Some Unexpected, And Brutally Honest Marriage Advice from Tolkien.

I stumbled on this blog post and had to share it. I am not a Roman Catholic, but I agree with most of this article.  Our culture is awash in selfishness. It is so deep that it has been camouflaged as “love.” We have attempted to twist the virtue of love into “loving yourself,” which is actually the opposite of love. The very nature of love is to put others before ourselves.

Concerning the article, I think I would temper some of what he says regarding self denial and monogamy with “the rest of the story.”  The honest truth is that self denial is necessary because of our fallen nature. The idea that men are “not monogamous” is true because we are fallen, discontent, and unfaithful creatures. It is true in the same way that men are not peace loving by nature.  Only when we operate in grace and practice self denial we will find the truest expression of ourselves.

Tolkien’s perspective reminds me of the premise behind Tim Keller’s book, The Meaning of Marriage.  I would highly recommend the book and use it for premarital counseling.

The excerpt below comes from a letter that JRR Tolkien wrote his son:


“Men are not [monogamous]. No good pretending. Men just ain’t, not by their animal nature. Monogamy (although it has long been fundamental to our inherited ideas) is for us men a piece of ‘revealed ethic, according to faith and not the flesh. The essence of a fallen world is that the best cannot be attained by free enjoyment, or by what is called “self-realization” (usually a nice name for self-indulgence, wholly inimical to the realization of other selves); but by denial, by suffering. Faithfulness in Christian marriages entails that: great mortification.

For a Christian man there is no escape. Marriage may help to sanctify and direct to its proper object his sexual desires; its grace may help him in the struggle; but the struggle remains. It will not satisfy him—as hunger may be kept off by regular meals. It will offer as many difficulties to the purity proper to that state as it provides easements.

No man, however truly he loved his betrothed and bride as a young man, has lived faithful to her as a wife in mind and body without deliberate conscious exercise of the will, without self-denial. Too few are told that—even those brought up in ‘the Church’. Those outside seem seldom to have heard it.

When the glamour wears off, or merely works a bit thin, they think that they have made a mistake, and that the real soul-mate is still to find. The real soul-mate too often proves to be the next sexually attractive person that comes along. Someone whom they might indeed very profitably have married, if only—. Hence divorce, to provide the ‘if only’.

And of course they are as a rule quite right: they did make a mistake. Only a very wise man at the end of his life could make a sound judgement concerning whom, amongst the total possible chances, he ought most profitably have married! Nearly all marriages, even happy ones, are mistakes: in the sense that almost certainly (in a more perfect world, or even with a little more care in this very imperfect one) both partners might have found more suitable mates. But the ‘real soul-mate’ is the one you are actually married to. In this fallen world, we have as our only guides, prudence, wisdom (rare in youth, too late in age), a clean heart, and fidelity of will…(Letters of J.R.R. Tolkien, pp. 51-52).”

Source: Tolkien Speaks: The Secret to a Happy Marriage | The Catholic Gentleman

Just Finished Season 5 of Blue Bloods


My wife and I just finished watching Blue Bloods. We watched it all through the end of season 5. There is no more for now… Groans and frustration. The next season starts in September 2015.  We watched it slowly over the last few months on Netflix and Amazon Prime.

We have enjoyed the characters and stories so much that we jokingly created a little dance (really just bobbing our heads and arms) that we break out during theme song to embarrass our children. I am not a ring tone kind of guy, but I considered getting the ring tone. I know, this is some serious nerd stuff

In case you aren’t familiar with the show… The story centers around the Reagan family. They have been involved in NYPD law enforcement for several generations. The father, Frank Reagan (played by Tom Selleck) is the police commissioner as his father was before him.  This adds an interesting dimension to the well-worn cop genre as the family often has to work through their own struggles and sometimes heated disagreements. Additionally there are the authority issues of having your dad being your boss and the most powerful law enforcement figure around. All of this makes for some good TV.

Here are several things I really enjoy about the show:

The depiction of an honest and ethical police commissioner is refreshing.  Throughout all 5 seasons the character of Frank Reagan plays a major role.  For me it is one of the best parts of the series. He is decisive, wise, insightful, and a man few words. He genuinely cares about the law, the people of New York, and his police officers. He frequently has to fight against political pressures, corruption, and enticements to compromise. Consistently his character holds firm and I found myself enamored by his resolve.  Here is an example: One phrase that gets repeated throughout the series is something like this: “It’s important to work as hard to exonerate an innocent man as to convict a guilty one.”

The Reagan family is far from perfect. To the contrary, they have a number of frustrating flaws. And yet the family is presented as virtuously catholic.  This is not a secondary element of the series. They actually pray in Jesus name.  It is a big deal and has felt so unusual that I have been shocked. The standard fair from Hollywood ubiquitously depicts christians as hypocrites or self righteous.  So it came as a shock to see them create characters that actually look like the people I know. One of the important plot lines throughout the show is the Sunday dinner where the family both laughs, cries, and argues their way through the difficulties of life. It is honest and often touching, without being sappy or cliched.

The cast also consistently displays the scars and wounds that face law enforcement families. So there is a fascinating juxtaposition: It is hard to love a job that ends up hurting you.  The show explores marriage problems, sibling rivalry, grief, PTSD, and moral failures that face law enforcement.

Additionally, the show is set in New York city.  This provides the ready opportunity to explore a variety of topics like gang violence, racism, police corruption, terrorism, stop and frisk policing, etc.

Any show that runs for 5 years will bump up against unrealistic situations and dialogue, and Blue Bloods doesn’t escape this. But it’s still worthy in spite of the little blemishes. I am looking forward to season 6.