I’m in Portland, OR right now. I came here to try to absorb by some osmotic process the local culture of self-cultivation, people engaging in projects not because the projects are useful or justified, but because they want to. People living out their aesthetic vision for their lives. But when I got here, I found that it is not Rivendell, where lonely Elf-friends can heal their wounds, but the Shire. You can visit and be welcome, but you won’t really be a part of it. It’s not Elfsongs and stories and public feasts, but people living out their private lives in communities. You can visit a person in Portland, but you can’t really visit Portland.
I used to think that resisting temptation was the way to be strong, or a sign of strength. People of strong will could get what they wanted only by mastering their basic drives. Intent only mattered if it could overpower desire. But the problem with resisting temptation is that you don’t get what you’re tempted by. You don’t get what you want. If you’re good enough at resisting temptation, you may not even remember that you want it.
When Cincin saw the huge fallen tree in the road, he stopped short. By force of habit, his mind probed for the hungry tendrils of the firestone - but no. The firestone was gone. He crouched down with his hands on his knees, to wait out the wave of nausea that passed through him. With a firestone, this log would have been no obstacle. He’d have summoned his full strength, more than he usually could, and pushed the obstacle off the road. Or he’d have used the other members of his party like extensions of himself to coordinate, and get the tree off the road somehow. Or come up with some clever plan to do it. He had to get the firestone back. He needed its power. He could persuade the group to turn around, raise a peasant army in the surrounding towns, and storm the city, to take back his firestone by force. Or he could go back alone, and shamelessly beg his friends in the Senate - or the people of the city - for just one more use of it. Or figure out some other key thing his city needed. Or make them need him.
But no. He’d given up the firestone freely. He let the sense of loss pulsate through his soul. He was alone now - he had his traveling companions, but he had no firestone. And it had never helped him do anything he couldn’t have done himself, if he had been just a little cleverer, more determined. And - he forced his thoughts onto this track now, out of the well-worn rut reaching out towards the firestone - this wave of loss was just a sign of weak places where he could become strong. He had to learn to do without - but he could mimic the patterns the firestone had taught him.