Tag Archives: J. R. R. Tolkien

Monday Morning Moment – the Hobbit Life – a 30-Day Journey

Photo Credit: Flickr

Monday mornings can start so well and then sort of spiral. This was that sort of Monday around here. So much stress – with tough news, tight deadlines, and too much time in my own head…

Then a lovely idea…sparked by Tea with Tolkien (a Twitter account I follow)…lifted my spirit and cleared my mind. 30 Days to a Hobbit Heart. The focus of these 30 days is “slowing down, choosing simple joys, and forming new hobbity habits together”.

At the top of my movie list are The Lord of the Rings Trilogy (LOTR) and The Hobbit – both from the pen of British author J. R. R. Tolkien. Tolkien’s stories are of great adventures, loyal friendships, and battles for good against evil. The music from these films does justice to the stories. [Sidebar: Two songs from above film series inspired Nathan at Beyond the Guitar to arrange and perform them – here and here.]

I signed up for the 30-day journey. Let me know if you do, and we’ll do it together. The guide for the 30 days is actually a simple checklist of how to order your day in a hobbity way. [I want to say that word at least a few more times.] Suggestions include less screen time (of course), more time outside, more time with friends, simple suppers, second breakfasts, and time for walks, reading, and writing.[Just a bit of my husband’s garden which he makes hobbity time for]

Where do we find the time for these habits of life? If there is room for all that Marie Kondo requires in minimizing our stuff, then there is room for Tolkien’s ideas of reshaping how we spend our time…and with whom.

One of the suggestions is actually reading some of Tolkien’s letters. I’ve already begun today. It was thrilling to read in one letter (#47) how he was nearly finished with the sequel to The Hobbit. He mentioned how it would be a much longer story (The Lord of the Rings) but that the reader would not be disappointed.

Author Cam Clark describes how being familiar with The Hobbit Life actually made him a better person. He talks about how hobbits value the simpler things of life – friends, food, and stories. He also points to two characteristics that distinguish them from folks of our era. They are 1) not beleaguered by status anxiety (fearing have a lower status than others), and 2) they are more technophobic (whereas the villains of Tolkien’s LOTR were advanced in their weaponry). Hobbity people today would not be so bothered by pursuing status, and they would incline toward being less attached to their devices.

So there you have it…this little distraction brightened my day and altered my perspective. Looking forward to the 30-day journey to  wherever this hobbit life idea takes me.

By the way, the tough news and tight deadlines are still there…I’m just differently engaged…hopefully in a better way.

The Hobbit Life: How The Lord of the Rings Helped Me Become a Better Person – Cam Clark

7 Habits of Highly Effective Hobbits – Alex Knapp

A Day in the Life of a Hobbit – Alice

My Own Shire- Living a Hobbit Life in the Modern World – Arwen

Tea With Tolkien

Tolkien the Film

Monday Morning Moment – Inner Rings – the Mad Pursuit of Position, Power, Prominence, and Plenty

Photo Credit: Chris Russo

[Adapted from a previous blog]

When C. S. Lewis introduced the occurrence of “inner rings” to a classroom of young men in university, he wasn’t talking about high school cliques.Photo Credit: Smosh

[You will want to read Lewis’ short, humorous, and piercing lecture…I read it aloud, attempting my “best” British accent. The British accent, in my opinion, gives what is true even more authority and winsomeness.]

Lewis talked about the universal, life-long allure of wanting to be “on the inside”…whatever that might mean at the time. Inner rings are, for the most part, morally neutral in themselves. What becomes the issue for us is how our thinking is altered and what we are willing to do to gain entry to these exclusive (and often secretive) inner circles.Blog - Inner Rings 2 - BPNews.netPhoto Credit: BPNews

Inner rings are part of every level of life – personal relationships, government, teams, military, clubs, organizations, and workplaces. They aren’t necessarily represented by team rosters or org. charts, as much as they are the more fluid unwritten associations. Like secret societies, they can change quite without explanation – sometimes you are in and then you are not. Inclusion and exclusion are defined by the group itself…and are not accidental.

Let’s face it – we all want to belong…somewhere among the best of the best. Even when we don’t say it out loud, some sort of identity appeals to us and drives our pursuits. Jeremy Writebol wrote a piece where he explores this pursuit of belonging, referencing C. S. Lewis’ Inner Rings. Lewis talked about what we are willing to do to be identified as one inside those rings, or inner circles. There’s the danger – what we’re willing to do.

