Christianity and Middle-Earth

Saturday, February 26, 2005

Laser-Guided Missiles

Two dead-on-target articles at World Net Daily today concerning Terry Schiavo, one by David Bass and another by Callie Woodlief.

Please God that the right eyes will read them and that somebody will do something. I cannot believe that the most powerful men and women on this planet can't save one frail child-woman from dying of starvation and thirst - if only they will act.

Behold, the Lord's hand is not shortened, that it cannot save; neither his ear heavy, that it cannot hear: but your iniquities have separated between you and your God, and your sins have hid his face from you, that he will not hear.

For your hands are defiled with blood, and your fingers with iniquity; your lips have spoken lies, your tongue hath muttered perverseness. None calleth for justice, nor any pleadeth for truth: they trust in vanity, and speak lies; they conceive mischief, and bring forth iniquity.

They hatch cockatrice' eggs, and weave the spider's web: he that eateth of their eggs dieth, and that which is crushed breaketh out into a viper. Their webs shall not become garments, neither shall they cover themselves with their works: their works are works of iniquity, and the act of violence is in their hands.

Their feet run to evil, and they make haste to shed innocent blood: their thoughts are thoughts of iniquity; wasting and destruction are in their paths. The way of peace they know not; and there is no judgment in their goings: they have made them crooked paths; whosoever goeth therein shall not know peace.

Therefore is judgment far from us, neither doth justice overtake us: we wait for light, but behold obscurity; for brightness, but we walk in darkness...

And judgment is turned away backward, and justice standeth afar off: for truth is fallen in the street, and equity cannot enter. Yea, truth faileth; and he that departeth from evil maketh himself a prey...
If allowing a man to torture his wife to death by court order is what the American judicial system has come to - legalism that paralyzes justice and mercy and pity - then we are become Night and Abyss: we will die in our sins.

 

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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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Thursday, February 17, 2005

Saving Terri Schiavo

If I were to announce that I was planning to starve a couple of my surplus cats to death beginning on, say, February 22nd, how long do you think it would be before I found myself in front of a judge, charged with animal cruelty and enduring the reverberating contempt of pet-lovers and frothing-mouthed animal-rights activists everywhere?

Too bad for Terri that she's human and therefore entitled to the sort of treatment I once thought was reserved for concentration-camp prisoners.

For those bloggers inclined to object to state-sanctioned murder, here's a chance to be heard:

Wittenberg Gate will be hosting a bloggers' round-up for Terri Schiavo on Sunday, February 20th. Anyone blogging for the protection of Terri Schiavo's life is invited to submit their one best post on her behalf by Saturday, noon EST.

I've submitted mine, but I have more rants on the subject of euthanasia/legal murder, here and here.

And here.

 

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Tuesday, February 15, 2005

We Are Not Amused

We once had to endure the sudden shock of having one of our websites shut down, just ahead of Easter weekend, which is when we get most of our traffic for obvious reasons. Parody is protected by fair use copyright laws, but web-hosters are inclined to liquidate sites that engender complaints first and ask questions later - if at all.

Fortunately, we had friends to come to the rescue, and were also greatly assisted by the poor techie in the middle of it all, by virtue of his talking his bosses into letting us get into our site long enough to remove the content, and so were able to get it back up by Easter Sunday.

