I Would Like To Register a Complaint

Tolkien was a great writer, perhaps the greatest of the 20th Century.

“Tokien was so unrealistic. None of his characters ever clip their toenails, get stuck in traffic, or masturbate furtively.”

What a glorious early autumn day. The sun is in his finest aspect today, don’t you think?

“The sun is a mass of incandescent gas, a gigantic nuclear furnace, where hydrogen is turned into helium at a temperature of millions of degrees.”

Yes, but without the sun, without a doubt, there’d be no you or me.

“I guess. It’s awfully bright today, and it’s giving me a headache.”

Hence your giant bug-eye-lens style sunglasses?

“Yes, hence these.”

I see. And the coffee?

“Yes, but this coffee lacks acidity and aromatic complexity. Really, when I get a high-grown Guatemala, I expect some citrus component at the bare minimum. Don’t you?”

I suppose I do. [Pause.] A nice dinner we had last night.

“Ugh. That woman is cold and domineering. She uses those meals to pretend to be kind while launching into everyone at the table for their tiniest flaws. And do you notice how she always stays just on this side of friendly banter, so one can never really confront her?”

To be honest, yes, I do notice that. Still, she cooked us all dinner, and it was pretty delicious.

“Ugh. You are such a milquetoast. Must you always look at the bright side? Can’t a man lodge an honest complaint? And an accurate complaint, I might add!”

Well, you ate it. Cleaned your plate, I noticed.

“What was I supposed to do? It would have been terribly rude of me to refuse to eat the food she prepared just because she is a petty woman and she has those frown-lines on her forehead (the ones those self-interested yoga moms always have… you can see right through their fake-Zen NPR facades).”

And if a war criminal, or say, an admitted rapist, had invited you to dinner?

“What kind of question is that? I should refuse, of course!”

What about a shoplifter then?

“Yes yes. Very clever. Lessen the offense until you get me to admit that yes, I would sit down to dinner with such-and-such a sinner. That’s your ploy, isn’t it?”

I admit something like that had crossed my mind.

“Well she’s still a hateful woman. I stand by my assessment!”

God has provided us this day.

“Nonsense. Your God is a figment. Anyone who uses his brain can see that.”

Hmm, I don’t think that’s true. But forget God, then. Everything we have is a gift. We’ve done nothing to deserve any of it.

“Nonsense again! I work hard, save and invest. I don’t take handouts from the government or anyone else.”

I am speaking on a more fundamental level. Your brain, for example, and your two hands. Your wonderful talent for public speaking …

“Well that last was honed through practice!”

… But the time you used to practice. The very existence of the day. