Alone, Together

I just finished reading a graphic novel from the library called Seek You: A Journey Through American Loneliness. Quite an apt book to be published in 2021, written and illustrated by Kristen Radtke. It walks through the psychology and reality of loneliness in America. I’d recommend reading the entire thing, but on page 206, a passage struck me.

“‘Loneliness,” Kristen quotes, “is receiving steadily more attention.”

I read that line, and it felt like a knock over the head. It felt like such a clear and true juxtaposition. Written originally by Philosopher Lars Svendsen in 2015, it went on, “But that does not mean there is more of it out there.”

I then realized what Svendsen had been saying was not how I had at first read it. He was saying the idea of loneliness, the concept or diagnosis itself, had been receiving more attention by the scientific and general community.

But what I had taken it to mean in that first moment, was that loneliness comes, or is born out of, receiving steadily more attention. That more attention equals more loneliness. And, though I believe loneliness has indeed been getting more attention as a concept, I like my interpretation better.

Because isn’t it true? That all the stories we’re told of those fortunate enough to became famous, or incredibly wealthy, or both, find loneliness as an unwanted tagger-on to their success? That those people who we revere, adore, praise, indeed find that loneliness comes as a byproduct of receiving more attention.

This isn’t true for everyone, of course. But I wager a guess that a chart of fame and loneliness would look something like this.

But still… We strive for fame. So many of us. Me included. We ignore the red flags, the “BEWARE” sign posts, the fables of those who have flown too close to the sun. Because the allure is too great. Because we think fame will solve our problems.

And for many, one of the problems for which fame seems a perfect cure is loneliness.

But what if we’re wrong? And we likely are. What if, instead, loneliness is receiving steadily more attention.

Then, of course, it would make sense to avoid fame and attention at all costs in pursuit of real, human relationships. To sacrifice the solitary grandeur of fame, for the warm embrace of community.


Here are some other quotes from Seek You I noted:

“Loneliness is often exacerbated by a perception that one is lonely while everyone else is connected. It’s exaggerated by a sensation of being outside something that others are in on: A family, a friendship, a couple, a joke.” p. 12

“The bond of a secret is an intoxicating trust fall, and each time I’ve learned I’ve been kept outside one – that a friend had confided in someone else but chosen not to share with me – it’s felt like an assassination of our closeness.” p. 82

“A study published in a 2008 issue of the Journal of Personality and Social Psychology, conducted by the late loneliness expert and pioneer John T. Cacioppo, explored expansive social networks and found that loneliness “occurs in clusters,” extending up to three degrees of separation from one lonely hub.” p. 287

The Ruthless Elimination of Hurry, excerpts

eliminate hurry - St Andrew's Church - 1 Church in Multiple Locations

“We, for every kind of reason, good and bad, are distracting ourselves into spiritual oblivion. It is not that we have anything against God, depth, and spirit. We would like these! It is just that we are habitually too preoccupied to have any of these show up on our radar screens. We are more busy than bad. More distracted than non spiritual, and more interested in a movie theater, the sports stadium and the shopping mall, and the fantasy life they produce in us, than we are in Church.”

“What you give your attention to is the person you become. Put another way, the mind is the portal to the soul, and what you fill your mind with will shape the trajectory of your character. In the end, your life is no more than the sum of what you gave your attention to.”

“Hurry is not just a disordered schedule, hurry is a disordered heart.”

“We’re mortal, not immortal. Finite, not infinite. Image and dust. Potential and limitations. One of the key tasks in our apprenticeship to Jesus is living into both our potential and our limitations. There’s a lot of talk right now about reaching your full potential, and I’m all for it. Step out, risk it all, have faith, chase the dream God put in your heart, become the technicolored version of who you were made to be. But again, that’s only half the story. What you hear very little of, inside or outside the Church, is accepting your limitations.”

“Limitations aren’t all bad. They’re where we find God’s will for our lives.”

“If you want to experience the life of Jesus, you have to adopt the lifestyle of Jesus.”

“Jesus was rarely in a hurry. Can you imagine a stressed out Jesus?”

“This rootedness in the moment and connectedness to God, other people, and himself, weren’t the byproducts of a laid-back personality or pre-WiFi world, they were the outgrowths of a way of life. A whole new way to be human that Jesus put on display in story after story. After all, this is the man who waited three decades to preach his first sermon, and after one day on the job as Messiah, he went off into the wilderness for 40 days to pray. Nothing could hurry this man.”

“[The gospels] are biographies. I would argue that these stories about the details of Jesus’ life have just as much to teach us about life in the Kingdom as his teachings or miracles or the more major stories of his death and resurrection.”

“Solitude is pretty straightforward. It’s when you are alone, with God, and with your own soul. For clarification, by solitude I don’t mean isolation. The two are worlds apart. Solitude is engagement, isolation is escape. Solitude is safety, isolation is danger. Solitude is how you open yourself up to God, isolation is painting a target on your back for the tempter. Solitude is when you set aside time to feed and water and nourish your soul. To let it grow into health and maturity. Isolation is what you crave when you neglect the former. And solitude, as somber as it sounds, is anything but loneliness. In his masterpiece, Celebration of Discipline, Richard Foster wrote, ‘Loneliness is inner emptiness. Solitude is inner fulfillment.'”

“Sabbath is coming for you. Whether as delight, or as discipline. Maybe that’s why God eventually has to command the Sabbath. Does that strike you as odd? It’s like commanding ice cream or live music or a day at the beach. You would think we would all be chomping at the bit to practice the Sabbath. But apparently, there’s something about the human condition that makes us want to hurry our way through life as fast as we possibly can. To rebel against the limitations of time itself. Due to our immaturity, disfunction, and addiction, God has to command his people to do something deeply life giving. Rest.”

“The important thing is to set aside a day for nothing but rest and worship. Now, often people hear ‘worship’ and think that means singing Bethel songs all day while reading the Bible and practicing intercessory pray. That’s all great stuff, but I mean ‘worship’ in the wide, holistic sense of the word. Expand your list of the spiritual disciplines to include eating a burrito on the patio, or drinking a bottle of wine with your friends over a long, lazy dinner… Anything to index your heart to grateful recognition of God’s reality and goodness.”

“‘Persons who meditate become people of substance, who have thought things out and have deep convictions. Who can explain difficult concepts in simple language. And have good reasons behind everything they do.”

“Our days of pain are the building blocks of our character. Our crucible of Christ-likeness. I rarely welcome them, I’m not that far down the path, not yet, but I accept them. Because my rabbi teaches that happiness isn’t the result of circumstances, but of character and communion. So whether it’s a good day, or a not-so-good day, either way, I don’t want to miss the moment. If it’s true that goodness and mercy follow me all the days of my life, how many days do I miss that goodness in my helter-skelter race to cram it all in before sunset?”

“‘Make it your ambition to lead a quiet life.'”

The Sabbath, excerpts

Here are the passages I marked while reading The Sabbath, which I finally finished today at the library.


“To enhance our power in the world of space is our main objective. Yet to have more does not mean to be more. The power we attain in the world of space terminates abruptly at the borderline of time. But time is the heart of existence.” Pg. 1

“There is happiness in the love of labor, there is misery in the love of gain. Many hearts and pitchers are broken at the fountain of profit.” Pg. 1

“The mythical mind would expect that, after heaven and earth have been established, God would create a holy place – a holy mountain or a holy spring – whereupon a sanctuary is to be established. Yet it seems as if to the bible it is holiness in time, the Sabbath, which comes first.” Pg. 9

“The meaning of the Sabbath is to celebrate time rather than space. Six days a week we live under the tyranny of things of space; on the Sabbath we try to become attuned to holiness in time.” Pg. 10

“…the Sabbath is not an occasion for diversion or frivolity; not a day to shoot fireworks or to turn somersaults, but an opportunity to mend out tattered lives; to collect rather than to dissipate time. Labor without dignity is the cause of misery; rest without spirit the source of depravity.” Pg. 18

“[The Sabbath] is a day of the soul as well as of the body; comfort and pleasure are integral parts of the Sabbath observance. Man in his entirety, all his faculties must share its blessing.” Pg. 19

“The seventh day is like a palace in time with a kingdom for all. It is not a date but an atmosphere… The primary awareness is one of our being within the Sabbath rather than of the Sabbath being within us.” Pg. 21

“‘What was created on the seventh day? Tranquility, serenity, peace, and repose.”‘ Pg. 23

“For the Sabbath is a day of harmony and peace, peace between man and man, peace within man, and peace with all things. On the seventh day man has no right to tamper with God’s world, to change the state of physical things.” Pg. 31.

