The Tree

Something has been playing with me for nearly two weeks now. In the last threads of this blog I've sort of explored life a bit. Inasmuch as I have tried to uncover the radiant and the good on my journey towards a better understanding of JR Tolkien I've skipped a few steps. For one, Tolkien himself. cf. lady sheridanne

I am fascinated by e-language ('everything else' other than grammar, and syntax). A craigslist post can lock me down like a dog staring down its prey. Every muscle tight. The random snippet or fragment of story line can hold me like a prey animal held still by the fear he has finally been caught. I have always been this way; when I was young my mom made me listen to my own accent as I grew up in the deep south - and cancel it out. I learned to listen to accent, cadence, tone. If it wasn't for surfing and honors english I never would've made it through grad school in later life. Its just far too easy to end up dealing dope down at Denny's (keep a table in the back) >:) (welcome to the boomtown). Because even if all of these small fragments of language bear the pattern of interference that created / Even if the right reference beam brings the original work - or some image of it - you still have the problem of being prey. Language evolved as a defense mechanism when we settled down to one place and became easy targets. Math helps.

Rezzing the fragments as a part of the whole , is difficult and not something you do all the time. Like playing a good round of golf, you have to develop a feel for listening to e-language. Hitting a decent riff has to have, sort of, like, "the girl from ipanema" kind of humming along there - you don't really stop in your tracks you just sort of go... ooh... like that. You know. Ah. I am a surfer at heart still even after all these years landlocked in Atlanta.

Maybe its like, really seeing a tree. That exercise that they teach you in architectural school. They send the young architect outside and say, really experience a tree. Draw one, but really experience it. When you grok things, sometimes you feel as if its a leap of faith. Other times I would prefer we just gathered with the idea that there are pieces of ourselves we thought to be private that are in fact communal. Like Hofstadter's strange loop continuum. The tree doesn't exist without rain, earth, and sun. kiss rule.

"For human consciousness concepts which cannot be refracted are necessarily without content. If everything were green, the word "green" would have no content. The divine word must therefore be refracted in order that it gain content and meaning, that it become humanly "true". Yet in this refraction lies the danger of eternal discord"

-p. 49 Essays on Language., Sigurd Burckhardt

IE. The occupational hazard of living life like that - ending up dealing dope down at dennys, keep a table in the back... >.) . So setting up the whole idea that there is this one little leaf that can unfold an entire story (and maybe get you a degree in architecture and a real day job!) ..

Tokien wrote a little-known short story, "Leaf by Niggle." Niggle is a middle-aged man who has painted a picture of a tree in his spare time. And naturally, I am completely ripping off someone here next .. these next five paras , are paraphrased and copied from Jason Boffetti's "Tolkien's Catholic Imagination". But since this is my blog, I get to blatanly rip out sections of his stuff and keep it here. It was really that good. And besides. I sort of gave the reference, right? So here goes..

What starts out as just a tiny picture of a single leaf grows into a painting of a tree and then of the surrounding countryside, filling an enormous canvas. Niggle fears he will not finish it before he must begin a long-dreaded train trip from which he will not return.

Meanwhile, various distractions and obligations to family, friends, and neighbors leave him very little time to paint.

Sure enough, Niggle begins the journey with his painting unfinished. Before the train takes him to his final destination, it stops at a purgatorial way-station of dreary toil, and he cannot continue his journey until "Two Voices" pass judgment on his life.

Niggle has a distracting neighbor, who lives in this land, whose name is Parish. He spends much of his time helping this person. It is selfless; think of that prey animal - the horse. Who carries his rider, without question. Simple order established by the natural division of life. The distractions subtract from what he is doing. But he allows them.

In the end, they allow Niggle to continue—not because he painted a beautiful tree (as Niggle expected), but because he gave himself in service to the most distracting of all his neighbors, Parish (in whom some see C.S. Lewis).

Niggle’s train finally brings him to an enchanted land. At its center he finds a tree, the same tree he was painting in his studio. But the tree and the surrounding scenery are incomplete, and Niggle is left to finish painting them in. Once finished, Niggle sets off to explore the lands he has created.

So back to the whole riff up there about prosody and all, in that thing we search for a bundle of basis vectors. And when you find them, they're like seeing the vision of the tree. Like for tolkien, the image of the tree. And not just neat to look at.

They're useful. Its been said that Tolkien is a journey into lost childhood or a childhood that is repressed by a society at large that has become .. um.. lame. I guess is the word. Smiling happy people? The happiest little elf (tm). No. The story you are about to hear is far more dark. see Tolkien as enjoying the basis of a rather wonderful, if quite dark - childhood. This leads me to my point. (there is one!)(maybe its on top of my head).

The character of the type of inner childhood that Tolkien sought is to my reading of all of this fun stuff .. is kind of like Schulz' Peanuts. I mean, seriously - if you think about it - Can you see, CS Lewis and JR Tolkien there on the wall like Linus and Charlie Brown. ? I'm not saying I'm right in this just that the thought occurred that perhaps we're not talking about the happiest little elf(tm). This was a guy who spent entire weekends tinkering with Sindarin..

I know. Tolkien was supposed to have lived through hardship as a child. But that hardship, we would apply to JR Tolkiens early life - was measured in monetary status . His mom died of overwork trying to bring in +money+.. Now, the signal JRR Tolkien broadcasted to the priest who was raising him that he had met his mate, was that his grades waivered. The priest opposes the move. Three years later the priest does their rites. Notice how money is sort of outside of the equation. And it seems, how happiness isn't... Tolkien's parents, and particularly his mom, spent alot of time with him when he was young. This is the fabric of a dark, but beautiful childhood. There is a character of searching for the inner child, there.. I thought.. what if... that image were kind of like the Peanuts? Sort of timeless.

In an open field, there is a girl sitting there. She has a blue dress, and black hair. Her name is Lucy. She has a football placed on the ground. She is holding it up with one index finger. She cannot see you.

How old is Charlie Brown? They are all kids. But they're not really kids. Exploring questions two men could talk about together on nice long walks. Why is it that even after twenty years, Snoopy is still BMOC?

In the end, I guess what I'm driving at is that Tolkien probably kept simpler images within his own mind to guide him rather than the elaborate. Like the image of a tree. or a great, lidless eye.. but I can never seem to hear the words Sauron is saying.. why is that..


WOW! As always. Big!

The great Turner said: "The inner child isn't out to escape reality. But to enjoin it. ... Charlie Brown is ready to kick that football to the moon. ... Is he predator. ... or prey."

I so wish he had been with a mutual friend and me during a discussion on a bright white trampoline in the sky. What insight he might have brought.