"Many jewels the Noldor gave them, opals and diamonds and pale crystals, which they strewed upon the shores and scattered in the pools; marvelous were the beaches of Elendë in those days." - J.R.R. Tolkien, The Silmarillion
Today's blog post will be a short one, and I hope you will spend most if it clicking play on this video of the sounds of the sea and looking at the painting while you listen, restfully and peacefully imagining yourself on the sub-created shores of J.R.R. Tolkien's Blessed Realm. Please, treat yourself to a few minutes of relaxation today.
The words "attachment" and "detachment" have never personally spoken to me. My love of family and the beauty of nature around me is too strong a force for me to separate myself from it, and so the terms "worldliness" and "unworldliness" seem better to suit me. Worldliness is the grasping hand that makes war, hoards things, and tries (uselessly) to seize transitory dominion over Creation, creating great suffering for the many. Unworldliness, to me, is the open hand that knows it owns nothing and is, at best, content to reach out for another open hand to share some moment, burden, or delight.
When the Noldor first discover the earth-gems of Valinor in J.R.R. Tolkien's The Silmarillion, their hands are open. They give the lovely jewels away to the newly-arrived Teleri freely, and in turn, these sea elves freely scatter them over the beaches and in the pools of the Blessed Realm for the sake of beauty. It is only when the Noldorin elf, Fëanor, crafts the Silmarils that he becomes possessed with the work of his own hands and all the trouble of that saga begins.
C.S. Lewis believed we were made for another world, and that this is why we are bewildered by encountering such disharmony here in primary Creation. If this philosophy resonates with you, unworldliness can be a choice you make to love all the glorious people and animals and plants and sunlight and starlight and rain and forests and seashores, free from the delusion that you somehow own them and from the disastrous impulse to seize control of them for the sake of power or money, none of which ever lasts.
The open hand approach means you want to share the sight and sound of a beautiful bird perched on a golden birch tree growing on a mountainside with someone you love, purely for joy, because you have become convinced that this is the only value that lasts. Saint Francis knew this secret, and very unworldly Professor Tolkien depicted it beautifully in contrasting the open hand of the Teleri to the closed fist of Fëanor.
It's a choice we can make, over and over, to broadcast gems as the Teleri do in Valinor. There, beside the "everflowing billows", they have all the time there is to reflect in peace on glory, beauty, holiness. They are unmoved by quests for power because they know of far better things. Here, we can scatter jewels like the Teleri when our contemplative minds are fixed on those better things, rendering us content to simply enjoy our time and, hopefully, to treat others to the beauty we sense, create, stumble upon, and receive. Gratitude is a wonderous power, a humbling force, a gentle road. One of the things I deeply admire about the Tolkien community is the joy that is practiced by the continuous sharing of beauty with others. We may be in "tree-tangled Middle-earth" for now, but some readers clearly hear the call of gulls and the rumour of another shore, beyond the Sundering Seas.