“‘Six days shalt thou labor and do all thy work (Exodus 20:8).’ Is it possible for a human being to do all his work in six days? Does not our work always remain incomplete? What the verse means to convey is: Rest on the Sabbath as if all your work were done. Another interpretation: Rest even from the thought of labor.”
A pious man once took a stroll in his vineyard on the Sabbath. He saw a breach in the fence, and then determined to mend it when the Sabbath would be over. At the expiration of the Sabbath he decided: since the thought of repairing the fence occurred to me on the Sabbath I shall never repair it.” Pg. 32

“The [Sabbath] was a living presence, and when it arrived they felt as if a guest had come to see them. And, surely, a guest who comes to pay a call in friendship or respect must be given welcome.” Pg. 53

“What is the Sabbath? Spirit in the form of time.” Pg. 75

“We usually think that the earth is our mother, that time is money and profit our mate. The seventh day is a reminder that God is our father, that time is life and the spirit our mate.” Pg. 76

“‘The Sabbath is all holiness.’ Nothing is essentially required save a soul to receive more soul. For the Sabbath ‘maintains all souls.”‘ Pg. 82

“All our life should be a pilgrimage to the seventh day; the thought and appreciation of what this day may bring to us should be ever present in our minds.” Pg. 89

“Everyone will admit that the Grand Canyon is more awe-inspiring than a trench. Everyone knows the difference between a worm and an eagle. But how many of us have a similar sense of discretion for the diversity of time?” Pg. 96

“Things perish within time; time itself does not change. We should not speak of the flow or passage of time but of the flow or passage of space through time. It is not time that dies; it is the human body which dies in time.” Pg. 97

“Every one of us occupies a portion of space. He takes it up exclusively. The portion of space which my body occupies is taken up by myself in exclusion of anyone else. Yet, no one possesses time. There is no moment which I possess exclusively. This very moment belongs to all living men as it belongs to me. We share time, we own space. Through my ownership of space, I am a rival of all other beings; through my living in time, I am a contemporary of all other beings. We pass through time, we occupy space. We easily succumb to the illusion that the world of space is for our sake, for man’s sake. In regard to time, we are immune to such an illusion.” Pg. 99

Words from Sondheim

Stephen Sondheim, Titan of the American Musical, Is Dead at 91 - The New  York Times

As I assume you’ve long heard by now, Stephen Sondheim (writer of Into the Woods, Company, and Sweeney Todd among others) passed away last week. A hero and a pillar in American theater.

Hollywood Stars Remembers Musical Theater Composer Stephen Sondheim – The  Hollywood Reporter

On a plane, two days after his death, I watched Six by Sondheim on HBO. A documentary covering the life and career of Sondheim. I was enthralled by this man whose art I had already come to love, and now I’d like to share some of his words from the film.

Stephen Sondheim, Musical Theater Giant, Dies at 91 | Vanity Fair

“Nobody goes through life unscathed. And I think if you write about those things, you’re gonna touch people.”

“I’m not interested in making people unhappy. But I’m not interested in not looking at life.”

“The songs I write don’t really reflect me in any conscious way. They all are about the characters that the book writer has made, and I’m getting into those characters. I never think of them in my own terms.”

“A puzzle, like art, is making order out of chaos.”

“I still get pleasure out of writing a musical phrase I think is really good. I still get a pleasure out of writing a line that I think really encapsulates what I want to say.”

“I love inventing. The hard part is the execution, obviously.”

“It’s all about getting into the character. And you start to make lists of what she would talk about… It’s very much about serendipity.”

