I am for peace; but when I speak, they are for war!
As I’ve been convalescing from my spinal fusion surgery, I have a lot of down time, and am just beginning to feel well enough to feel the need to do things to occupy my time. I listened in my first week home to THE HOBBIT on my Kindle text to voice reader. It is not a human reading the text, but a mechanical reader, which takes some getting used to. Nevertheless, I was thankful for having a device that could read to me while I lay flat listening. I read THE HOBBIT 35 years or more ago, and although I remember liking the book, I found that I really didn’t remember the story at all.
As in the entire LORD OF THE RINGS TRILOGY, I do remember having an emotional reaction to the role war plays in the writings of Tolkien. He was not an idealist, like I am. He did not envision a world without war or without evil or without a struggle between good and evil. That struggle takes place not only on the macro level of all people on earth, but in the heart of each individual as well.
I remember being troubled when I first read his trilogy by Tolkien’s realism regarding war and the almost necessary role it has in history. On this earth there is and will be struggle, and there are forces that are trying to prevail over the rest of inhabitants of earth. Tolkien does accept the grand epic notion of a cosmic struggle between good and evil, and yet in my reading of him, he is not blaming Satan for the existence of war, struggle or evil on earth. Evil lurks in the hearts of earth’s inhabitants. Satan is not much needed to cause war when the inhabitants of the earth are so ready to use violence to attain even unimportant goals.
There is always someone or some group which desires to have power over others and is willing to do anything to gain and maintain their position of power. There always are some who are willing to enslave others to attain their goals. Evil and wickedness are in this sense forces that can work upon our hearts and minds, and it happens at every level of human existence from the individual up to entire cultures and empires.
“The LORD saw that the wickedness of man was great in the earth, and that every imagination of the thoughts of his heart was only evil continually. And the LORD was sorry that he had made man on the earth, and it grieved him to his heart.” (Genesis 6:5-6)
I appreciate that recognition of what lurks in the hearts of earth’s inhabitants in the writings of JRR Tolkien. The struggle with evil that we each and always face is not just the fault of Satan, but it is a true spiritual warfare in each of us. Sometimes it becomes a collective when an entire nation embraces evil design and decides it is OK to oppression or destroy their fellow inhabitants on earth.
I wish it weren’t so, and by nature am a pacifist, but I realize Tolkien is right about the nature of evil in the world’s population as he is correct about war as a means for people to achieve their goals or to oppose those who want to oppress.
Even after the Great Flood: “the LORD said in his heart, ‘I will never again curse the ground because of man, for the imagination of man’s heart is evil from his youth…'” (Genesis 8:21)
My pacifistic beliefs are not the result of personal holiness, but the result of wishful idealism. Would that we on this planet could find it in our hearts not to hate others, not to be ready to kill those different from us, not to be willing to enslave those we think as lesser than ourselves, not to rely on violence to attain our wishes and goals. But, alas, as in the world Tolkien created, violence and war seem to be part of the fabric which makes up our hearts.
Jesus said: “For from within, out of the heart of man, come evil thoughts, fornication, theft, murder, adultery, coveting, wickedness, deceit, licentiousness, envy, slander, pride, foolishness. All these evil things come from within, and they defile a man.” (Mark 7:21-23)
So the quote of the little Hobbit, Bilbo Baggins, stood out in my mind as I listened to the tale:
“You are a fool, Bilbo Baggins, and you made a great mess of that business with the stone; and there was a battle, in spite of all your efforts to buy peace and quiet, but I suppose you can hardly be blamed for that.” (Kindle 4368-69)
Like Bilbo, I wish people could get along on planet earth, and I’m so often dismayed by as he was by the stubbornness and lack of good will even among some who are supposed to be allies. How quickly we so often resort to violence and how willingly we go to war. maybe it is Tolkien’s realism, or maybe it is the biblical notion of violence and evil which lurks in the hearts of every human being.
I know I have used these quotes several times in other blogs, to make the same point, but I came back to the same ideas while reading Tolkien.
“Gradually it was disclosed to me that the line separating good and evil passes not through states, nor between classes, nor between political parties either — but right through every human heart — and through all human hearts. This line shifts. Inside us, it oscillates with the years. And even within hearts overwhelmed by evil, one small bridgehead of good is retained. And even in the best of all hearts, there remains … an unuprooted small corner of evil.
Since then I have come to understand the truth of all the religions of the world: They struggle with the evil inside a human being (inside every human being). It is impossible to expel evil from the world in its entirety, but it is possible to constrict it within each person.” (Aleksandr I. Solzhenitsyn, The Gulag Archipelago 1918-1956)