Friday, December 21, 2012

Tolkien And Good Works

In one of Tolkien’s stories, Leaf By Niggle, an artist, named Niggle,
“lives in a society that does not much value art. Working only to please himself, he paints a canvas of a great Tree with a forest in the distance. He invests each and every leaf of his tree with obsessive attention to detail, making every leaf uniquely beautiful. Niggle ends up discarding all his other artworks, or tacks them onto the main canvas, which becomes a single vast embodiment of his vision….”Niggle knows that he has a great trip looming, and he must pack and prepare his bags. Also, Niggle's next door neighbour, a gardener named Parish, is the sort of neighbour who always drops by whining about the help he needs with this and that. Moreover, Parish is lame and has a sick wife, and honestly needs help — Niggle, having a good heart, takes time out to help.”
Niggle never has enough time to work on his art because he is often helping his neighbor. Finally taking his trip he ends up in a new country,

in fact the country of the Tree and Forest of his great painting, now long abandoned and all but destroyed (except for the one perfect leaf of the title which is placed in the local museum) in the home to which he cannot return — but the Tree here and now in this place is the true realization of his vision, not the flawed and incomplete form of his painting.
Focusing on family and others keeps us busy.  Life keeps us from finishing the perfect work we always want to begin, to work on, or to complete.  Scripture tells us “not lose heart in doing good, for in due time we will reap if we do not grow weary.”  Then at the end of the trip we will see the beautiful fruition of these good works that never feel perfect down here.

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