“The only reason to write is from love. You must not write because you think it’s gonna be a hit, because it’s expedient or anything like that. It’s so difficult to write… You write it out of passion. That’s what failure taught me.”

Broadway legend Stephen Sondheim dies, aged 91 | News | DW | 27.11.2021

Throughout the film, Sondheim stressed the importance of curiosity and teaching and learning. And since watching, I have heard many people talk about the great influence he had as a teacher, friend, mentor, and supporter (I found an Instagram account full of letters he sent, it’s delightful).

Sondheim, in many ways, lived a life I would like to emulate. He laid on his couch and wrote. He created things that moved people. And he supported others in doing the same.

Jiro Dreams of Sushi

Jiro Ono stands in the center, with his eldest son, Yoshikazu, to his right.

The other night, I watched a documentary called Jiro Dreams of Sushi (you can watch it on Prime). It had been on my list for a long while, and I stumbled across again while in just the right mood, alone in the living room early on a Wednesday evening. I love it when the happens.

One of Jiro’s minimalist sushi.

It was quite beautiful, and Jiro, like many other masters of their craft, is quite an interesting fellow to follow around. The first half is wonderful, and there’s so much good wisdom and information to pull out. But I’d say as you get to about two-thirds of the way through – if you start to get bored, just turn it off. Because odds are, you will continue to be bored.

Here are some of the quotes I pulled as I was watching:


“A great chef has the five following attributes:

1. They take their work very seriously and consistently perform on the highest level.
2. They aspire to improve their skills.
3. Cleanliness. If the restaurant doesn’t feel clean, the food isn’t going to taste good.
4. Impatience. They are better leaders than collaborators. They are stubborn and insist on having it their way. 
5.  A great chef is passionate.”

– Food critic


“The difference between Jiro today and Hiro 40 years ago is that eh stopped smoking. Besides that, nothing has changed.”

– Food critic


“I hated it at first [when I first started training at 19]. I wanted to run away for two years.”

– Jiro’s eldest son


“I fell in love with my work and gave my life to it.”

– Jiro


“Always strive to elevate your craft. That’s what [Jiro] taught me.”

– Jiro’s son

Jiro Ono and his eldest son, Yoshikazu, working side by side.

LOTR: The Two Towers, excerpts

I finally finished my multi-month journey through J.R.R. Tolkien’s The Two Towers, second in the Lord of the Rings trilogies. The world needs more good trilogies. This one is fantastic, though Tolkien’s quote that it is a “book that will break your heart… good beyond hope” is certainly true.

Would you just look at that old boy lounge? What an incredible outfit.

Here are some of my favorite excerpts from the book, marked with sticky tabs while reading. Many of these will not make much sense out of context, but I hope you still enjoy them.

Swiftly now, the pursuers turned and followed the new path. As if fresh from a night’s rest they sprang from stone to stone. At last they reached the crest of the grey hill, and a sudden breeze blew in their hair and stirred their cloaks: the chill wind of dawn. (p. 29)

They turned and walked side by side slowly along the line of the river. Behind them the light grew in the East. As they walked they compared notes, talking lightly in hobbit-fashion of the things that had happened since their capture. No listener would have guessed from their words that they had suffered cruelly, and been in dire peril, going without hope towards torment and death; or that even now, as they knew well, they had little chance of ever finding friend or safety again. (p. 77)

…in the Old Entish as you might say. It is a lovely language, but it takes a very long time to say anything in it, because we do not say anything in it, unless it is worth taking a log time to say, and to listen to. (p. 86)

All that day they walked about in the woods with him, singing, and laughing; for Quickbeam often laughed. He laughed if the sun came out from behind a cloud, he laughed if they came upon a stream or spring: then he stooped and splashed his feet and head with water; he laughed sometimes at some sound or whisper in the trees. Whenever he saw a rowan-tree he halted a while with his arms stretched out, and sang, and swayed as he sang. (p. 109)

The grey figure of the Man, Aragorn son of Arathorn, was tall, and stern as stone, his hand upon the hilt of his sword; he looked as if some king of the mists of the sea had stepped upon the shores of lesser men. Before him stooped the old figure, white, shining now as if with some light kindled within, bent, laden with years, but holding a power beyond the strength of kings. (p. 133)

