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The Utter Stupid Waste of War

The Utter Stupid Waste of War
"The utter stupid waste of war, not only material but moral and spiritual, is so staggering to those who have to endure it. And always was (despite the poets), and always will be (despite the propagandists) - not of course that it has not is and will be necessary to face it in an evil world. But so short is human memory and so evanescent are its generations that in only about 30 years there will be few or no people with that direct experience which alone goes really to the heart. The burnt hand teaches most about fire.

"I sometimes feel appalled at the thought of the sum total of human misery all over the world at the present moment: the millions parted, fretting, wasting in unprofitable days - quite apart from torture, pain, death, bereavement, injustice. If anguish were visible, almost the whole of this benighted planet would be enveloped in a dense dark vapour, shrouded from the amazed vision of the hearens!"

Letters, #64, page 75-76
I am…

A Place Called Heaven

"There is a place called 'heaven' where the good here unfinished is completed; and where the stories unwritten, and the hopes unfulfilled, are continued."
Letters, #45, page 54 Heaven is difficult(impossible for me) to imagine. The best I can do is to associate it with supreme joy, goodness, health and fulfillment. But Tolkien's reference here to heaven seems entirely imaginable, completely reasonable, wholly comprehensive. 
It makes me long even more for heaven.

Writer's Block

December 19, 1937 must have been a happy day for Tolkien. On that day he sent a letter to his publisher to say, 

"I have written the first chapter of a news story about Hobbits--'A long expected party'."

Two months later he reports,

"The Hobbit sequel is where it was, and I have only the vaguest notions of how to proceed...I found it only too easy to write opening chapters - and for the moment the story is not unfolding."

By July of 1838 Tolkien seems to have despaired of further progress:

"The sequel to The Hobbit has remained where it stopped. It has lost my favour, and I have no idea what to do with it...I am really very sorry: for my own sake as well as for yours I would like to produce something...I hope inspiration and the mood will return. It is not for lack of wooing that it holds aloof. But my wooing of late had been perforce intermittent. The Muses do not like such half-heartedness."

"Half-heartedness" describes well my own personal …

Duty and Desire

On learning of the success of The Hobbit, and the possibility of the public desiring a second book about hobbits..."At the moment I am suffering like Mr Baggins from a touch of 'staggerment', and I hope I am not taking myself too seriously. But I must confess that your letter has aroused in me a faint hope. I mean, I begin to wonder whether duty and desire may not (perhaps) in future go more closely together. I have spent nearly all the vacation-times of seventeen years examining, and doing things of that sort, driven by immediate financial necessity (mainly medical and educational). Writing stories in prose our verse had been stolen, often guiltily, from time already mortgaged, and has been broken and ineffective. I may perhaps now do what I much desire to do, and not fail of financial duty. Perhaps!"I share a bit of this sentiment of Tolkien's. I think that every choice of mine regarding employment has been made in order to do what I desire to do, only to find …

Dismayed with Disney

"It might be advisable, rather than lose the American interest, to let the Americans do what seems good to them ---  as long as it was possible (I should like to add) to veto anything from or influenced by the Disney studios (for all whose works I have a heartfelt loathing)."
Here is seen the pragmatic side of Tolkien, the side that is concerned with finances and food in the pantry and coal for the fire. For his "mad hobby" in the end should contribute somewhat to the household expenses. 
But his vehemence against Disney puzzles me a bit, tho it does not strike me as entirely unjustified. I've never visited any Disney amusement park, and I feel no urge to attempt such a visit. The crowds for one thing, the expense for another. The shallow, sanitized presentation of "good and evil", the clean, fashionably color-matched costumes, the chasm between what the public sees and what the staff see...
Hmm...perhaps I do understand Tolkien's vehemence? 
Quotatio…

Maps &c. for 'The Hobbit'

"I have redrawn (as far as I am capable) one or two of the amateur illustrations of the 'home manuscript', conceiving that they might serve as endpapers, frontispiece or what not. I think on the whole such things, if they were better, might be an improvement. But it may be impossible at this stage, and in any case they are not very good and might be technically unsuited. It would be kind if you would return the rejected." 
This is the earliest reference I have seen to The Hobbit. Humphrey Carpenter notes that C. S. Lewis had read an early text of the book in 1932, though it was still lacking the final chapters. The completed typescript was sent to Allen & Unwin Publishers on October 3, 1936. By the time of this letter, January 4, 1937, the book had been accepted for publication and Tolkien was attempting to provide maps and illustrations. 
At least five years had passed to this point in the life of Bilbo Baggins. Probably that many more years stewing and brewing on…

Such a mad hobby!

"I have done done some touches to my nonsense fairy language - to its improvement. I often long to work at it and don't let myself 'cause though I love it so it does seem such a mad hobby!"

Tolkien's "mad hobby" was at the very core, the foundation of all his wild success in The Hobbit and The Lord of the Rings. Without the hours spent (stolen from other more "normal" obligations and responsibilities) he might never have written anything at all, at least anything that endures to the present as popular and well-known. 
This gives me faint hope, or justification, for the time I spend on seemingly useless endeavors. I enjoy organizing my digital music, cataloging wild plants, hand-coding HTML and CAD...and posting Tolkien quotes! 
Will it all pay? How will it benefit me or others? 
I don't know. 
Sometimes joy is hard to define or categorize. 
Sometimes joy sneaks up on a person. 
Quotation from The Letters of J. R. R. Tolkien, # 4, page 8.

On the art and practice of writing

"I found not being able to use a pen or a pencil as defeating as the loss of her beak would be to a hen."

For several weeks, near the end of his life, Tolkien was unable to use his right arm. He had been used to spending hours each day writing...writing poetry, stories and novels...writing letters for business...corresponding with family and friends. 
I often imagine myself writing as diligently, as "old fashioned", as Tolkien. I can see myself sitting at a rolltop desk or finely crafted secretary, smoking a pipe, serenely composing a handwritten letter to my children, or drafting another chapter for my next novel. I can imagine Tolkien feeling joy as he writes. 
But it's not me. I don't enjoy writing by hand, at least not after a paragraph or so. For me, handwriting is for note taking, or rough drafts (short rough drafts). 
But I greatly admire Tolkien for his ability in, and dependence upon, handwritten letters and documents. 
Quote from The Letters of J. …

Tolkien and The TCBS: Some Spark Of Fire

Tolkien and The TCBS: Some Spark Of FireIn 1911, John Ronald Reuel Tolkien was about 19 years old. He and three friends, Rob Gilson, Geoffrey Smith and Christopher Wiseman formed themselves into an unofficial and semi-secret society. They referred to their group as "the T.C.B.S.", standing for "Tea Club and Barrovian Society". (They had a fondness for having tea in their school's library, without permission, and in Barrow's Store near the school.)The four friends kept closely in touch, and in December 1914 they held a "council" at Wiseman's home in London. The group shared ideals and mutual encouragement, and Tolkien found himself inspired to begin to devote much energy toward writing poetry.Scarcely six months later, Wiseman was in the Navy, and Gilson, Smith and Tolkien found themselves in different parts of the Somme just as the Allied offensive of July 1, 1914 was beginning.Rob Gilson was killed in action on that day.Two years later Tolkie…