But happy ending or no, it knocks the wind right out of you to be poleaxed out of nowhere like that, so my sympathies lie very much with Michael Bates of Batesline and so, inspired by Michelle Malkin and Wizbang, I took the time to email his tormentor as enclosed below.

~~~

John R. Bair
Vice-President
Tulsa World
mailto:john.bair@tulsaworld.com

Dear Mr. Bair:

I am writing on behalf of batesline.com, a weblog described as Reflections on the News by Michael D. Bates. We have recently learned that you and/or your secretary have reproduced (in whole or in part) Mr. Bates's name, address and the name of his website and have inappropriately typed said name, address and website name on your letterhead.stationery, and presumably, although I do not have the evidence immediately at hand, also typed it onto a first class envelope which was then sent through the mail, which act may be a further violation of federal statutes.

Mr. Bates copyrights his entire weblog and his name and address, which can be demonstrated as being his personal property to which Tulsa World has no legal right. The reproduction of his name and address (in whole or in part) in your professional correspondence or mentioning the content of his copyrighted weblog in said professional correspondence is without the permission of batesline.com and constitutes an intentional infringement of Michael Bates's copyright and other rights to the exclusive use and distribution of the copyrighted materials.

Therefore, we hereby demand that you immediately remove any BatesLine material from your files, to include unauthorized URLs for that website, and cease and desist from any further use or dissemination of Mr. Bates’s copyrighted material. If you desire to use (in whole or in part) any of the content of batesline.com or Mr. Bates’s name and address, you must first obtain written permission before that use. If you fail to comply with these demands, Mr. Bates’s vast network of blog-friends will not be amused and will probably make enough of a bloggy fuss to discourage such imbecility in the future.

We look forward to your immediate response and cooperation in this matter. Please acknowledge your compliance by signing below and returning to me: I graciously grant you single-use permission to click “reply” in order to expedite said response. Unfortunately, I must request that the response itself be delivered in Minoan Linear A as I am not inclined to give you or Tulsa World permission to infringe my copyrighted name, email address or website URL by means of inscribing it in the English language using a typewriter/computer/word processor/ink/crayon or any other medium.

(As a kindly aside, I must mention that your infractions have put you in the running for next month’s Neanderbunny Award. Information on this newly established honor can be found at this URL: http://entropyhouse.com/blog/2005/02/of-funeral-pyres-and-men.html. However, I must warn you that permission to copy and paste that URL is denied: for you to disregard my warning would, I am afraid, constitute unauthorized use of my personal property.)


Sincerely,


C.S. Baillie
Research Associate, Patiche Mucilaginous Confectionaries
www.lordofthepeeps.com


Acknowledged by:



_______________________



~~~


I don't like bullies.

 

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Sunday, February 13, 2005

Of Funeral Pyres and Men

It’s been a rough week, one of the sort that leaves my knees shaking from the effort of taking a shower, but we at Entropy House are not daunted by such trifles, and so I have returned, full of narcotics and therapeutic ice cream, to bestow the very first Neanderbunny Award. The lucky recipients of this (possibly) monthly honor are these loonybiscuits. (I shall endeavor to produce a suitable graphic at some future date, but for now you’ll have to use your imagination.)

“Neanderbunny?” comes the bewildered query out of the flat-screen interface with Pixel Universe. “What on earth is a Neanderbunny?”

Orange, fuzzy, feline and on his own nitwitted little planet, that’s what. By way of expounding upon this, I offer the occasion of his sitting upon a bright-red stove burner: my young’un screeched and tried to push him off, but that only inspired him to sit harder. When she finally did get him to move, he descended from the countertop with his bottom smoking. Literally. I saw it with my own eyes, I did.

(No, he wasn’t hurt. Too much insulation. Perhaps the U.S. Fire Administration ought to look into orange cat-fur as a way to protect firefighters who have to go into infernos.)

Now that’s all clear, I present a sampling of the intellectual heights reached by the Award winners: nothing particularly new in intellectual circles, but a fine example of what passes for scholarship these days. (Via Chris Johnson )
Should the Bible call God the "Father" or "Lord"? Should Jesus be termed the "Son" of God or "Son" of "Man"? Should masculine words such as "king" and "kingdom" be allowed? Should Holy Writ have so many male pronouns?

Not if militant feminists have their way, as they do in an awkward rewrite of the complete Bible issued in four volumes: The Inclusive Hebrew Scriptures (three volumes subtitled The Torah, The Prophets, and The Writings) and The Inclusive New Testament (all from AltaMira).