A strong place and wonderful was Isengard, and long it had been beautiful; and there great lords had dwelt, the wardens of Gondor upon the West, and wise men that watched the stars. (p. 204)

‘You do not know your danger, Theoden,’ interrupted Gandalf. ‘These hobbits will sit on the edge of ruin and dscuss the pleasures of the table, or the small doings of their fathers, grandfathers, and great-grandfathers, and remoter cousins to the ninth degree, f you encourage them with undue patience.’ (p. 208)

We shall have to share pipes, as good friends must at a pinch. (p. 213)

‘Yes, yes, and Sam stinks!’ answered Gollum. ‘Poor Smeagol smells it, but good Smeagol bears it.’ (p. 299)

The gasping pools were choked with ash and crawling muds, sickly white and grey, as if the mountains had vomited the filth of their entrails upon the lands about. (p. 302)

And here he was a little halfling from the Shire, a simple hobbit of the quiet countryside, expected to find a way where the great ones could not go, or dared not go. It was an evil fait. But he had taken it on himself in his own sitting=room in the far-off spring of another year, so remote now that it was like a chapter in a story of the world’s youth, when the Trees of Silver and Gold were still in bloom. (p. 319)

Above them as a dome of pale sky barred with fleeting smoke, but it seemed high and far away, as if seen through great deeps of air heavy with brooding thought. (p. 319)

Then at a great distance, as if it came out of memories of the Shire, some sunlit early morning, when the day called and doors were opening, he heard Sam’s voice speaking. ‘Wake up, Mr. Frodo! Wake up!’ Had the voice added: ‘Your breakfast is ready,’ he would hardly have been surprised. (p. 402)

Gollum looked at them. A strange expression passed over his lean hungry face. The gleam faded from his eyes, and they went dim and grey, old and tired. A spasm of pain seemed to twist him, and he turned away, peering back up towards the pass, shaking his head, as if engaged in some interior debate. Then he came back, and slowly putting out a trembling hand, very cautiously he touched Frodo’s knee – but almost the touch was a caress. For a fleeting moment, could one of the sleepers have seen him, they would have thought that they beheld an old weary hobbit, shrunken by the years that had carried him far beyond his time, beyond friends and kin, and the fields and streams of youth, an old starved pitiable thing. (p. 411)

Linchpin, excerpts

I just finished Linchpin, written by Seth Godin – my first time consuming one of his books. Here are some of the excerpts that caught my ear while listening.

Be remarkable, be generous, create art, make judgement calls. Connect people and ideas. And then, we have no choice but to reward you. (1:12:20)

What would make you impossible good at your job? If your organization wanted to replace you with someone far better at your job than you, what would they look for? I think it’s unlikely that they would seek out someone who is willing to work more hours, or someone with more industry experience, or someone who could score better on a standardized test. No, the competitive advantage the marketplace demands is someone more human, connected and mature. Someone with passion and energy, capable of seeing things as they are. (1:12:50)

What they should teach in schools. Only two things: 1. Solve interesting problems. And 2. lead… Interesting is the keyword. Answering questions like: when was the war of 1812, is a useless skill in a always-on Wikipedia world. It’s far more useful to be able to answer the kind of question for which google won’t help. Questions like: what should I do next? (1:42:25)

Our economy now rewards artists far more than any other economy in history ever has. People who tell you that they don’t have any good ideas are selling themselves short. They don’t have any ideas that are valued, because they’re not investing in their art. (1:51:30)

Perhaps you can’t name a beloved brand of tofu is that no artist has bothered to market it to you yet. (3:21:00)

Some people are hooked on passion. Deriving their sense of self from the act of being passionate. Perhaps your challenge isn’t finding a better project or a better boss. Perhaps you need to get in touch with what it means to feel passionate. People with passion look for ways to make things happen. The combination of passion and art is what makes someone a linchpin. (3:23:00)

Over time, the gifts accrue, and you have created a reputation. (3:24:00)

