The Purpose of Art & My Struggle to Write: A Reflexion on J. R. R. Tolkien’s ‘Leaf by Niggle’

Last Sunday I was getting ready to head home from Mass, which takes a little under an hour, and was wondering whether I might listen to an audiobook or pray a Rosary on the way home when a wonderful and providential thought came into my head. I had just finished J. R. R. Tolkien’s The Adventures of Tom Bombadil, and my audiobook (Tales from the Perilous Realm) included also Leaf by Niggle, which takes less than an hour to listen to. So I started it, shifted into drive, and started my way home on a path of wonder and self-discovery. 

Here I shall not so much review or critique the story, Leaf by Niggle, as much as relate what I gained of it in mind and heart. So if you have read it, you may appreciate my thoughts. If you have not, I have tried to reiterate the story enough so that you could still appreciate what I’ve written, and find good reason to read it yourself without it being summarised here for you. 

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The Glory of Repentance: Learning Courage and Hope from The Lord of the Rings

The following contains spoilers for those who have neither read nor seen The Lord of the Rings (specifically The Two Towers book, chapter one, or the film version of The Fellowship of the Ring).

Several weeks ago, some friends and I were talking about our favourite books, and the topic turned (as it often does with me) to The Lord of the Rings. Among us weremy friend Mike, and a nine-year-old girl named Beatrix, who has read both The Lord of the Rings and The Silmarillion. Mike asked her what her favourite part of The Lord of the Rings was, and when she answered that it was the death of Boromir, I said it was the same for me. Mike said, ‘That’s so many people’s favourite part! What is it about that scene that people love so much?’ Bea and I turned to one another, and began to discuss it. I then had the humbling and inspiring experience of learning about Tolkien’s work from a girl less than half my age. We concluded that it was, in short, because of how wonderful was the redemption of Boromir. That he should fall so far, and yet rise so much higher in a few moments, inspires us with courage, hope, and love. 

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Sharing Sorrow: Why We Read Sad Literature

The other night some friends and I were discussing sorrowful literature—why we read it and so often cherish it. Even if a book is mostly not sad, the parts of it that inspired sorrow in us remain in our minds, provoking a continued and deep reflexion in us, and very often they hold a special place in our hearts. Such scenes as the funeral in the beginning of The Two Towers (in The Fellowship of the Ring film version), the death near the end of Anne of Green Gables, and the final depressive spiral and death in Anna Karenina—if we’ve read these, we remember them with particular intensity, not just as a once intense feeling, but as a deep and solemn experience. I ventured to ask my friends why we seek this out, and here I reflect on some of what I have learned.

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Faith through Friendship and Communion

Happy feast day! In honour of today’s Feast of the Queenship of Mary, here follows a reflexion on the Mass and Holy Communion based on a vision of the Mass given to Sister Lucia, one of the visionaries of Fatima, on June 13, 1929. The description from her memoir, and the picture of the painting of the vision (above), I obtained from Holy Family School of Faith’s website.

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In the Garden of the Soul

Due to travelling and a wedding, I was not able to write a blog post last week. The question is, what were you doing instead of reading my blog? There are many more excellent things to do, and I pray that this blog does indeed inspire you to go and do them: to read a good book, enjoy a beautiful sunset, spend time before the Eucharist, meditate with the Rosary, and engage in good conversation. So I am truly glad you are here, and reading what I, presently—though for you two days ago—am writing for you. And I have something different for you this week: As I asked you what you did instead of reading my blog, I shall share what I did instead of writing it.

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O Star, O Flame, O Mighty Wind

Here follows a poem I wrote over two years ago, inspired by the following passage from the Diary of St. Faustina. I have edited the poem only a little, and left it in its simplicity, for I knew almost as little then of poetry as I do now.

April 4, 1937. Low Sunday; that is, the Feast of Mercy. In the morning, after Holy Communion, my soul was immersed in the Godhead. I was united to the Three Divine Persons in such a way that when I was united to Jesus, I was simultaneously united to the Father and to the Holy Spirit. My soul was flooded with joy beyond understanding, and the Lord gave me to experience the whole ocean and abyss of His fathomless mercy. Oh, if only souls would want to understand how much God loves them! All comparisons, even if they were the most tender and the most vehement, are but a mere shadow when set against the reality.

When I was united to the Lord, I came to know how many souls are glorifying God’s mercy.