These "degendered" Scriptures were produced for the liberal Roman Catholic Priests for Equality. The revisers say that "most scriptures read in worship services are still grossly sexist," and "the continued self-destructiveness of an all-male clergy" only worsens matters.
It’s very indelicate of me, I admit, and not the standard usage for a Victorian website, but I think the best thing to call that is a load of old cobblers.

~~~

In an excerpt from Defending Middle-Earth: Tolkien: Myth and Modernity, the author states:

For Tolkien himself, of course, and for English readers, the native cultural idiom happens to be an English one. Part of Tolkien’s ambition was ‘to restore to the English an epic tradition and present them with a mythology of their own’ — something that he felt was lacking in their national literature.

(…)

Tolkien blamed this on the brutality of the Norman occupation beginning in 1066, and not without reason. It was a savage assault on a relatively peaceful land, which eventually left one person in ten there dead from war or starvation. It also imposed a new phenomenon on the British Isles: a foreign and highly centralized ruling class, including secular, ecclesiastical and educational élites. The new Norman archbishop, bishops and abbots regarded their Anglo-Saxon ecclesiastical predecessors as rudes et idiotas (uncouth and illiterate), dropped the worship of many pre-conquest saints and even destroyed some of their shrines. Education now demanded Latin, and ‘culture,’ as well as power, French; for as long as two hundred years later, the nobility still did not speak the native tongue. And Tolkien’s modern critics today are the heirs of precisely the same caste, almost as divorced now from the common reader as their forebears were from the common people, and no less lofty in attitude…
While the English language did eventually more or less conquer the Norman tongue (absorbing a great many French words in the process), the bulk of Anglo-Saxon literature and high art was lost forever in the unhappy aftermath of the Battle of Hastings. (A thousand years gone by and the French are still full of themselves. Not for nothing is the motto of Quebec 'Je me souviens'—'I remember.')

Of course, before the Normans (who were mostly just refurbished Vikings, anyway), it was the Anglo-Saxons who were the villains and the native British who were the victims. In De Excidio Britanniae, the wee history written by the Christian monk Gildas in the long twilight after Britain‘s abandonment by her earlier conquerors from Rome, Gildas’ considerable displeasure at the new invasion of his homeland comes through loud and clear.
Then all the counselors together with that proud tyrant Gurthrigern [Vortigern], the British king, were so blinded, that, as a protection to their country, they sealed its doom by inviting in among them (like wolves into the sheepfold) the fierce and impious Saxons, a race hateful to both God and men… [Trans. J.A. Giles]
Perhaps the eventual conversion of the enemy to Christianity would have comforted him, perhaps not; in any case, by the time his Anglo-Saxon successor Bede came along to write his Ecclesiastical History, Britain was Angle-land - England.

So there we have it: post-Roman Britain is overrun by the Saxons and the Normans squash the Saxons. (And where did the British themselves come from and whom did they displace?) This, of course, is just par for the course for human history: the array of peoples who have endured having their cultural identity obliterated by marauders is vast and varied and certainly not restricted to the British Isles.

History marches on and what was is left behind. The symbiotic ebb and flow of life carves out new cultures from the silted-up estuaries of the old, even as the very dust - the elemental atoms of which we are made - stirs again from the mould to navigate the food chain until new Men live and all the world is changed.

Even so, the eclipse of a people is not usually brought about by self-immolation.

~~~

My point in trotting out all of this is to illustrate what the Radical Left has been and is still up to (as evidenced further by the unlovely Lynne Stewart and her soulmate Ward Churchill) which is to rid the world of the “evils” of Western civilization. This necessitates ridding the world of the West itself, of course, the two being one and the same by default.

Something strange and terrible has come upon the American political scene: we have become cultural suicides. The shortcomings of our forefathers have been shaped into a public stocks in which the Judeo-Christian worldview is imprisoned, an object of scorn, fit only to be pelted with whatever garbage is at hand. To a malevolent, holier-than-thou intelligentsia all too pleased to savage the hand that feeds them, the Samwise Gamgee Everyman is a laughingstock.

They may delude themselves that they’re doing this because they are the noble defenders of indigenous peoples against the evil capitalist colonialists: what they are really after is the destruction of Christianity and - especially - the responsibility of her old age, the state of Israel. This requires the spoiling and dismemberment of the civilization that nurtures both.