The only purpose of starting is to finish. And while the projects we do are never really finished, they must ship. Shipping means hitting the publish button on your blog. Showing a presentation to the sales team. Answering the phone. Selling the muffins. Sending out your references. Shipping is the collision between your work and the outside world. (3:44:00)

Our economy has reached a logical conclusion. The race to make average stuff for average people in huge quantities is almost over. We’re hitting an asymptote. A natural ceiling for how cheaply and how fast we can deliver uninspired work. Becoming more average, more quick and more cheap is not as productive as it used to be. Manufacturing a box that can play music went from $10,000 for a beautiful Edison Victrola, to $2,000 for a home stereo, to $300 for a Walkman, to $200 for an iPod, to $9 for an MP3 memory stick. The improvements in price are now so small, they’re hardly worth making. Shipping an idea went from taking a month by boat, to a few days by plane, to overnight by federal express, to a few minutes by fax, to a moment by email, to instantaneous by Twitter. Now what? Will it arrive yesterday? So, what’s left to make, to give, is art. What’s left is the generosity and humanity worth paying for. (4:28:00)

The internet is crack cocaine for the resistance. If you sat at work all day watching Hawaii 5-O reruns, you’d probably lose your job. But it’s apparently fine to tweak and update your Facebook account for an hour. That’s connecting to your social graph. (4:50:30)

A friend of mine says something really smart every day, something earth shattering once a week. And that’s it. At the end of the year, he has some great blog posts and a pile of Twitter tweets to show for it. What if he harnessed even one of those ideas, and fought the resistance hard enough to actually make something of it? At the end of the year, he could show us a multi-million dollar company or a movement that changed the world. (4:52:15)

I’m not a work-a-haulic… By forcing myself to do absolutely no busy work tasks in between bouts with the work, I remove the best excuse the resistance has. I can’t avoid the work, because I am not distracting myself with anything but the work. This is the hallmark of a productive artist. I don’t go to meetings. I don’t write memos. I don’t have a staff. I don’t commute. The goal is to strip away anything that looks productive but doesn’t involve shipping [your work]. It takes crazy discipline to do nothing between projects. It means that you have to face a blank wall and you can’t look busy. It means you are alone with your thoughts. And it a means that a new project, perhaps a great project, will appear pretty soon because your restless energy can’t permit you to only sit and do nothing. (4:54:00)

Anxiety is the exaggeration of the worst possible what-if? (4:57:30)

It’s so easy to fall into the trap of using a spreadsheet or a time clock to measure your progress, when in fact, it’s the investment you make in your interactions that will pay off. (7:31:45)

What do you do when your art doesn’t work? What happens when the conversation doesn’t happen? The product doesn’t sell? The consumer is not delighted? Your boss is not happy? And the people aren’t moved? Make more art… Learn from what you did, and then do more. (8:00:00)

Maybe you can’t make money doing what you love – at least what you love right now. But I bet you can figure out how to love what you do, to make money. If you choose wisely. Do your art, but don’t wreck your art if it doesn’t lend itself to paying the bills. That would be a tragedy. (8:06:45)

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Less, But Better

Rams, a documentary by Gary Hustwit, paints a beautiful picture of the life, work and philosophy of one of the world’s most influential industrial designers – Dieter Rams.

Kindly, organized and reclusive, Dieter Rams does not fall in with the authoritarian stereotypes of world-changing innovators – like Steve Jobs or Thomas Edison. He is generous with his time and ready to help. His demeanor is remembered by some of his former employees as fatherly. Through his 40 year tenure at the German electronics company, Braun, from 1955-1995, he gained the respect and loyalty of those he worked alongside.

Rams’ home office. Nearly everything in this frame was in part designer by Rams himself

Although his attitude and leadership differed greatly from that of Steve Jobs, they’re design sensibilities were much the same. The work of Rams is perhaps the single greatest contributor to the design of Apple products we see today.

A 1956 Braun record played, dubbed “Snow White’s Coffin,” due to its early use of plexiglass in the lid
A comparison of Dieter Rams’ designed radio and the first Apple iPod

A CNN article on Rams and man and Rams the film asked the director, Gary Hustwit what if he’d asked Rams about his influence on Apple Products.

