30/31 December 2001 and it's possible to resume smiling...

13:45: After walk, waiting for train.

Winter sun, out of wind, Sunday afternoon. As I walked I kept thinking of The Lord of the Rings which I finished reading yesterday. It is indeed a story of good and evil, mainly the latter, and implying that everyone can be tempted into evil uses of power (or is born originally evil but can rise above it if determined) but that some of us, like Tolkien's orcs, are totally evil...

But I feel that this is an inadequate description - his writing is much wiser and more human than that, though it is premodern in its preferences and its examples. That is what still puts me off - that and the convention of realism. But it has a fascination that drew me to read it, omitting only a few paragraphs... What IS its appeal? ... I'm still uncertain.

...I expect it comes of Tolkien's great skill in, and sensitivity to, language, its evolution, and its morphology...

...but I can't help wishing he had followed the non-realism of preliterate myths and stories - and that he'd not rejected the new character of twentieth-century culture - the perception of truth and all other perceptions not as constants but as constructs.

Back in a warm room this frosty day - theory is more easily written here than outdoors (Which to me makes theory less credible)!

Do I have anything more to say about Tolkien's books, having been drawn to read several, and most of Tom Shippey's informative description* of what Tolkien was doing?... I've not yet perceived what it is that attracted me to this writing despite its old-fashionedness...

Perhaps its attraction is to do with Tolkien's declared interests: '...all this stuff is mainly concerned with Fall, Mortality and Machine'** - by which I take him to mean original sin, death and any external means to power - be it magic ring or scientific process as means to an end.

But, apart from whatever it is that drew me to read the story itself, and yet to resist it, there is the way it tempts or provokes me to write something very different, especially re Tolkien's three concerns, or topics. How might I react to them, constructively?:

replace original sin and absolute evil by a supposed inherent good or rightness in nature, in the universe, in reality, in everyone when born (even the orcs!).

cease to treat death as annihilation or disappearance, realise that a large part of reality does not die but continues in slow or fast transformation, often by cell-division, and that even 'mind' and all evidence of it, such as speech, writing, video-imagery and constructed realities of art and virtual reality etc. tends more and more to be saved as library and electronic archive after the deaths of the people who enacted or made it. And of course the duration of human life is gradually increasing, perhaps with no absolute limit being evident... and now there is the certainty that the individuality in each person's dna can live forever!

(connected with magic, and tempting people to evil (or deceptive) uses of power, as Tolkien declares it to be***):

accept that machines and technologies can be misused, not as temptation to enact some prior evil in ourselves but by the modern evil of using both machines and their 'users' as instruments to the ends of others, those of ourselves misused as specialists... Let go of all such (which is I imagine 99% of industrialised living as it exists at present) and begin afresh... or by gradual evolution... in a non-utilitarian technology and living - take the risk of it, not knowing its implications as yet - that is our new quest, our unknown story!

As I typed out these commands or suggestions to myself I felt some slight recovery of moral and post-industrial vision. Now I feel I'm at an unclear edge between industrial living as it is and post-industrial living as it might be...

...the social foundations begin shaking and the old moralities seem suddenly obselete as a new possibility becomes evident. Yes a new way is in sight and it's possible to resume smiling... and composing something I hope!

* Tom Shippey, J R R Tolkien, author of the century, HarperCollins Publishers, London, 2001.

** J R R Tolkien, The Silmarillion, edited by Christopher Tolkien, HarperCollins Publishers, London, 1977. page xiii.

*** Apparently Tolkien crossed an income-tax cheque with the words 'Not a penny for Concorde' (Humphrey Carpenter,J R Tolkien, a biography, Unwin Hyman, London 1987, page 246.) - yet he approved it seems of swords and arrows and war and agriculture (to me the primary errors, more collective than personal).

31 December 2001

I awoke to the thought that yesterday's entry is not right, that it's too confused and too hasty, though it encourages me to smile if not to compose - to begin a new something here and now before the old year is over?... Can I do it?

Yes, yes, but only with patient waiting for the new to arrive of its own... for transformation to occur, for convergence to begin.

You still have an hour says the voice of next year, just stop writing and listen to nature, poor nature, barely owning to all this... for we are nature as we are its artists, its extensions...

Next day: ...and its mis-users!

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