The assault has numerous fronts, of course, one of which is to poison the public perception of the literature, beliefs and history we have inherited. It’s a bit like mission-creep, only in this case it is the Judeo-Christian legacy which is painted ever blacker and bleaker until its adherents become persons bereft of any redeeming qualities, rendered in oppressive hues, fit only for the bonfires of deconstructionist purification. Nelson Ascher hits it smack on the head:
Those whom the fall of the Berlin Wall had left orphans of a cause, spent the next decade plotting the containment of the US. It was a complex operation that involved the (in many cases state-sponsored) mushrooming of NGOs, Kyoto, the creation of the ICC, the salami tactics applied against America’s main strategic ally in the Middle-East, Israel, through the Trojan Horse of the Oslo agreements, the subversion of the sanctions against Iraq etc. I’m not as conspiratorially-minded as to think that all these efforts were in any way centralized or that they had some kind of master-plan behind them. It was above all the case of the spirit of the times converging, through many independent manifestations, towards a single goal.

(…)

Now, whatever they wanted to defend or protect doesn’t exist anymore. They have only things to destroy, and all those things are personified in the US, in its very existence.

(…)

This newly ever-growing Western left, not only in Europe, but in Latin America and even in the US itself, has a clear goal: the destruction of the country and society that vanquished its dreams fifteen years ago. But it does not have, as in the old days of the Soviet Union, the hard power to accomplish this by itself. Thanks to this, all our leftist friends’ bets are now on radical Islam. What can they do to help it? Answer: tie down America’s superior strength with a million Liliputian ropes: legal ones, political ones, with propaganda and disinformation etc. Anything and everything will do.
~~~

The long wisdom of the Elendili, a wisdom footed upon a right reverence and fear of Illuvatar and his emissaries, was literally the saving grace of those who escaped (just barely) the ending of Númenor to establish a new kingdom in Middle-Earth. But the foresight of Men diminished and the line of kings was broken, and by Denethor’s time, the throne had been empty for nearly a thousand years.

The Stewards of Gondor were, as Gandalf tells Pippin before they go in to Denethor’s presence, not kings, but caretakers. Their task was to preserve the throne in trust until a scion of the royal line should come to reclaim it.

And perhaps, if some overlooked, miraculous survivor of the Royal House had come sailing magnificent and splendorous out of the West, heralded by the sun and the moon and all the stars in a great son et lumière spectacle of celestial musics and glories, and accompanied by a golden fleet-escort from the Valar—perhaps then, Denethor could have found it in him to welcome with proper humility the long-awaited heir to the throne of Kings.

A weather-beaten, threadbare Ranger out of the North was another thing entirely.

“I am Steward of the House of Anárion,” Denethor snarled to Gandalf in Rath Dínen amongst the tombs. “I will not step down to be the dotard chamberlain of an upstart. Even were his claim proved to me, still he comes but of the line of Isildur. I will not bow to such a one, last of a ragged house long bereft of lordship and dignity.”

Denethor’s wisdom had turned in on itself, twisted into a sort of existential Möbius strip from which there was no escape, nothing but endless pacing and brooding on what had been and would be no more. The borrowed power he possessed had become, in his heart, something more akin to his own divine right:

“The rule of Gondor is mine!”

And so, even as Gandalf did his best to push Denethor off the stove burner, Denethor only sat the harder, until finally he succeeded where Neanderbunny failed and triumphantly roasted himself into eternity.

~~~

It’s an entirely natural and normal thing to desire, as a parent, to pass your family traditions and stories on to your children; this is a basis for attempts to preserve indigenous cultures and languages, be it Welsh or Breton or some vanishing tongue native to the American Northwest.

Before frontiersmen and national defense became Politically Incorrect, American children were nightly exposed to the essential narratives of their country’s history. From Daniel Boone to Death Valley Days to Combat, the struggles of their fathers to settle a wild land and defend it abroad were a staple of television: everyone with a functioning set could absorb the basics effortlessly. It wasn’t always accurate and was certainly heavily romanticized, but it did create in the public imagination a gut understanding and admiration of the American story.

But there is always a potential of gnawing, gobbling greediness in our human makeup that is a horrible caricature of the natural instinct to transmit our worldview to our children: the hunger for power to recreate the entire world in one’s image. Nourished by the Enemy to the advancement of his own ends, that hunger breaks out again and again upon the earth, red of tooth and claw, as they say, devouring the hearts of men and leaving in the resulting emptiness an ugly brutality devoid of human kindness, scoured clean of pity and humility. Of such come the Stewarts and Churchills of the world, worshippers of nihilism and their own precious persons, hell-blown craft on a wild sea a-foam with madness.

