In Tolkien’s estimate, we moderns have been inveigled by the lure of life as an end in itself. In this regard, we are not far removed from our pagan forebears of ancient Germany and Scandinavia.The 7th century English theologian and historian called the Venerable Bede likened their view of human existence to the flight of a sparrow into one end of a blazing mead-hall and out the other: from black emptiness, briefly into warmth and light, back into cold oblivion.Read more here.
Like our Anglo-Saxon ancestors, most of us are mortalists. With the philosopher Bertrand Russell, we believe that when we die we do nothing other than rot. Our mortalism has thus caused us to deny the deepest of Christian paradoxes: the paradox that the death which was originally meant as our curse and punishment can be transformed into the supreme gift—if we can learn to die aright…
Here, I believe, lies the perennial appeal of Tolkien’s great book, the reason why readers repeatedly return to it—not to escape from but into Reality. We learn from the hobbits and their allies that the drama of everyday life is full of fantastic adventure and challenge, that it contains epic horrors and blessings, that our smallest deeds belong to a huge universe of meaning, that we are working out nothing less than eternal destinies, that we have hope of victory only through courage and trust, love and loyalty, friendship and faith.
Wednesday, February 10, 2010
Wood - The Flight of Sparrows
Ralph C. Wood in his paper, "Tolkien the Movie and Tolkien the Book," writes profoundly about moderns' attitude toward life and antipathy toward mortality using a "distant mirror":