Have you ever considered that we (mankind) have a problem with power?
In Tolkien’s fairy tales Silmarillion, The Hobbit, and The Lord of the Rings, the primary topic of each is the quest to defeat an evil would-be-lord’s attempt to own all power. In reflection it seems to me that the one ‘thing’ man strives for perhaps more than anything else is power. In some cases it is the quest for power, in others it’s the display of power that fuels our economy and our lives.
Power in all its forms is inextricably linked with pride. We take pride in ourselves when we can exhibit power over ourselves, others, and our possessions. In today’s society many consider power to be a positive thing, such as in being the ‘Master of Our Own Destiny.’
But we are only kidding ourselves if we think power and/or its pursuit is a good thing.
It is power that fueled Lucifer’s quest for God’s throne; power of knowledge that induced Eve to pick up the apple. Often, it’s the pursuit of power that drives men and women in the workforce to climb the corporate ladder, run for office, or own a business. Power is the reason people rape, murder, and abuse other people. It’s power that drives countries to depossess other people of their property and lands.
Look around our world today and one way or another most of us are trying to exhibit power in our individual lives. It is this real quest to own and/or utilize power and its resident co-evil pride that utterly destroys man. It abases us as we try to elevate ourselves to preeminence above God.
Even in our games it’s all about power. The Massively Multiplayer Online-Role Playing Game (MMORPG), The Lord of the Rings Online: Shadows of Angmar the players have characters that achieve “levels”. Each level exhibits its own “power”. When fighting a “bad guy” one looks at their own level and compares it to the “bad guy’s” level to see who has the most “power.” In the Lord of Rings Trivial Pursuit game power is exhibited by knowing more than the other players. These forms of power would seem innocuous at worst. After all, we all enjoy them.
Back to Tolkien’s heroes… they were humble, and this humility gives us (the reader) a sense that their attitude was just and right. In all my readings I’ve not found even one person who expressed that these heroes were stupid or foolish. I don’t think we could understand that it’s better to be humble than to pursue power in and of or for ourselves. We should consider where our sense of morality (right and wrong) comes from. This is an excellent example of myth containing truth.
I agree with Tolkien, that only Divinity has the right to own and exhibit power. Jesus said he is sitting at the right hand of Power. That tells us clearly that it is God who has the right to power. Jesus also said he has all authority… that IS power… real power.
We are creatures not The Creator. If we focus on God first and foremost as we ought and humble ourselves to Him and His guidance He will demonstrate power on our behalf. What a wonderful, peaceful position to be in…. That where The Creator takes care of us (of me)…
On humility… God tells us to, “… consider others as better than [ourselves]..” Christ said, “No greater love hath any man than that he lay down his life for a friend.” We’re also told that the second commandment is “… to love others as we love ourselves.” These actions keep us humble and defeat the quest for power… humility and power are mutually exclusive…
I need to learn to be more humble!
The more I study and learn about J. R. R. Tolkien, his contemporaries (i.e., C. S. Lewis) and their fairy stories / myths the more fascinated I become. It’s not just my love of the story. It’s the depth of their work and the realities behind it that are so… “rich” (for lack of a better word)… I can spend the foreseeable future researching, reading, thinking, and writing/blogging… about the authors and their efforts… and not grow tired of it.
It’s “rich” because it has a true foundation: God the Creator, the Word (Logos), the Spirit and their perfection and reality. If these weren’t real, what then? …. Nothing, it wouldn’t matter… there would be no resounding thrill in our hearts when the good guy (Frodo) destroys the ring, because there could be no morality… no good… no bad… without God.
Tolkien believed that there is only a story to be told when you have a “fall” from creation perfection.
Think about this for a moment…
If Eve hadn’t been deceived…. if Adam hadn’t willfully disobeyed… before that…. if Lucifer hadn’t coveted the Supreme Position… what would we have? A very boring, flat, dry… story… history… life…. what would we talk about? What would we appreciate?
More importantly… what would we “be” without “the choice”… between good and evil?