Writebol presents 4 inner rings of belonging:

1) The Inner Ring of Acceptance [Position]

2) The Inner Ring of Authority [Power]

3) The Inner Ring of Applause [Prominence]

4) The Inner Ring of Abundance [Plenty]

None of us is immune to the influence of one or more of these inner rings or social circles. The deceit of pursuing membership to an inner ring is that it’s never enough. Like taking apart an onion, you find inner rings within inner rings…until there’s nothing left. No place to find belonging…because this passion is never satisfied. It becomes futile. Lewis does offer a two-part antidote:

  • In the workplace, make your work your focus. Whenever we lose our focus, the pull of desire for significance disrupts our engagement in the work. “The quest of the Inner Ring will break your hearts unless you break it. But if you break it, a surprising result will follow. If in your working hours you make the work your end, you will presently find yourself all unawares inside the only circle in your profession that really matters. You will be one of the sound craftsmen, and other sound craftsmen will know it.”
  • Outside of work, pursue friendships with people you like. This seems obvious, but if our desires to belong in a certain group have hijacked us relationally, it might not even be clear anymore who the people are we truly enjoy.  “If in your spare time you consort simply with the people you like, you will again find that you have come unawares to a real inside: that you are indeed snug and safe at the center of something which, seen from without, would look exactly like an Inner Ring. But the difference is that the secrecy is accidental, and its exclusiveness a by-product, and no one was led thither by the lure of the esoteric: for it is only four or five people who like one another meeting to do things that they like. This is friendship…It causes perhaps half of all the happiness in the world, and no Inner Ring can ever have it.”

Take the time to read Writebol’s piece. He defines each circle and asks clarifying questions, in a very kind way, to help the reader deal with the deceit or justification we may have developed, without realizing it.

[Writebol wrote a follow-up piece entitled Why Are We Chasing? which exquisitely unwraps the cost and consequence of our chasing – chasing after what we think we must apprehend, having become blind to what we already have.]

Here’s to work well-done and friendships that last for a lifetime. Here’s to choosing well and inclusion and celebration…and knowing we already belong.

Great Monday morning reads…Go!

The Inner Ring – C. S. Lewis

The Weight of Glory – C. S. Lewis – Collection of Addresses Including The Inner Ring

4 Inner Rings You May Be Pursuing – Jeremy Writebol

Why Are We Chasing? – Jeremy Writebol [Followup piece to above article]

The Inner Ring – Chris Russo’s Blog

C. S. Lewis and the Inner Ring of Cronyism – Elise Daniel – Institute For Faith, Work, and Economics

C.S. Lewis and the Inner Ring – Nicholas T. Batzig

The Inner Ring and the Moral Question of Our Time – Nozomi Hayase

Monday Morning Moment – Belonging and Going Deep and the Blind Presumptions that It’s Actually Happening When It Isn’t

The Fellowship: The Literary Lives of the Inklings: J.R.R. Tolkien, C.S. Lewis, Owen Barfield, Charles Williams – Philip Zaleski & Carol Zaleski

Photo Credit: Paste Magazine; Commonweal

5 Friday Faves – Politics and a Confession, Beyond the Guitar, Must-See Documentaries, Writing Your Story, and the Tail End of Life – Plus Bonuses

Friday Faves – my favorite finish to a writing week. It suffers when I travel…today, I’m home. Lots of faves over the last several weeks went without my pushing them forward to you. I’ve added some bonuses to this one to pull in a few more.

Hope you are doing well in this first week of the New Year. I wrote about making resolutions and experiencing real change earlier. New resolve is something as welcome as each new year. It helps me, for sure…no matter how successful, I am energized by resolution. Glad for new beginnings.

Here are this week’s 5 and a handful of bonuses:

1) Politics and a Confession – Whatever your political bent, we are in a new era in the US. The presidential inauguration is fast-approaching, and President-elect Trump will become the next POTUS. I have enjoyed reading the pundits on their take on the new normal. Two of my favorite finds this week are from very different: pieces by New York Times writer Ross Douthat and former Speaker of the House Newt Gingrich. From opposing sides, their articles (with Gingrich, it was a speech delivered after the 2016 Presidential election) are enlightening and the stuff that will help us move forward and cross aisles toward a nation for all Americans.Photo Credit: Joshua Lott, New York Times

Hope you take the time to read them…would love to hear your take on them (Comment below). Also Gingrich refers his audience to an article by Nassim Nicholas Taleb. In it, Taleb describes the Intellectual Yet Idiot – “the inner circle of no-skin-in-the-game policymaking ‘clerks’ and journalists-insiders, that class of paternalistic semi-intellectual experts with some Ivy league, Oxford-Cambridge, or similar label-driven education who are telling the rest of us 1) what to do, 2) what to eat, 3) how to speak, 4) how to think… and 5) who to vote for…The IYI pathologizes others for doing things he doesn’t understand without ever realizing it is his understanding that may be limited.”

