You should probably know I worship at the altar of The Lord of the Rings. As a cinematic evocation of loyalty, friendship, and courage I believe it has no equal. I tell my son that if someday in the distant future I am not around and he wants to explain to his children or grandchildren what his father hoped to be, he should pop in the DVD and let them view the trilogy.
When I watch I imagine myself as Aragorn, taking the Dimholt Road under the mountain, clutching the sword, Anduril, Flame of the West, offering a deal to the souls of the dishonored dead if they would join me in battle. I picture myself as Aragon, astride my horse in front of the Black Gate, telling my troops, I see in your eyes the same fear that would take the heart of me. A day may come when the courage of men fails, when we forsake our friends and break all bonds of fellowship, but it is not this day. An hour of wolves and shattered shields, when the age of men comes crashing down, but it is not this day! This day we fight! Then I jump off my horse, and with the setting sun behind me, a reckless, almost manic glint in my eye and a crooked grin, I am first to charge into the enemy army.
Aside from my heroic Aragorn fantasies the most inspiring part of the story to me is how the different groups of Middle-Earth come together to form a Fellowship and fight a common enemy. The scene in which a council of humans, elves, dwarves, the wizard Gandalf, and hobbits discuss what to do with the One Ring reminds me of the problems faced by so many disparate groups today. Among the groups under threat today are the autism parents, those with chronic fatigue syndrome (ME/CFS), and the Lyme disease sufferers, to name just a few of the most prominent.
One of the reasons I love the scene at the council table is because it shows how much each group is mistrusted by the others. The humans are distrusted because they had a chance to destroy the One Ring and failed to do so. The dwarves are mistrusted because they care so much about treasure and tunnel too deep into the earth where they risk awakening dark forces. The elves are distrusted because they so often stand back from the fight, as if they are not part of their world.
When I watch a scene like that it's not fantasy to me, it's reality. I think of how the autism parents are falsely depicted as anti-science, made crazy and irrational by the problems of their children. I think of how the ME/CFS community is made to look like a bunch of Type-A, overachieving women who blew a mental gasket someplace in their formerly active lives and contracted an imaginary case of "yuppie'flu." I think of the Lyme disease community, and how they think you guys are lying, too. You were sick, but you're fine now. Get over it. All of these groups are viewed by the medical establishment as "untouchables" as if simply considering their problems will make a researcher somehow "unclean."
But all of these groups live in isolation, railing against the current medical establishment, our voices discordant. I co-wrote the book, PLAGUE - One Scientist's Intrepid Search for the Truth about Human Retroviruses and Chronic Fatigue Syndrome, Autism and Other Diseases, because I'm hoping that these groups can form an alliance. I want our combined voices to raise a mighty clamor that can knock down the walls of apathy and fear that have kept the very best in science from working on these problems.
We have so much in common, from deranged immune systems, inflammatory markers, heavy metal retention, bacterial, viral, fungal, and parasitic infections, that we should be in alliance with each other. If we work together, putting aside petty differences and those things which might tear us apart, I know our Fellowship can bring down the Dark Tower.
PLAGUE goes on sale September 2, 2014 at bookstores everywhere.
Kent Heckenlively is a Founding Contributing Editor to Age of Autism and author of Plague: One Scientist's Intrepid Search for the Truth about Human Retroviruses and Chronic Fatigue Syndrome, Autism, and Other Diseases. Visit his website at Plague The Book. You can pre-order the book HERE.