“…the Last Homely House…a perfect house, whether you like food or sleep or story-telling or singing, or just sitting and thinking best, or a pleasant mixture of them all. Merely to be there was a cure for weariness, fear, and sadness.”
J.R.R. Tolkien, The Fellowship of the Ring
Is such a house simply a fairy-tale? That it be ‘perfect’ is indeed beyond the reach of the households that we make and live in. Ours will always be marked, at least to some extent, by suffering and fear, by conflict and weariness.
Yet then again, so was the house described in the story. Perhaps even a ‘perfect’ house in this world should not be expected to be beyond such things. A major reason the Last Homely House was subject to such things was that there was great conflict in society at large. A household can never be beyond the reach of the travails of broader society. Such is not conceivable for us social animals.
The sufferings and travails of society will to some extent always be ours too, and this is fitting. A household in the end is never a place of escape and refuge, walled off from the realities of what is going on ‘out there.’ We will suffer with and perhaps for our fellow citizens, in good times and especially in bad.
But nonetheless, our house can be a bastion of wholesomeness, of truly human life, and of reality—in the truest sense. And this whether a new couple household, a bustling children household, an elderly household, or a household of one.
The issue is: where is our heart, where is our focus? We can put first things first, and incarnate that conviction in the daily structures of life in our home. It requires being intentional, in part precisely because the gathering clouds—not to mention the storms already raging—can overshadow and overwhelm us unawares.
Now is the time for men and women, young and old, to refocus on the basic and simple things. Food times. Story times. Singing times. Sitting and thinking times. And good-work times. These call for attention, and deep cultivation. Yes, it won’t be ‘simple.’
But we will be surprised. We set out to do right by those we love—turning to these human things that we owe to them and to ourselves. And by an inexorable law our efforts are always blessed; and lo, even in the midst of it all, we have crafted something that is a genuine cure for weariness, fear, and sadness. For us and ours, and for those who happen to pass through. And in this sense it is perfect.
J.R.R. Tolkien (1892-1973), English, professor, poet, and author. His fictional works are among the best-selling books ever published.
Husband, father, and professor of Philosophy. LifeCraft springs from one conviction: there is an ancient wisdom about how to live the good life in our homes, with our families; and it is worth our time to hearken to it. Let’s rediscover it together. Learn more.