Revisiting The Silmarillion

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It’s been a while, but I’m back.

Much like people who revisit familiar places as vacation destinations, I’m going back to revisit a favorite book series of mine, starting with The Silmarillion.

A primer is in order first. The Silmarillion is like Middle Earth 101 (or to risk being a little sacrilegious, the Middle Earth Bible). It starts with the creation of all things and progresses from there.

If you love The Hobbit and The Lord of the Rings, this is where it all started. Literally. J. R. R. Tolkien began working on this manuscript way before The Hobbit and worked on it continuously until he died. His son, Christopher, published it  four years after Tolkien’s death.

It’s not for the faint of heart. It’s Wagnerian in its scope and not quite as warm and friendly as The Hobbit or LOTR. I don’t see how anyone could adapt this into a feature film (though I imagine someone will make an attempt in the near future).

I could have titled this blog post “Yes, I am a Nerd (and Thanks for Noticing).” I don’t mind. I can think of very few who could create such a fully realized reality such as Middle Earth, complete with an assortment of beings who had their own histories and languages. Though Tolkien didn’t intend them as allegories in the strictest sense, you can pull all sorts of inferences from his writings.

For the record, I am a fan of all things Harry Potter and Narnia. I also love the Wrinkle in Time series by Madeleine L’Engle. At least those are the ones that come to mind.

Hopefully, I won’t rush through this time. I want to stop and savor all of Middle Earth. Too bad there’s not a “I went to The Shire and all I got was this lousy t-shirt” t-shirt.

 

Farewell to Lorien (and to Another Golden Age Actress)

“Crying farewell, the Elves of Lórien with long grey poles thrust them out into the flowing stream, and the rippling waters bore them slowly away. The travellers sat still without moving or speaking. On the green bank near to the very point of the Tongue the Lady Galadriel stood alone and silent. As they passed her they turned and their eyes watched her slowly floating away from them. For so it seemed to them: Lórien was slipping backward, like a bright ship masted with enchanted trees, sailing on to forgotten shores, while they sat helpless upon the margin of the grey and leafless world” (J. R. R. Tolkien, The Lord of the Rings).

Few are probably aware of it, but the world lost another star recently in the passing of Gloria DeHaven. She was another from the golden age of Hollywood who has slipped away from us.

I love watching Turner Classic Movies because I feel as though I’m stepping back into a simpler, less complicated world where it was easier to tell the good guys from the bad, where love was something worth fighting for, and where the cause of the just prevailed.

The world portrayed in these old movies is more and more a relic of the past with so many of the virtues and values seemingly going extinct in a world where more is better and where everything needs to happen NOW.

Seeing the old black-and-white does something good for my heart. The same goes for Technicolor. A lot of the newer movies may look and sound better, but they ain’t got the same soul (to appropriate a line from a Bob Seger song).

The old movies were about telling stories about real people who laughed and cried, loved and lost,  lived and died. There weren’t any CGI effects– just witty dialogue and fleshed-out characters.

I’ll have to look up one of Gloria’s movies and watch it in her memory. RIP to another from a golden age gone forever.

The Grand Adventure of Life

“It’s a dangerous business, Frodo, going out your door. You step onto the road, and if you don’t keep your feet, there’s no knowing where you might be swept off to” (J. R. R. Tolkien, The Lord of the Rings).

“An adventure is only an inconvenience rightly considered. An inconvenience is only an adventure wrongly considered” (G.K. Chesterton).

I made the comment last night that I was going on an adventure last night (or something like that– I’ve slept since then so my recollect is suspect at best). A friend of mine asked me today what that adventure was.

This is what I should have said in response:

Life itself is a grand adventure. Waking up every morning and getting another 24 hours is adventurous in and of itself.

Living in absolute dependence on God is an adventure of the best kind. You never know when and where He will show up, only that He absolutely will show up if you only have eyes of faith and a heart full of gratitude big enough to see Him.

Faith is trusting without needing to know all the answers and without requiring that every step and every second be road-mapped and planned out ahead of time. Faith is the ultimate adventure.

Some days, I think I’d like to take off like Bilbo in The Hobbit or Frodo and his friends in The Lord of the Rings. Some days, I feel like I really could use a good quest.

Then I’m reminded that maybe the biggest and best quest of all is simple to go out into a dark world and be salt and light. To go into a godless world and be the only Jesus that some will ever meet and the only Bible that some will ever read. To preach the gospel at all times and use words when necessary.

That in my opinion is the grandest of adventures.

 

 

Things I Love 33: The Very Last One . . . Or Is It?

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“Christian hands never clasp
and He doesn’t give gifts for gain
because a gift can never stop being a gift –
it is always meant to be given” (Ann Voskamp, One Thousand Gifts: A Dare to Live Fully Right Where You Are).

“The whole of the life — even the hard — is made up of the minute parts, and if I miss the infinitesimals, I miss the whole. These are new language lessons, and I live them out. There is a way to live the big of giving thanks in all things. It is this: to give thanks in this one small thing. The moments will add up” (Ann Voskamp, One Thousand Gifts: A Dare to Live Fully Right Where You Are).

