Wednesday 23 April 2014

No panaceas


Anything with power to do good, can do harm: there is no effective treatment without risk of harmful side-effects.

Not books, not art, not science, not doctrine, not medicines nor surgery, not education nor training, not the law - nothing is exempted from this rule.

(Not even The Lord of the Rings...)



Boethius said...

When I was in high school only the atheist nerds were into LOTR.

SFG said...

“There are two novels that can change a bookish fourteen-year old’s life: The Lord of the Rings and Atlas Shrugged. One is a childish fantasy that often engenders a lifelong obsession with its unbelievable heroes, leading to an emotionally stunted, socially crippled adulthood, unable to deal with the real world. The other, of course, involves orcs.“

Samson J. said...

When I was in high school only the atheist nerds were into LOTR.

Yes, thus illustrating the point. LotR is of course a profoundly spiritual work, but it does sometimes have the effect of leading youths towards pagan atheism.

Arakawa said...

"When I was in high school only the atheist nerds were into LOTR."

I am also curious to make sense of this phenomenon. My only vague notion to explain it might be that, lacking a feeling that there is purpose or meaning in the primary world, people of a nihilistic bent are -- without realizing it -- that much more attracted to secondary worlds where the existence of purpose and meaning is more obvious, and harder to dispute. So, everyone enjoyed Lord of the Rings but it was atheist nerds who seem to have wound up building a role-playing cult around the basic set of tropes involved, gradually watering it down in the process (with Tolkien and Gondor as the illustrious starting point, the piling-on of derivatives ends up with things like Gary Gygax and the City of Stoink).

Bruce Charlton said...

@SFG - Very good, got me there...

@B - That was me.

But in England it isn't such a surprise - only nerds 'get into' books, and among nerds almost everybody has been an atheist for the past couple of generations.

The religious aspects of LotR are interesting - almost wholly implicit and background except for the Elves singing to Elbereth and the Numenoreans saying 'grace' before meals.

But LotR is permeated with meaning, purpose, a sense of destiny and providence, and animism (nature - trees, mountains, animals) is alive and often conscious) - and this is one of those aspects to which people respond most strongly (even if they do not know to what they are responding).