I felt so vindicated in Taleb’s article – probably not an intellectual, hopefully not an idiot.

2) Beyond the Guitar – When Nathan’s Facebook hits on his Star Wars Medley passed 1.3 millions, I was like, “What?!” Not because I don’t complete agree with the beauty of these themes when arranged for classical guitar…but because of that whole social media phenomenon. Wild! Anyway, here’s his latest arrangement of Princess Leia’s Theme – as a tribute to Carrie Fisher:

3) Must-See Documentaries – Documentaries have neveer been high my watch-list, but this list was intriguing to me. 200  Documentaries You Must See Before You Die. My favorite documentary production group is Fourth Line. Bono & Eugene Peterson: The Psalms is my favorite film from that company…not on the list of 200 (this time around). After reading the list and making notes to self on what to watch, I’ve determined to come up with my own short-list of must-see’s (stay tuned for that). Any recommendations?

Photo Credit: Coffee and Celluloid

4) Writing Your Story – A dear friend of mine writes biographies – not for publication, necessarily, but for her and her family’s own pleasure. Lee Taylor-Wimett, twice-widowed, has written her husband’s stories and her parents’ stories. She has also written her own story…thus far. I had the joy of reading her story when she shared it with me – a simply bound volume of real life. She has, for years, encouraged me to write…to write about my own parents…and maybe, one day, to write my story. I have begun that process – writing about my mom and dad…and keeping up with bits of my own life. Memory is a precious thing and not to be taken for granted.

Photo Credit: Flickr

In this throw-away culture, I have boxes of bits of our lives – growing up in Georgia, having babies in Tennessee, moving around Africa, and now “empty-nesting”, figuring out this life with sweet aging parents, adult children with children…and work in a very different season. Whether any of my children or grandchildren read the story (and I know some will), I want to document this life…this amazing life God has given us.

Steve Anderson of Family Search has made a quick assist in this process with 52 Questions in 52 Weeks: Writing Your Life Story. This is a good week to get started.

Photo Credit: Family Search

5) The Tail End of Life – Tim Urban and Andrew Finn of Wait But Why make charts and graphs that put all kinds of information in a visual form. As a visual learner, I love that. This one is by Tim Urban who helps us look at the human lifespan in a lot of meaningful ways – how many Red Sox games or pizzas or presidential elections we might have left…and more.Photo Credit: Wait But Why

Urban’s observation on time left with parents was poignant [and for my children – this is even more telling for us and our own remaining parents,   as for you]:

I’ve been thinking about my parents, who are in their mid-60s. During my first 18 years, I spent some time with my parents during at least 90% of my days. But since heading off to college and then later moving out of Boston, I’ve probably seen them an average of only five times a year each, for an average of maybe two days each time. 10 days a year. About 3% of the days I spent with them each year of my childhood.

Being in their mid-60s, let’s continue to be super optimistic and say I’m one of the incredibly lucky people to have both parents alive into my 60s. That would give us about 30 more years of coexistence. If the ten days a year thing holds, that’s 300 days left to hang with mom and dad. Less time than I spent with them in any one of my 18 childhood years.

When you look at that reality, you realize that despite not being at the end of your life, you may very well be nearing the end of your time with some of the most important people in your life. If I lay out the total days I’ll ever spend with each of my parents—assuming I’m as lucky as can be—this becomes starkly clear:

It turns out that when I graduated from high school, I had already used up 93% of my in-person parent time. I’m now enjoying the last 5% of that time. We’re in the tail end.

So what do we do with this information? I see three takeaways here:

1) Living in the same place as the people you love matters. I probably have 10X the time left with the people who live in my city as I do with the people who live somewhere else.

2) Priorities matter. Your remaining face time with any person depends largely on where that person falls on your list of life priorities. Make sure this list is set by you—not by unconscious inertia.

3) Quality time matters. If you’re in your last 10% of time with someone you love, keep that fact in the front of your mind when you’re with them and treat that time as what it actually is: precious.

Thanks, Tim Urban! I’m calling my Mom-in-law right now. Have a great weekend, y’all. Be safe!

Bonuses

New BookBellum Academicus: War Academy by Kevin Prewett – free today on Amazon (Kindle version). Great sci-fi read with lots of suspense – fun cross-generational read and read-aloud.


