Posted on behalf of Jef Murray.


Happy New Year and welcome to my newsletter for January, 2008! 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 an email or subscribe online at:
. Notices of new paintings and events are at the bottom of this email.

Epiphanies =========

I'm in the waiting room at the courthouse annex. Two probate court clerks have lines of folks in front of them: one for weddings, the other for pistol licenses.

The weddings are losing this afternoon.

Lorraine and I live in Decatur, a suburb of Atlanta, Georgia. Decatur reminds me of Hobbiton. It's known to be a safe place to live in, with a "small town" feel to it. There are flocks of families, most reasonably well off, but not what you'd think of as rich. Now and again a patrol car lazes through our streets, and we wave at the officers as they pass by.

This is all by way of lulling you to sleep. Because, in reality, Decatur is no less a haven for evil than anywhere else. Looks can bamboozle.

A 24-year old woman disappeared north of Atlanta on New Year's Day
this year, and her body was just found. She was abducted and beaten to death, then left in Dawson Forest, a remote tract about an hour's drive from Blood Mountain. They've got the murderer, but that doesn't make me breathe any easier.

The truth is that our whole world is steeped in evil. C.S. Lewis nailed it in his "Screwtape Letters": there are plenty of Wormwoods and Slubgobs out there, and many aren't content just getting people to commit a few venial sins. The ambitious demons goad folks to deeds that not only damn them, but also fill the rest of us with dread.

In the Lord of the Rings, all of Hobbiton was paralyzed by Saruman and just a few dozen of the Big Folk. Why? Because, after a few killings, everyone became too fearful to fight. They shut their doors and tried to blot out the bad stuff. The good folks locked themselves in, and those who had consented to evil were free to do as they pleased.

This is a whole lot of unpleasantness. Turning the other cheek is OK in theory, but if evil is real, and if we want to spare the "least of these" some of the vast suffering available for the dispensing, aren't we obliged to kick up a fuss?

C. S. Lewis thought so. In his essay 'Why I am not a Pacifist," he methodically lays out the moral need to resist evil. Thomas Aquinas, likewise, helped to define what a "just war" was. And if a saint says we should defend the innocent, who am I to argue?

I don't live in medieval times. Like it or not, I'm pinned to the 21st century like a moth to a mounting board. I've got a friend who denies she's living in the here and now; she takes fencing lessons and claims she can protect herself if need be. But a foil will fail you in a pinch. And if they're coming over the walls, give me a 12-gauge.

Believe it or not, what all of this boils down to is the nature of hope. J.R.R. Tolkien described the Catholic worldview as a "long defeat". That is, the Christian believes that things will continue getting worse and worse here on planet earth until the final days. But, that doesn't mean we can just hole up and wait things out. There are plenty of Sarumans still out there, plenty of Slubgobs and Screwtapes. And they may win a lot of skirmishes over the next months and years and even centuries, but they've already lost the war.

In the mean time, there will be plenty of opportunities for some of us to fend off the next murderer in the woods.

So, here I sit waiting my turn in the pistol packer's line. It may not be as compelling as having a human skull sitting on my desktop, but thoughts about life and death come packaged with a Glock right alongside the instruction manual.

And it seems to me that mulling over the final things, the important things, in life, is as hope-filled an activity as any I know.

Eru laita ar tiralyë (may God bless and watch thee)


Events =========

- I have five new paintings posted on my website. These include two new Tolkien images, two religious works, and one new wildlife silhouette. You can see these by clicking on the following links. Do let me know what you think of these!

o "Many Paths to Tread" - ... _Many_paths_to_tread.html

o "Outlandish Folk" - ... /390_Outlandish_folk.html

o "Queen of Heaven" - ... /387_Queen_of_heaven.html

o "Proclaiming the Kingdom" - ... claiming_the_kingdom.html

o "Great Blue Heron" - ... 386_Great_blue_heron.html

- The first-ever Heren Istarion Shire Reckoning calendar (see for details) is now out, and looks great! It features paintings by Ted Nasmith, Catherine Sparsidis, and myself, with full colour Middle Earth images and B&W sketches for each month. This will definitely be a collectors' item, and I'd encourage interested folk to snag one ASAP.

- The first-ever issue of Silver Leaves, the journal of the White Tree Fund (see ) features my painting of "Amon Hen" as its cover image (see ... tolkien/195_Amon_hen.html
). This is a lovely inaugural issue of a journal that includes scholarly articles, fiction, and artwork. Well worth a look!

- I feel greatly honoured to have been asked to develop the logo for the MythCon 39, the Mythopoeic Society's annual conference, scheduled for August 15-18th, 2008 at Central Connecticut State University. You can see the logo at: ... ketch_mythcon39_logo.html
. For more information on the Mythopoeic Society or the convention,
visit .

- I am delighted to have been named a guest of honour at the upcoming Tolkien celebration, "A Long-Expected Party" (ALEP) in Kentucky in September, 2008. I was also asked to develop one of the logos used for the event. You can see it on my website at: ... hes/Sketch_ALEP_logo.html
. The official website for ALEP (and registration info) can be found at: .