I recently came across a website featuring paintings by an undergraduate college professor of mine. No, I wasn’t an art major and he didn’t teach me painting—at least, not the kind of art one creates on a canvas. He was one of my tutors at St. John’s College in Annapolis, Maryland, where I earned a Liberal Arts degree as a bonus for the privilege of studying the Great Books.
My youngest child, just nearing his seventh birthday, has begun writing what I like to think of as love letters. He is not an accomplished reader or writer. He is all boy – far more interested in sword fighting than in wrestling with letters which currently signify, to him, little that is particularly interesting. Yet my heart is overjoyed to see him write small tokens of his affection to each member of our family.
Ilúvatar said again: “Behold your music! This is your minstrelsy; and each of you shall find contained herein, amid the design that I set before you, all those things which it may seem that he himself devised or added.”
The Silmarillion, by J.R.R. Tolkien
Last summer, I heard a conversation at a conference. It stood out because it crystallized what good conversations do: elicit epiphanies, flashes of perception that bounce off the words going back and forth like sparks that dance off pieces of flint being struck.
I have been dwelling with that conversation, off and on (like living with a small fire flickering from a few embers) for a year.
"Every word--even every idle word--will be accounted for at the day of judgment, because the word itself has the power to bring judgment. It is of the nature of the word to reveal itself and to incarnate itself--to assume material form. Its judgment is therefore an intellectual, but also a material judgment. The habit, very prevalent today, of dismissing words as "just words" takes no account of their power. But once the Idea has entered into other minds, it will tend to reincarnate itself there with ever-increasing Energy and ever-increasing Power.