Sherlock (Season 4) on Masterpiece Theater – I love this mini-series. 3 episodes. Available on PBS.Photo Credit: PBS

First Episode: The Six Thatchers

A Garage the place Hewlett-Packard got started…

Photo Credit: Twitter

Tolkien Quote from The Hobbit

“Some believe it is only great power that can hold evil in check, but that is not what I have found. It is the small everyday deeds of ordinary folk that keep the darkness at bay. Small acts of kindness and love. Why Bilbo Baggins? Perhaps because I am afraid, and he gives me courage.” – J. R. R. Tolkien, The Hobbit

Traveling Buddies – A Few Quotes, Some Old Pictures, and a Whole Lot of Sentimental

Blog - Traveling Buddy - Sammo - Feeling Sentimental

Sammo, a little plush monkey, has traveled the world. He has been retired, of late, on the made bed of this couple who have quite surprisingly settled in a Richmond suburb. At least for now. Let me tell you his story and a bit of ours.

When I was much younger and still single, the call to other lands was strong in my heart. I studied nursing for the very reason of taking a useful skillset overseas. New Guinea was my decided destination. Due to some unforeseen bumps in the road, instead of New Guinea, I ended up in New Haven…Connecticut.

Preparing for that move meant saying goodbye to friends, for the first of many times in years to come. My friend, Paulette, who I would miss terribly, gave me Sammo. Mom and Dad helped me move my stuff from Atlanta to New Haven. I drove my car and Dad drove the rental truck. Mom was his copilot. Every time we were stuck in traffic, with more than a second to make eye contact, I’d look back and wave. Mom grabbed Sammo off the dashboard and waved one of his long arms back at me. It’s a memory that ever comforts me and has given Sammo traveling buddy status ever since.

Teaching at Yale University and joining in with a church plant there(Trinity Baptist Church), I discovered a very different and diverse culture. That move would be a stepping stone to adapting to cross-cultural living. Meeting Dave, the first week there, was also the sweetest part of that move, away from New Guinea…but not from the world.

2007 - Feb -- Dave & Boys
We would eventually move overseas, taking three other traveling buddies with us, who would all leave home, in turn, from a foreign airport. I will be forever grateful we had these experiences overseas together.
Blog - Traveling Buddies - Kiddos
Over these years, we have had wonderful traveling buddies – those from whom we learned volumes about living and loving across cultures. Others who graciously allowed us to come along to help as we could. Still others, in recent years, who don’t travel so much as they might like but are a strong support to those who do. This morning, many of these dear friends are on my mind.
I unfortunately don’t have words for how I feel about those we’ve walked alongside over the last twenty years, but others more wise and clever will fill in my lacking.
Two are better than one, because they have a good reward for their toil. For if they fall, one will lift up his fellow. But woe to him who is alone when he falls and has not another to lift him up! Again, if two lie together, they keep warm, but how can one keep warm alone? And though a man might prevail against one who is alone, two will withstand him—a threefold cord is not quickly broken.  – Ecclesiastes 4:9-12
Do not go where the path may lead, go instead where there is no path and leave a trail. – Ralph Waldo Emerson
 The traveler sees what he sees, the tourist sees what he has come to see. – G. K. Chesterton
Blog - Traveling Buddies - CairoCairo, Egypt – Nile River
Blog - Traveling Buddies - Tim CahillPhoto Credit: Quotesgram.com
Blog - Traveling BuddiesPhoto Credit: Quotesgram.com
Blog - Traveling Buddies - Scotland
“All that is gold does not glitter,
Not all those who wander are lost;
The old that is strong does not wither,
Deep roots are not reached by the frost.From the ashes a fire shall be woken,
A light from the shadows shall spring;
Renewed shall be blade that was broken,
The crownless again shall be king.” – J. R. R. Tolkien
Blog - Traveling Buddies - Friends ForeverPhoto Credit: Quotesgram.com
In those early days overseas, when Dave traveled internationally for work, I would tuck Sammo secretly in his bag. I wanted him to remember that he always had traveling buddies – with him and at home. Today…thinking about other traveling buddies through the years, I am grateful. Our Sammo isn’t forgotten. These traveling buddies with skin on will never be. Fare well and God speed, Dear Ones…to all the coming adventures.
Blog - Traveling Buddies - Gerry V retirement
Therefore, since we are surrounded by so great a cloud of witnesses, let us also lay aside every weight, and sin which clings so closely, and let us run with endurance the race that is set before us,  looking to Jesus, the founder and perfecter of our faith.Hebrews 12:1-2