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Kamarck, Edward (ed.) / Arts in society: confrontation between art and technology

Kilby, Clyde S.
[Editorial comment: the lost myth],   pp. [unnumbered]-163 PDF (10.1 MB)

Page 155

The tLost Myth
By Clyde S. Kilby
The background against which I should
like to put what I have to say is
J. R. R. Tolkien's Lord of the Rings and the
peculiar fact that in our so-called realistic
world there are hundreds of thousands of
high-school, college and university
students (not to mention doctors, lawyers,
scientists, teachers, etc.) who are
reading a story about elves and dwarfs,
orcs and balrogs, seeing stones and
magical rings, and about ordinary
Shire-loving hobbits who, having reluctantly
accepted a quest involving their own lives
and the life of the entire third age of
Middle-earth, carry through on that quest
in the highest tradition of heroism and in
an atmosphere patently free of the hard
"realism" that is said to be the archetype
of our time. Though I am sure that David
Boroff, writing in the New York Times
Book Review for January 10, 1965, was
wrong, one can sympathize with him for
supposing the collegiate interest in
The Lord of the Rings to be a piece of
dandyism and mock seriousness. I want
to suggest what I think a better explanation
of this wide interest in Tolkien.
This explanation might be evidence of
the beginning of recovery, or at least
the wish to recover, from an old sore. It
could be evidence of a desire to recover
the Lost Myth.
This Lost Myth, I think, is the myth of
man's wholeness.
Even in the fourth century B.C., Plato
makes it clear that man was already
sundered. Aristophanes, talking with his
friends Socrates, Eryximachus and
others, told how originally men were
supposed to have had four legs, four arms,
two heads, etc. and how in time these
men began to think they were something
and dared to try to scale heaven and
lay hands even upon the gods, and how,
instead of annihilating them, Zeus finally hit
upon the idea of humbling them by
splitting them in two-since when, says
Aristophanes, in their loneliness the two
halves have longed and seached for
one another continuously.
Zeus threatened if necessary to keep on
chopping man into pieces to cure his pride.
Well, today it seems that man is in about
as many pieces as can be imagined
and consequently his loneliness and
confusion are more pronounced than ever.
Although Ortega y Gasset's description of
twentieth-century man was written a
good many years ago, it seems to me fully
as true now as then, possibly more
true. "We live," he said, "at a time when
man believes himself fabulously capable
of creation, but he does not know what
to create. Lord of all things, he is not lord
of himself. He feels lost amid his own
abundance. With more means at his
disposal, more knowledge, more technique
than ever, it turns out that the world
today goes the same way as the worst of
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