“He thinks it’s a compliment. He likes Jony [Ive, Apple’s former Chief Design Officer] a lot. But I think it’s hard for him to judge that impact because he doesn’t have a computer. He’s not on the Internet. He’s not interested in digital interfaces and user experience design and all these screens that we have to look at all day. There are no screens in his life, there’s just an old Braun television from the 1980s and that’s really the only screen in his house. It’s just not something that he’s interested in engaging with.”

Rams’ leading philosophy in design and in life is:

Less, but Better.

This leading ideal is then broken up into the now iconic 10 Principles of Good Design.

  1. Good Design is Innovative.

     

  2. Good Design makes a Product Useful.

  3. Good Design is Aesthetic.

  4. Good Design makes a Product Understandable.

  5. Good Design is Unobtrusive.

  6. Good Design is Honest.

  7. Good Design is Long-Lasting.

  8. Good Design is Thorough to the Last Detail.

  9. Good Design is Environmentally Friendly.
  10. Good Design is as Little Design as Possible.

When asked by an aspiring industrial design student what advice he had for her, Rams replied:

“Keep your eyes wide open.”

Favorite passages from the ‘Fellowship of the Ring’

I’m just about finished with J.R.R. Tolkien’s famed beginning of the Lord of the Rings trilogy. As I read, I like to put sticky tabs over those passages I like most, to go back to in future.

Here I’d like to share a few of those passages!


  1. “Then, each in an angle of the great tree’s roots, they curled up in the cloaks and blankets, and were soon fast asleep. They set no watch; even Frodo feared no danger yet, for they were still in the heart of the Shire. A few creatures came and looked at them when the fire had died away. A fox passing through the wood on business of his own stopped several minutes and sniffed.
    ‘Hobbits?’ he thought. ‘Well, what next? I have heard of strange doings in this land, but I have seldom heard of a hobbit sleeping out of doors under a tree. Three of them! There’s something mighty queer behind this.’ He was quite right, but he never found out any more about it.”

  2. ‘”Yes, sir!’ said Sam. ‘Begging your pardon, sir! But I meant no wrong to you, Mr. Frodo, nor to Mr. Gandalf for that matter. He has some sense, mind you; and when you said go alone, he said no! take someone as you can trust.’
    ‘But it does not seem that I can trust anyone,’ said Frodo.
    Sam looked at him unhappily. ‘It all depends on what you want,’ put in Merry. ‘You can trust us to stick to you through thick and thin – to the bitter end. And you can trust us to keep any secret of your – closer than you keep it yourself. But you cannot trust us to let you face trouble alone, an go off without a word. We are your friends, Frodo. Anyway: there it is.'”

  3. “The air was growing very warm again. The hobbits ran about for a while on the grass, as he told them. Then they lay basking in the sun with the delight of those that have been wafted suddenly from bitter winter to a friendly clime, or of people that, after being long ill and bedridden, wake one day to find that they are unexpectedly well and the day is again full of promise. “

  4. “As they listened, they began to understand the lives of the Forest, apart from themselves, indeed to feel themselves as the stranger where all other things were at home. Moving constantly in and out of his talk was Old Man Willow, and Frodo learned now enough to content him, indeed more than enough, for it was not comfortable lore. Tom’s words laid bare the hearts of trees and their thoughts, which were often dark and strange, and filled with a hatred of things that go free upon the earth, gnawing, biting, breaking, hacking, burning: destroyers and usurpers. It was not called the Old Forest without reason, for it was indeed ancient, a survivor of vast forgotten woods and in it there lived yet, ageing no quicker than the hills, the fathers of the fathers of trees, remembering times when they were lords. The countless years had filled them with pride and rooted wisdom, and with malice.”

I realize that some of their beauty is taken when read out of context from the whole, but I hope you still got some of they same sense of beauty that I did when reading them.

P.S. I was sitting in my bed last night, thinking there was something I’d forgotten to do… I shrugged it off and went to sleep. Only this morning did the fluttering memory return; I didn’t write anything yesterday. C’est la vie!