This was originally published on my old blog, Rebel Catholic that recorded my adventures doing a nun run in 2013. I’m republishing it here in honour of the third anniversary since I returned home and the beginning of life in the married vocation I am called to.
Part 16: Music, Humanity, Tolkien & Theology of the Body
Originally Published: Sunday, September 1st
I have returned from the most awesome week of my trip so far. I attended a Theology of the Body (from now on referred to in the acronym TOB). Institute course called Theology of the Body I: Head and Heart Immersion Course in beautiful little Quarryville, Pennsylvania and taught by the most awesome Christopher West.
There I was surrounded by little beauties like these butterflies…
… whilst having a very real encounter with Beauty itself. Honestly, it is going to take a while to process everything that happened on that week so bear with me.
As I was being completely bombarded with Theology of the Body, a particular world kept persistently rising to the surface. I am a complete and utter Tolkien nerd. There. I said it. I own just about every book he has ever written (and slowly working my way through reading them). Those movies go on every time someone is sick in our house. I read the LOTR at least once a year and I am making my way through The Silmarillion for the second time.
One of the reasons I love reading The Silmarillion is that every time after I put the book down, I had an intense urge to draw and to physically create something. However, I have always intentionally squashed that desire with “you’re not good enough… you need to practice more… It will never be perfect…” So back to Theology of the Body, what connected The Silmarillion and TOB together was music.
God is a lover and he calls us with music, a symphony that every leaf, every stick, every rock, the very heavens and earth are a part of. God did not create the world and then add human beings as an after thought. He created the world for human beings and the world to be a sign of his love for us. The center of the Bible is a book known as the Song of Songs, music is a part of the essence of what it means to be human.
Tolkien knows this so profoundly that the first book in The Silmarillion begins with the creation of Middle Earth. Music was so profoundly connected to the essence of existence, that Middle Earth literally the fruit of the music played by the Ainur (spiritual beings who become guardians of Middle Earth) after being taught by Ilùvatar, the one creator. This is why Tolkien puts songs throughout the LOTR (and often annoys people by doing so), because the very earth that the fellowship walked on was created by music and every creature of Middle Earth, even Orcs was the fruit of music.
I was sitting in front of the blessed sacrament, trying to process all of the session on Genesis and Original Man the beginning of The Silmarillion hit me square in the face. It wasn’t your average passing thought. I saw it. I hadn’t picked up that book in over a year and suddenly the words came alive and I saw it. I had an uncontrollable urge to draw. So I did what I have not done before which was nearly trip over myself in haste to get my sketch book and pens and draw with wild abandon.
That was one of the most awesomely simple experiences I have ever had. Me, pen and paper. Did I produce Van Gogh or a Leonardo? Nope. Did I even bring the full vision of what I saw onto paper? Only the vaguest shadow. But I was free to create and articulate without this little voice stuffing it down for when I was ‘qualified’ to do so. The best part is I have not stopped doodling and sketching.
Maybe when I’ve refined a few things I may share some of those drawings, but as they are, they are not ready for any eyes but mine. This is but one small thing I have taken from that week. So stay tuned, another is coming.
*If you want to know more about Theology of the Body, I highly recommend that you check out Christopher’s website. If you want something a little more meaty, he gave two excellent talks at WYD in Sydney 2008. Download the first one here and the second one here.*