We certainly couldn’t be “redeemed” if we weren’t “fallen”… while on the one hand, Christ would not have needed to lay down His life for us, He wouldn’t have had to be brutally beaten and that would have been a good thing…. then again, we wouldn’t really know just how bad we really are… how much He loves each one of us… the lengths to which He’d go… We wouldn’t know what grace is… nor know humility in the presence of God… we’d have knowledge of His Superiority, but not of His grace and love…
Scripture points out that there’s a very real battle going on between principalities… God and His followers versus Lucifer and the other fallen angels…. Do you see it? Do you want to?
Will we deny ourselves and follow God or will we try to agrandize ourselves and follow Lucifer? Is our choice humility or pride?
As I mentioned Thursday, initially C.S. Lewis thought myths are lies while J.R.R. Tolkien completely disagreed.
Patrick Curles writes in Tolkien’s Impact in Literature and Life
There are truths, Tolkien said, that are beyond us, transcendent truths, about beauty, truth, honor, etc. There are truths that man knows exist, but they cannot be seen – they are immaterial, but no less real, to us. It is only through the language of myth that we can speak of these truths. We have come from God, Tolkien said, and only through myth, through story telling, can we aspire to the life we were made for with God. To write and/or read myth, Tolkien believed, was to meditate on the most important truths of life.
Scripture tells us that God wrote knowledge of Himself on our individual hearts. This is born out by the fact that, irrespective of geographical location, the one thing common to all societies that have ever existed is that they all show signs (archeologically) of religion. I’ve heard it said that “religion” is man reaching towards God (although Christianity is God reaching out to man). If there were no God, why would man strive for so long trying to find Him?
I think man not only tries to find God, but that man does also search for truth, unfettered by modern philosophy. It’s paradoxical that man doesn’t want to take responsibility for his own actions. It’s this perspective that keeps man from pushing too hard to find God and leads him to embrace relativism… leads him away from God.
Frequently you’ll hear that there is no absolute truth (but the sentence itself is making an absolute statement and is therefore self-defeated.) Good myths (as opposed to evil or bad myths) give us an opportunity to learn, to think, to gain knowledge. Those that are well written allow us to walk in the hero’s shoes, to feel with him or her the full gamut of emotions. It’s far more than escapism. They enrich us as individuals. True, well written, myths are a feast for our minds and spirits, our inner eyes and ears. Oh yes, and our hearts.
There’s truth in Tolkien’s work that we can recognise, contemplate, and appreciate. If you’ve not read Tolkien I do encourage you to read first The Hobbit and then The Lord of the Rings. If you’ve read him once, I urge you to read him again… that’s what I’m going to do…
What are friends for? Well for one thing, helping us to answer the most import questions of life… right?
C.S. Lewis and J.R.R. Tolkien by all accounts were indeed very good friends. They worked together and they shared a love of literature, language, and of course, fairy tales. At the beginning they did not share a love of Christ… in fact at one point Lewis said that “myths” were lies… his friend Tolkien led him to see otherwise.
According to the Wikipedia at http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/C.S._Lewis
Lewis was a close friend of J. R. R. Tolkien, the author of The Lord of the Rings, and both were leading figures in the English faculty at Oxford University and in the informal Oxford literary group known as the “Inklings”. Due in part to Tolkien’s influence, Lewis converted to Christianity, becoming “a very ordinary layman of the Church of England”. (Lewis 1952, pp. 6) His conversion had a profound effect on his work, and his wartime radio broadcasts on the subject of Christianity brought him wide acclaim. Late in life he married the American writer Joy Gresham, who died of bone cancer four years later at the age of 45.
The “Seek God” website (http://www.seekgod.ca/lewis.htm) relates that…
It was J.R.R Tolkien who, as a professor of Anglo-Saxon language at Oxford University, led a colleague to embrace Christ in 1929. The colleague was C.S. Lewis, who would go on to become a stalwart apologist for the Christian faith. Lewis also wrote a Christian fantasy series, “The Chronicles of Narnia,” along with apologetic works such as “Mere Christianity,” and “The Problem of Pain.”
You may agree, irrespective of your world view, that these two wonderful men left us quite a legacy. They left us marvelous stories, they left us wonderful examples of Christian men living and working for our Lord. For me… they’ve left a desire to see through their allegorical stories… to see the Real Story behind their words.
Oh, and by the way… the person in my life who helped me to see the truth of Christ was my mother. Thankfully, today she’s also one of my closest friends.