They say a picture is worth a thousand words. Hopefully, by the end of this you will have seen a picture of gratitude and thanksgiving and how joy in the smallest things can radically alter your perspective and change your life. Truly, eucharisteo (thanksgiving with joy) precedes the miracle. So, I pick up where I left off at #971.

971) Homemade chili with shredded cheese and crumbled crackers on top.

972) Batman movie marathons.

973) Jesus never calls the equipped but equips the called.

974) My sister Leigh’s cat Gracie, who was the sweetest and best cat I’ve ever known. RIP, my little friend.

975) Fage Greek yogurt.

976) Switching to Verizon.

977) God’s perfect timing.

978) 5.1 Dolby Surround Sound.

979) The brilliance of The Screwtape Letters.

980) “If you build it, they will come.”

981) Whenever a bad guy in the movies gets what’s coming to him.

982) Whenever Jesus changes the bad guy into a good guy (because basically without Jesus and grace we’re all bad guys deep down).

983) Whenever I matter enough to someone for them to make time for me.

984) Having seen every single episode of the X-Files (and both movies).

985) Casual Fridays at work.

986) Blessing and serving Jesus by serving the least of these.

987) Snow on Christmas Eve.

988) That my value doesn’t decrease because of someone’s inability to see it (again “borrowed from a Facebook post).

989) The Home Alone movies (well, the first two anyway).

990) The level ground at the foot of the Cross.

991) That real heroes don’t wear costumes.

992) The mute button for those annoying TV commercials.

993) The way Lucy the Wonder Kitty purrs when she eats.

994) That while people may argue theology and semantics, no one can argue with a transformed life.

995) The way Jack Cardiff, famous cinematographer, interplayed light and shadow.

996) That God’s not done with me yet.

997) The slow steady rhythms of a Sunday afternoon.

998) Finally being brave enough to take risks and step boldly out in faith.

999) The little children’s book J.R.R. Tolkien wrote called Roverandom about a little toy dog.

1000) That I’ve decided that 1,000 really isn’t enough and there will be more coming soon to a blog near you.

Revisiting Another Old Favorite

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I have certain books that I like to read annually. For me, it’s like going back to a familiar place for vacation and seeing the same people, yet hopefully discovering something new this time that you missed the last time.

For me, the books I read every year are The Hobbit, The Lord of the Rings, The Chronicles of Narnia, and The Space Trilogy.

That last one is what I’m reading right now. Lewis wrote them in the 1940’s before space exploration, so the science part may seem outdated. But I always took the books for allegories anyway, so that part doesn’t bother me so much.

I am fascinated by the idea of an ordinary man trying to help out another and getting kidnapped for all his troubles and taken aboard a space vessel headed for Malacandra (you’ll have to read the books if you want to know where that is).

Not only was Lewis very good at articulating his faith, he was one of the best story-tellers around. I like to think that he was always a child at heart even when he was nearing the end of his life and never lost the sense of the wonder and awe associated with childhood.

I realize that there are so many worthwhile books I haven’t read yet. I realize that if I am to read all the books on my to-read list, I will have to live to be older than Methuselah. Assuming no more really good books are written from this point on.

But sometimes I just have to go back. I need to see familiar faces and places again. I need to get away from reality for a while.

If you have books that you like to revisit annually, I’d like to know what they are. I may have missed them and might want to add them to my gargantuan-yet-ever-growing list of books to read. Maybe I’ll get around to them in a millennium or so.

 

Revisiting an Old Favorite

There are a few books that I annually re-read. I make a point to read The Chronicles of Narnia, The Hobbit, and The Lord of the Rings every year. For me, it’s like going on vacation to a familiar place with people you know.

One book that I don’t read every year, but probably every other year is The Silmarillion. It actually predates both The Hobbit and The Lord of the Rings. Tolkien started it in or around 1917 and worked on it continuously up until his death in 1973. It was published four years later.

It contains the mythology of the world behind the Lord of the Rings with its own creation account and the introduction of evil into the world. You find out that Sauron is but a servant of a greater evil, but you’ll have to read the book to find out who or what.

Reading the book again reminds me of why I love books in the first place. Tolkien writes with such lyrical prose that it’s easy to visualize what he’s writing about. It is much broader in scope than either The Hobbit or The Lord of the Rings and contains a great deal more characters.

I can’t imagine how anyone could make a single cohesive movie from this book. Maybe a trilogy someday, but even then I don’t see how they could capture the essence of the book. I hope somebody proves me wrong one day.

The version to get is the one with the illustrations by Ted Naismith. Just follow this link if you don’t already have the book. http://www.amazon.com/Silmarillion-J-R-R-Tolkien/dp/0618391118/ref=sr_1_1?s=books&ie=UTF8&qid=1348371959&sr=1-1&keywords=the+silmarillion (The cover on the book is different than mine, but it has the same illustrations.)

It’s not a complete work and it is imperfect, but it is worth reading at least once (or if you’re like me, way more than once). I give it the ol’ Siskel and Ebert two thumbs up.