Tuesday, July 26, 2011

Tolkien and Trying

Scrolling through the blog, Into the Book, I saw a review of a biography of J.R.R. Tolkien, 

author of The Lord of the Rings and The Hobbit. However, his real claim to fame in my book (wink), is that he was good friends with C.S. Lewis. 

Lewis' writings have influenced my life greatly, whereas Tolkien's have not. I confess to not having read any of Tolkien's. I tried once, but got bogged down in the strange names given to people and places. But because Lewis admired him, I knew, even though his writing didn't grab me, he was an articulate man of deep faith, thought, and intelligence. So I have appreciated him without being an ardent fan of his books. 

I appreciate him even more after reading this review of the biography, J.R.R. Tolkien, by Mark Horne. The review included the following:

Tolkien had a very hard childhood. His father died when he was very little, and his mother died when he was a teenager. His mother’s conversion to the Roman Catholic faith isolated him and his brother from other family members, so he bounced around through different homes throughout his school years, eventually ending up in the care of Father Francis Morgan, a friend of his mother. Even from a young age, Tolkien loved inventing things, and was particularly interested in language, quickly becoming bored with the Latin and Greek his school offered.

With the help of Father Morgan, Tolkien was accepted into Oxford
after two unsuccessful tries, and there began to become interested in the Nordic languages, particularly Finnish. 

In case you're wondering what part of that excerpt struck me, look for the bold print. How could a man of  that caliber fail to get into Oxford? Not just once, but twice?  I have no idea how college admissions worked back then, but wasn't his intelligence and potential just oozing out? Did somebody fail to see it? Or, was God weaving, working in those failures, to shape the character of a man?

"After two unsuccessful tries," are four words that convey what happened, but are devoid of the anguish that must have accompanied such disappointments. Don't we all have to work through our unique, yet similar anguishes? But, oh, how helpful it is when I read about someone - so successful, so influential (in good, deep ways) - that failed at something he tried, but didn't let it take him down. Those failures were part of the growing pains of a man who has influenced millions. 

I want to see my failures that way. As growing pains. At the moment they are happening, the emphasis is definitely on the word pain. But with time, as I look back at my failures, some of which I would put in the "doozy" column, the emphasis has shifted to growing. Which is exactly what I want to keep doing. And, if I want to keep doing that, pain will be involved. 

I hope, like Tolkien, I am always willing to risk the words "unsuccessful tries" being written or said about me, knowing that the un will never possibly come off successful unless I try

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