Christianity and Middle-Earth

Wednesday, February 23, 2005

One Sees More Devils Than Vast Hell Can Hold

I did a fair amount of child-labor on my uncles’ farms many years ago, one job of which was mowing around chicken houses. These were of the commercial sort, long great barns floored with thick sawdust and, naturally, courtesy of the inhabitants, years of layered poultry droppings.

Around the outside of these particular houses was a sort of low berm of old rotting, manure-laced sawdust that was a generous source of nitrogen for a great many happy and luxuriant weeds; it tended also to be damp and thus much beloved of the local fly population. This meant maggots, lots and lots of disgusting little white maggots heaving themselves around, gently shimmering and twinkling in the sunlight as they squirmed against the dark brown of the manure-dike. It was a tricky operation navigating a heavy-duty mower around the worse patches lest it sink to its rotor-blade and stall out, or fling maggoty muck every which way. Not a job for those of delicate sensibilities.

But ours is an existence of sharp contrasts and mirrored realities, and so there is another place that surrounds a dwelling of mortal creatures, something deep and dark and a-shimmer with light-motes, and yet altogether different, as opposite to mud and maggots as it gets. It is a place of loveliness and longing, a wide-encompassed endless plain that speaks to us of an Eternity beyond our mortal ken. It is the black celestial star-fields amid which our Middle-Earth is hung.

Far above the Ephel Dúath in the West the night-sky was still dim and pale. There, peeping among the cloud-wrack above a dark tor high up in the mountains, Sam saw a white star twinkle for a while. The beauty of it smote his heart, as he looked up out of the forsaken land, and hope returned to him. For like a shaft, clear and cold, the thought pierced him that in the end the Shadow was only a small and passing thing: there was light and high beauty for ever beyond its reach.
But in vain does heaven let fall the light of its beauties upon the Euthanasia-pushers. The only thing that will awaken hearts that stone-cold with evil is the flare of selfish desire, of greed and concupiscence: their pleasure, their convenience, and always, always, always, their dear and precious selves - the All-Too-Well-Known god who spreads his shimmering maggot-field to glisten upon the muck-heap of their world. But it is of no matter to them: they can no longer tell the difference between maggots and stars.

The corpse-light that illuminates their road does not travel in straight paths; rather, it squirms and squiggles and twists and writhes until there is no clear line of sight to guide them from the sure and fated plunge into molten death that awaits them in the heart of Mount Doom.

Update: “Was Sodom ever so dark as this?” Good question.


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