Modest Accomplishment in the Eyes of the World

“Tolkien had readied himself…for very modest accomplishment in the eyes of the world.”imgres imgres-1

How do we measure success? Tolkien never even published his master piece that ostensibly he spent years working on alongside his regular work. That’s a different measure of success than we normally have socially.

This quote popped up on my twitter and I couldn’t help but engage with it.

It’s in the light of Christian teaching that I am slowly coming to realize that our goals in life can be destructive or helpful. I am a planner that hangs out with planners, we are people who look 10-15 years down the line to figure out the best way to accomplish our goals and are frustrated along the way when it happens. I did not start out like this and recognize the inherent futility, but there is a delight in planning to a shorter term and longer term reality that helps you process your day to day activity.

But that’s not necessarily the way to function in entirety. At some point we have to realize what Christ teaches: that each day has enough worries of its own. It’s in the day that we can make a reality of our priorities. Long term reflection can help us form habits that are healthy and holy, but it is in the moment that we truly experience the delight of a virtuous life.

Focus too far out and you miss the present.

But focus too close and you may not be encouraged to form yourself to your ideals.

Ideals are lived out over the course of the day. By this I mean what Mother Teresa said when she said that there are no great acts of love only small acts of great love. If we take Augustinian understanding of love, we move forward knowing that love is an orienting principle. Love is present in eating, sleeping, working, and playing – it’s an orienting reality.

Tolkien seems to have understood this, he satisfied himself with the daily work ahead of him and worked diligently at his passion on the side. He oriented himself towards the work that he wanted to complete. I am not a Tolkien expert, but I recognize the delight of working slowly and regularly towards your goals in intelligent and reflective daily living.


About Sean Smith

Husband, Father, Pastor, Swimmer, Writer, Reader, and attempted Adventurer!
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