Diary: Divine Mercy in My Soul, paragraph 1073
O Trinity, O Love, 
You are the greatest of lights, 
encompassing the whole universe; 
You shine as a thousand stars, 
shimmer as a thousand seas. 
Yet also are You a fire, 
passionate, roaring, consuming, 
inescapable, untamable; 
Your Heart ignites the hearts of men, 
giving Life to souls who dwell in Death. 
Still also are You, O Love, a storm, 
almighty, incomprehensible; 
inspiring dread in the great, 
and awe in the weak; 
greater than the skies,
more awesome than the seas; 
at Your Love all men weep, 
all hearts quake, 
                   all souls cry out, 
all the world bends its knee: 
For You, 
O Light of Lights,
O Consuming Fire, 
O Mighty Tempest, 
Did Yourself pour out 
in gentle compassion, 
to heal the wretched, 
to abide in the dead, 
for the life of the world. 

And he said, Go forth, and stand upon the mount before the Lord. And, behold, the Lord passed by, and a great and strong wind rent the mountains, and brake in pieces the rocks before the Lord; but the Lord was not in the wind: and after the wind an earthquake; but the Lord was not in the earthquake:

And after the earthquake a fire; but the Lord was not in the fire: and after the fire a still small voice.

And it was so, when Elijah heard it, that he wrapped his face in his mantle, and went out, and stood in the entering in of the cave.

1 Kings 19:11-13

Though we speak much we cannot reach the end,

    and the sum of our words is: “He is the all.”

Sirach 43:27

Filial Piety as Devotion & Self-Sacrifice in the Film Tokyo Story

In one of my university classes we viewed the film Tokyo Story,1 which presents Noriko, one of the protagonists, as an admirable woman who lives out the virtue of filial piety to the parents of her deceased husband. Although my family tried to impress such ideals upon me in accordance with the Christian worldview, I did not have a deep belief in filial piety and deference to one’s parents. But as I’ve matured and grown in character, I’ve come to a better understanding of not only obedience to authorities, especially parents, but of special devotion to them. Noriko’s story and her display of the Japanese understanding of filial piety helped me see this virtue in a new light. 

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Abuse of Language—Abuse of Power: An Essay in Review

I’ve recently had the great delight of reading Abuse of Language—Abuse of Power, an essay by Catholic philosopher Joseph Pieper, and I want to share a few of my thoughts to entice you to pick it up. You would buy it in book form, but it really is an essay, 54 pages in a pamphlet-sized copy. Even so, there’s a lot of gems and excellent discourse packed into it. Pieper aims at addressing how Plato’s criticisms of the sophists in his day are quite relevant to us with regard to modern-day sophism. He first spends some time defining sophism and Plato’s counter-view, then ventures on to discuss how the sophistic abuse of language is used in surprisingly myriad ways today—from advertising to the paradigm of academia—in order to distort truth and manipulate others’ perceptions of reality. This abuse, argues Pieper, forms the beginning of tyrannies such as the Soviet regime. To make his points, he takes the reader through history from Plato to the present day, examining the course of man’s thought on the ideas of language, truth, reality, science, knowledge, and freedom. It is along this path that I found some of the most intriguing ideas in his essay, such as what it means for something to be true, and what freedom is. Pieper’s thoughts and his conclusions are relevant to most readers, since they address the nature of communication itself, the pursuit of knowledge and why man does pursue it, and what safeguards and threats there are to higher education, to the ‘academy’. These obviously pertain to all readers as individuals and as members of society, and I have long since pondered in my mind and heart the matters unfolded in this essay. 

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Friendship & Good Conversation through the Lost Art of Letters

This past year some friends and I have taken up letter-writing as means of correspondence, both friends who live in the same town as I and those some leagues away. In light of my fruitful experiences in this endeavour, I want to share its benefits and encourage you to take up this worthy exploit. 

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Apologetic Book Review ~ On Killing: The Psychological Cost of Learning to Kill in War and Society

In writing this review of the book On Killing: The Psychological Cost of Learning to Kill in War and Society, by Lt. Col. Dave Grossman, I found myself writing a preemptive defence against any attacks that might arise against this book when I recommended it. But given the title (the subtitle is key, but likely missed), and a couple comments I received on Goodreads regarding my reading this book, I find necessary a preemptive, apologetic justification, for this is one of the best non-fiction secular books I have read, and I highly recommend it to a wide audience. To go into the details of all I learned would reduce the work that the author put into his research and would thus nullify his arguments, and because what he argues is controversial and novel, I shall not risk this. Moreover, to analyse the book point-by-point would require restating much of it and would thus result in a shorter book, so I shall not waste our time with that. This shall instead be an evaluation of the areas which especially engaged me, the merit of his writing, the questions he asks, and the importance (to me and, likely to you) of the answers. Finally, I shall explain why I give this only four out of five stars. 

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