America has her failings, certainly, much magnified by the vipers in her bosom; but those flaws are but the priming to the backdraft of their fury. What they despise most of all is her essential goodness, a goodness birthed from and reared on the teachings of the Hebrew prophets and the apostles of Christ.
And even as they did not like to retain God in their knowledge, God gave them over to a reprobate mind, to do those things which are not convenient; being filled with all unrighteousness, fornication, wickedness, covetousness, maliciousness; full of envy, murder, debate, deceit, malignity; whisperers, backbiters, haters of God, despiteful, proud, boasters, inventors of evil things, disobedient to parents, without understanding, covenant-breakers, without natural affection, implacable, unmerciful: who, knowing the judgment of God, that they which commit such things are worthy of death, not only do the same, but have pleasure in them that do them.
And having gained power and privilege in academia, politics and the press, they don’t want to surrender one iota of it. Just as do we lesser mortals - the Sam Gamgees it holds in such contempt – so does the Radical Left also resist the invaders of its own shores.

Who’d a thunk it – they’re just like us.

~~~

From down the far, dim reaches of the passage-grave of Time, the words of the Wise, of the seers and prophets and the holy men and women of an ancient land come whispering to us upon the pages of the Old and New Testaments. Generation upon generation has come and gone upon this earth, and still, thousands of years after it all began, we have granted always to us new and faithful lore-keepers in the service of He-who-was-made-flesh to guard that which has been given into their trust, to carry it safely through the lines of the Enemy to relinquish at last the high-text of Christianity to those yet to come.

In like manner are we also - in a culture and age deliberately impoverished of the once familiar beauties of Christendom – given a faithful servant of God, a man who received his talents gladly and set to work to restore remembrance to Men, to entice and allure us back to the old ways and the old paths, the roads that lead to Light and Truth.
“Throughout the Third Age the guardianship of the Three Rings was known only to those who possessed them. But at the end, it became known that they had been held at first by the three greatest of the Eldar: Gil-galad, Galadriel and Círdan.

The Ring of Gil-galad was given by him to Elrond; but Círdan surrendered his to Mithrandir [Gandalf]. For Círdan saw further and deeper than any other in Middle-earth, and he welcomed Mithrandir at the Grey Havens, knowing whence he came and whither he would return.

‘Take this Ring, Master,’ he said, ‘for your labors will be heavy; but it will support you in the weariness that you have taken upon yourself. For this is the Ring of Fire, and with it you may rekindle hearts in a world that grows chill...’”
Like Gandalf in his own tale, J.R.R. Tolkien is an instrument of grace, a kindler of hearts in a dreary Mordor-scape. The nihilists can embargo and purge and censor as much as lies in their power, but in the end their sour animosity will come to naught.

I came across this telling snippet at Touchstone yesterday:
We are all materialists now. Sure, there are remnants of pagan mysticism, and there are some die-hard believers in theistic deities, but the vast majority of Americans and Europeans believe more in the idea of world peace than in fairies, angels, and aliens; and the world is worse for it. How can you have real theistic faith without a belief in angels or their opposites? How can you profess to true meaning in life without the idea that you can somehow intervene in these otherworldly affairs? How can you make it through an existence in which the kings are despots and fashion designers without some vague notion that they are poor imitations of your own princely soul—a soul that at the will of “Aslan” or “Gandalf” just might rise to help save the worlds of men?
Put a copy of The Lord of the Rings into a child’s hands - and the nihilists are already defeated. All that was best of Christendom, all that was most beautiful and noble and courageous and transcendent - all that was finest of the West - comes resplendent in victory upon the battle-steeds of Rohan and Gondor and upon the bare dusty feet of the humble Shire.

 

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Sunday, February 06, 2005

J.R.R. Tolkien on Sex

That headline ought to fetch 'em in!

It's certainly a pertinent one, given my last post. Excerpts below from a superb article by R. Albert Mohler, Jr., president of the Southern Baptist Theological Seminary in Louisville, Kentucky:
Tolkien dearly loved his children, and he left a literary legacy in the form of letters. Many of these letters were written to his sons, and these letters represent, not only a hallmark of literary quality, but a treasure of Christian teaching on matters of manhood, marriage, and sex. Taken together, these letters constitute a priceless legacy, not only to the Tolkien boys, but to all those with whom the letters have been shared.

In 1941, Tolkien wrote a masterful letter to his son Michael, dealing with marriage and the realities of human sexuality. The letter reflects Tolkien's Christian worldview and his deep love for his sons, and at the same time, also acknowledges the powerful dangers inherent in unbridled sexuality.

(...)

Even as he celebrated the integrity of Christian marriage, Tolkien advised Michael that true faithfulness in marriage would require a continual exercise of the will. Even in marriage, there remains a demand for denial, he insisted. "Faithfulness in Christian marriage entails that: great mortification. For a Christian man there is no escape. Marriage may help to sanctify and direct to its proper object his sexual desires; its grace may help him in the struggle; but the struggle remains. It will not satisfy him--as hunger may be kept off by regular meals. It will offer as many difficulties to the purity proper to that state, as it provides easements. No man, however truly he loved his betrothed and bride as a young man, has lived faithful to her as a wife in mind and body without deliberate conscious exercise of the will, without self-denial."

Read it all.

