Community and Diversity at the Origin

While Tolkien adopts and adapts the good Creator of Genesis, one way he diverges is to invent an intermediary “angelic” class of creatures that help out with creation. All begins with Ilúvatar, but creation does not happen alone. It happens in community, with the Ainur, angelic-type creatures.

Creation through community and music; this may be the heart of the power of this story for me! With this, Tolkien captures a beauty that I can still see resounding in the world in which we live. Diversity at times makes such a heart-rending harmony in our world…one which a monolithic, monosyllabic origin cannot explain. As Tolkien would write, behold!

Then the voices of the Ainur, like unto harps and lutes, and pipes and trumpets, and viols and organs, and like unto countless choirs singing with words, began to fashion the theme of Ilúvatar to a great music; and a sound arose of endless interchanging melodies woven in harmony that passed beyond hearing into the depths and into the heights, and the places of the dwelling of Ilúvatar were filled to overflowing, and music and the echo of the music went out into the Void, and it was not void. Never since have the Ainur made any music like to this music, though it has been said that a greater still shall be made before Ilúvatar by the choirs of the Ainur and the Children of Ilúvatar after the end of days. Then the themes of Ilúvatar shall be played aright, and take Being in the moment of their utterance, for all shall then understand fully his intent in their part, and each shall know the comprehension of each… (Silmarillion, p. 15-16)

To me, there is something deeply important in this. Diversity is not in itself evil or bad. Rather, it is the opposite-the beauty and wonder of creation comes precisely in the different strands of music blended into harmony, not in spite of the difference. Difference and diversity are part of the goodness of creation, not the reason for its brokenness.

To me, it seems Tolkien has put a central Christian truth much more in the forefront than Genesis does. I see in the Christian doctrine of the trinity that diversity and community are at the heart of the Godhead. I see in the bible wonderful affirmations of the goodness of diversity. The gift Tolkien gives in this invented story of creation is to make it plain as the nose on my face.

One last observation. When one begins with a good creation that “falls”, the danger is to always want to move backward….to see complexity and diversity as antagonistic to the purity and goodness of creation. How beautiful, then, is Tolkien’s assertion that the only thing more beautiful than the harmonic music of creation is what will be experienced in the future…when even more voices can be added to the diverse harmony of Ilúvatar’s central theme!

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6 thoughts on “Community and Diversity at the Origin

  1. I really like this, Gregg (well, except for the Tolkein part; I’m not a huge fan). But I like the way your post ends. I think sometimes when folks talk about the degradation of our culture, the desire to go back to a “purer” time when things seemed less broken, they forget the lack of diversity in that time. There’s so much beauty in our time now, when more people are invited to the table to commune together. Okay, perhaps you’ve convinced me I should try reading Tolkein again (though don’t tell Ron, or he’ll make me 🙂 ).

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  2. Noooo, don’t start with the Silmarillion. Skip all the introductions and explanations and prefaces by other people and just read the stories. That’s the only way I got into it. That, and I wanted to understand all of Gregg’s LOTR references that my husband was nodding at. That was the real motivation.

    Dude, when you finally start writing again, you mean it!

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