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Mystical Realms Newsletter for July, 2007
From Oregon, USA
And welcome to my newsletter for July, 2007. Please feel free to forward this to anyone you think would be interested in keeping up with me! To receive these newsletters regularly, please drop me a note or subscribe online at: http://groups.google.com/group/Mystical_Realms . Notices of new paintings and events are at the bottom of this email.
We have been living in a wildly Cartesian world for quite some time now; for many generations, in fact. And the rules of measurement and scientific method, so powerful for helping us to manipulate our physical world, have colonized every facet of our lives: education, psychology, economics, politics, even art and theology. "Scientism" has become rather like the proverbial man with a hammer; to him, all the world is a nail. And since nails are dead things, all the world becomes, likewise, dead.
By the time I reached high school, I had already absorbed large parts of this matrix of mathematical materialism. I had suffered through public and private school laboratory experiments, filmstrips on engineering breakthroughs, and lectures on temperance and proper hygiene. It was only then that I stumbled onto J.R.R. Tolkien's "The Lord of the Rings".
And that encounter was like a downpour in the desert.
I'd never heard of a world like Middle Earth, in fiction or fact. And there was something about the place that I just couldn't shake from my psyche.
I had been an aficionado of science fiction as well as of more conventional fictional fare for years, and I had had my occasional deep desires to walk with Muad'Dib or Mowgli. But this world of Tolkien's was not only more complete than Arrakis or Kipling's jungle; it made sense. It felt "right" in a way that other fiction, even when set in more "realistic" worlds, did not. And even more than that, the tales of Middle Earth showed me a completely new way to look at the world I already inhabited.
I remember summer afternoons reading "The Fellowship of the Ring," sitting on the lawn after a day of work at my high school. I remember traveling with the Fellowship south from Rivendell, through Moria, Lothlorien, and down the Great River to Amon Hen. And when I looked up from my pages, the trees around me seemed richer in hue and more alive than they'd seemed before. The sky was a more brilliant cerulean; the birdsong was pregnant with hidden portents.
This is "recovery", in the parlance of J.R.R. Tolkien, as described in his essay "On Fairy Stories". This is the process of allowing the world to be dipped in myth and magic so that we can see it anew.
And it occurred to me then, as it often does now, that the process of dulling ourselves to the wonder of the world around us is, perhaps, a result of the almost imperceptible accumulation of evil in and around ourselves. And by this I don't mean the Evil with a capital "E" that accounts for murder and theft, but the even more treacherous slippery- slope sort that leads to diffidence and despair.
If we realize, as Tolkien did, that there is a source of evil in our own world just as there is in Middle Earth, then perhaps this evil colonizes us in the same way that a false "scientism" colonizes our western mindset. Perhaps we become dull and hardened because little evils accumulate in our minds and bodies and stiffen us, like a slow poison, making us more and more unable to move gracefully through our world. Beams seal our eyes, eardrums fossilize, and once elastic limbs lock, preventing us from seeing, from hearing, from touching.
And one of the only ways we can begin to shake loose from our bonds is to immerse ourselves, as Thomas Aquinas suggests, in the true, the
good, and the beautiful.
Even decades after our first sojourn in the Shire, many of us feel compelled to return over and over again to Middle Earth, year after year. And we are always saddened to see Sam return from the Grey Havens and proclaim "I'm home!" Because we know that, with these final words from "The Lord of the Rings", the whisperings of the trees around our houses will fade and then cease, the dancing light on the rain puddles will dim, and the smell of the damp earth will lose its richness.
But, as with prayer and repentance, we can always start anew. We can refuse to accept the departure of the light and the deadening of our souls, just as we can refuse Descartes' Faustian formula. To do this, we must remember that the path forward is always open. Tolkien showed us a world that makes sense, but only God can lead us there. And the only thing ultimately standing between us and Middle Earth is our own fallen nature.
Nai Eru laitalyë (may God bless you),
- I have a couple of exciting event announcements that I should be able to share before August...look for some interesting news soon!
- The July/August issue of the St. Austin Review (StAR) http://www.staustinreview.com/ ) is due out at any moment. It features a number of excellent articles on Aleksandr Solzhenitsyn, plus my latest "Fenestrae Coeli" article on the paintings of Jason Jenicke. Jenicke's work is marvelous, and it can be seen online at http://www.jasonjenicke.com/.
- I have completed the preliminary splitting of my website, www.JefMurray.com, into two different sites. The latter will continue to highlight my oil-on-canvas paintings of sacred images, imagined fairy tales, and scenes from Middle Earth. The second site, at www.JefMurrayWildlife.com, will include all of my oil-on-wood cutout paintings ("Wildlife Silhouettes") of "critters", both realistic and whimsical. Please check them out and let me know what you think! I'd also appreciate pointers to any problems or inaccuracies you come across with either site!
- At http://www.JefMurrayWildlife.com, I'm continuing the long task of placing listings of _all_ available Wildlife Silhouette originals so that they can be purchased online. There are four galleries ("River & Reef", "Cloud & Cliff", "Field & Forest", and "Myth & Magic"), that highlight aquatic creatures, birds, land animals, and mythological beasts. JefMurrayWildlife.com is oriented towards nature/wildlife lovers, so if you have friends who love the great outdoors, please let them know about the site! I think scuba divers and aquarists, in particular, will enjoy it!
Posted on: 2007/7/11 0:13
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