~~~


And I would like to point out two new articles by David Bass regarding, firstly, Terri Schiavo, and, secondly, the Woman who just lately dismounted her Beast.

Those following the Schiavo affair will also find this article of interest. (If you can help, please do!)

Christian Groups Rally Support for Terri Schindler Schiavo

 

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Wednesday, February 02, 2005

Hijacking Middle-Earth

First an hors d’oeuvre:

The world is less safe for political correctness as of this week: DOUBLE TOOTHPICKS is now a group blog!

Now on to my own rant about the culture wars…

~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~


I was a little too rural and uncultured and dumb to get in on the Tolkien cult of the ‘60s when hobbits and Ents were Borged by the Spoiled College Infants movement that arose in the wake of The Pill and Post-war Prosperity; deficiencies for which I am eternally, forever, and unceasingly thankful. So I have only an academic knowledge of “Frodo Lives” (and some nifty tee-shirts sporting that slogan, courtesy New Line Cinema). The ‘authentic’ experience of despising the bourgeoisie who fed and clothed said ingrates being denied me, I was blessed to discover Middle-Earth later in life with no counterculture associations to unlearn.

What those kids needed was a good switching up one side and down the other with a sturdy length of salix discolor, and then to be put to work hand-feeding ten thousand chickens twice a day – preferably in their bare feet - but the Enemy’s unwitting ‘useful idiots’ had done their work well. Indulged and cosseted, Middle America’s youth took their luxurious existence for granted whilst their imbecile parents and college administrators, eager to be liked by the little monsters they had created, had left their spines somewhere and couldn’t find them. (And unlike Little Bo Peep’s tail-wagging flock, these errant vertebrae have yet to come home.)

Two centuries after Rousseau’s personal adventures with Sex and No Consequences (his mistress’s inconvenient newborns were sent off to a state orphanage to die), his utopia was realized. No longer would this splendid generation of baby boomers contaminate their spiritual purity with the taint of prudish suburbia: ‘Authenticity’ was the cry. Back to the land, Comrades! Become dwellers in Middle-Earth! Free love! Bare toes in organic dirt (is there any other kind?) and heads in liberating clouds of pipe-weed! Join the charge against the money-grubbing robber-barons! At least, as soon as you’ve cashed the allowance check your capitalist parents send you faithfully every month: I mean, how else are we going to buy the gas to get our Volkswagen Peace-mobile to San Francisco?

