just a lot of drills and boredom. The officials in the Army made a deal with him. He could either serve at a post in a remote part of Alaska, or he could take a discharge. He chose the latter, came home and got a job at Wizards of the Coast, a fantasy gaming company. We lost contact several years ago.
Today, I turned on the TV and saw that The Lord of the Rings: the Two Towers was playing. I had a lot to do, and sure didn’t need to be watching TV. But there are a few movies that I can’t not watch if they’re on; and that’s one of them.
Watching, I thought about my friend Greg and wondered what he’s doing these days. The truth is, I’m inspired by the ideas that inspired him. Giving all for a greater good. True brotherhood. Fellowship. Good vs. evil. I understand why he did what he did. He realized that in our normal lives, adventures like that don’t happen. But he wanted them to happen.