Magiko wrote:I understood the Ring and Sauron to be the same. It didn't slip off of Sauron's finger insomuch as cutting off the ring was equal to beheading him. He lived on as if the Ring were a Horcrux (oh shit I'm mixing more nerd culture here, we don't need a 3rd topic).
The Ring influences minds of those who are around them (as others have said) but it was less good at manipulating Hobbits (and terribly good at manipulating humans). Tolkein speculated in The Hobbit that Gollum was once Hobbit-like. One side-effect/power the owner gets is prolonged life. It was always described by Bilbo as "thin"... or... "butter scraped over too much bread" -- he looked too young for his birthday (the 111th birthday I think) when he takes off to live with the elves. He didn't really feel like a hobbit anymore.
Well before the party, the ring saw an opportunity in Bilbo to leave Gollum's cave. Gollum was a convenient hiding spot, but it really didn't want to be there, as Gollum wasn't a corruptible human. Bilbo wasn't a desirable host either, but it wanted to start moving, as Sauron's power was growing again. Gandalf saw all of this and knew that the carrier had to be a hobbit. This is why he wouldn't carry it, and why he shot down when others offered. It had to be Frodo (and Frodo was the only hobbit in the shire with the adventurer's desire - hobbits don't normally have that trait, not even Bilbo was an adventurer, and Bilbo was already too far corrupted for this mission - it really had to be Frodo).
The Ring was not so omnipresent and/or omniscient as to choose to be taken by Bilbo (or by Gollum in the first place). It's unknown if the Ring was lying around solely because of Gollum's carelessness (it was usually so dark at the caves that he rarelly used it anymore), or maybe it was in fact caused by Sauron's will, since Sauron was trying to get back at kicking everyone's ass (as the Necromancer in Dol Guldur).
What you said at the begining is quite right: we can see Sauron and the Ring as one. All the talk about "the Ring wants to be found" can be considered some sort of "popular saying" of Middle-earth, when what was really happening was some manifestation of Sauron focusing strongly in finding his damned Ring.