The current version of all of this self-righteous self-indulgence provides its starry-eyed adherents with opportunities to March for Peace in parades organized by Stalinist front-groups or post internet instructions on how to torch SUVs without getting caught. (Possibly after a quick breakfast of food co-op stone-ground cooked cereal livened up by the occasional discovery of half an accidental grasshopper. I speak from personal experience. Beady-eyed. The grasshopper, I mean. But probably nutritious.)

~~~

Now I don’t mean to imply that Tolkien was a great fan of Modernity, because he clearly was not. The love for green growing things and quiet ways was deep-riveted to his soul: the ascendancy of the noise and pollutions and destructiveness of machines, both domestic and military, and the ever-increasing power of the Efficiency-mongers horrified him. (As much as I myself dislike Efficiency, I must say here that I think Tolkien took perhaps too dim a view of some aspects of Modernity: his intense distaste for the Connecticut Yankee mindset stands athwart the clear fact that life for many people has been made more bearable by technological advances – I owe my life to some of them and my varied experiences with no plumbing have inspired additional appreciation - but in any case, the problem is often not so much the machine as the spiritual condition of those who wield it.) Much as Terry Schiavo’s mother and father are helpless against the murderous dictates of their daughter’s adulterous husband, so was Tolkien before the commercial conquest of rural England; the world he loved was just something to be paved over to drive noisy cars on.

(This reminds me of something I saw on the news when I was about eleven or twelve: it had been decided by dictat from on high that the few remaining brick-cobbled streets of old Wilmington (NC) were to be covered in asphalt, but the homeowners were up in arms - literally. The tar-spreaders attacked a street and when they left, the residents attacked the still-soft tar with hoes and such. I don’t recall any follow-up about it, but when I was in Wilmington some years ago, we drove through that area and, there were still some brick streets; so I assume the homeowners won and the Efficiency-mongers lost. Tolkien would approve.)

A pleasure of my childhood was reading poetry out loud from a battered, lone volume from the days when Childcraft book sets were illustrated with lovely watercolors, the sort that instilled joy in beauty in small children without them even knowing it. I especially loved this one by Eleanor Farjeon: it pretty well highlights Tolkien’s sorrow for the Miller-of-the-Dee pre-industrial England that still lurked in the dear places of his earlier days.

The city has streets—
But the country has roads.
In the country one meets
Blue carts with their loads
Of sweet-smelling hay,
And mangolds and grain:
Oh, take me away
To the country again!

In the city one sees
Big trams rattle by,
And the breath of the chimneys
That blot out the sky,
And all down the pavements
Stiff lamp-posts one sees—
But the country has hedgerows,
The country has trees.

As sweet as the sun
In the country is rain:
Oh, take me away
To the country again!

Having said all this, however, we are still left with the plain fact that the picture-book Shire wasn’t an argument for E.L.F. environmentalism. As Gandalf said to Treebeard in The Two Towers (book): “You have not plotted to cover all the world with your trees and choke all other living things.” Neither was it an argument for socialist nanny-state busybodies: The Scouring of the Shire ought to dispense with any ideas of that sort.

Nor did it condone spaced-out permissiveness. Societies in The Lord of the Rings are all tightly fitted to traditional sexual mores and traditional families - and the aforementioned pipe-weed was plain old ‘Nicotiana’ just like the stuff we grow here in North Carolina, despite any insinuations to the contrary by a mischievous Peter Jackson.

For one thing, an idyllic society such as the Shire is depicted as being would be possible only under conditions of strict Victorian morality (if then); otherwise, paradise would be spoiled by disease, disorder, poverty and hunger in short order. If you don’t have modern medicine, transportation and plumbing, and modern farming methods and reliable lines of supply, you have to rely on everybody doing the right thing at the right time and respecting custom, from sexual morality and social structure right on down to blackberry-gathering rights and where the cows drop their high-nitrogen pats. And that requires either self-control encouraged by the ever-present possibility of disapproval being expressed by the Farmer Maggots of the community - or tyranny.

“The Shire at this time had hardly any ‘government’. Families for the most part managed their own affairs…There remained, of course, the ancient tradition concerning the high king…they attributed to the king of old all their essential laws; and usually they kept the laws of free will, because they were The Rules (as they said), both ancient and just.” -–Prologue, The Fellowship of the Ring.
This is a far cry from the 1960s dictum “I can do anything I want as long as it doesn’t hurt anybody.” It smacks far more of the Amish – and they are not renowned for their hedonism.

Ignoring this, the all-wise baby boomers and their enablers charged out upon the tightrope of Tolkien’s romantic pastoralism, gleefully leaving his balance pole of chivalric morality behind (alongside their elders’ spines, maybe) and American culture has never been the same. The unleashing of sexual self-indulgence has seeded a vast commercial empire; if everyone became Calvinists tomorrow, the economy would collapse almost instantly. In a twist ironic enough to give Saruman the giggles, the would-be Middle-Earthers have surrendered all to commerce and industry. (Not to mention the fact that the chances of the Shirefolk having used either contraceptives or abortion as means of birth control are precisely nil; Tolkien was a very devout Catholic.)

It’s easy to preach about the superior virtues of organic gardening and free-range chickens when you know there’s a warehouse-sized grocery store available for back-up – just in case the bugs and varmints take over the corn crib. It’s also easy to bed-hop when you can pop a pill or get an abortion to take care of any unintended consequences, or when you can scream at the government en masse to demand cures for diseases that could be well-nigh eliminated by keeping your zipper shut. (But that would be dreadfully Incorrect, Politically-speaking, so we mustn’t say such things lest we offend.)

A niche-descendent of Free Love and Back to the Land is rampant on the internet in the form of appalling LotR fan-fiction writ in viscous purple ink and angst, plots largely woven around episodic sexual intercourse of various persuasions and written largely by extremely silly teenaged girls. (Where are their mothers, for Pete’s sake?) Fortunately, Professor Tolkien is safely in his grave and thus beyond being distressed by such rubbish; death truly is a merciful gift from Illuvatar.

~~~

Of course, the Shire was able to indulge itself in the luxury of being idyllic because other people - living a much less comfortable existence - protected it from being pillaged by savages and others of a criminal ilk. Tolkien recognized this, and it adds a certain tension of contradiction to his writings: the Shire can only be the Shire because Men with swords are willing to kill marauders. Thus the anti-war activism of a certain segment of the louder Peace-and-Love‘60s generation and their heirs is rendered both naïve and hypocritical.

(I must interject here that there is a considerable difference between personal ‘conscientious objection’ and Ultra-Left pacifism. Refusing to take up arms as an individual has a long and respectable tradition in Christianity - such as monastic communities or the clergy - and the story of the building of the Temple by Solomon rather than his father David lends considerable honor to such a stance: it must be respected by those who would follow the same slaughtered Lamb. The difference comes in being willing to accept the consequences as opposed to thinking rainbows and woolly baa-lambs will repel human evil. The error of the pacifists lies in their self-righteous – and selective - determination to prevent the American government from exercising its divinely-ordained responsibility to defend its citizenry.)

“The Hobbits named it the Shire, as the region of the authority of their Thain, and a district of well-ordered business and there in that pleasant corner of the world they plied their well-ordered business of living, and they heeded less and less the world outside where dark things moved, until they came to think that peace and plenty were the rule in Middle-earth and the right of all sensible folk. They forgot or ignored what little they had ever known of the Guardians, and of the labours of those that made possible the long peace of the Shire. They were, in fact, sheltered, but they had ceased to remember It.“ --Ibid
~~~


From Brad Birzer’s Sanctifying Myth:

"Hippies and the political Left embraced the trilogy in the mid-to-late-2960s. It was, purportedly, one of drug guru Timothy Leary’s favorite books, and headshops throughout the United States sold all manner of Tolkien paraphernalia. As Beatles biographer Philip Norman has reported, The Lord of the Rings became a vital part of hippie culture, finding devotees among the devotees of ‘Indian religion, cannabis and free love.’ Said the Berkeley campus bookstore manager in 1966, 'This is more than a campus craze; it’s like a drug dream…' His iconic status overwhelmed the elderly Tolkien…The conservative author especially despised the hippies. Neither his lifestyle nor his worldview fit theirs.”
It’s also the ultimate absurdity: a straitlaced Victorian professor writes a straitlaced Victorian novel only to see it selectively filleted to prettify the same old lechery and folly and self-righteous contempt for virtue that mankind has ever been eager to justify.

 

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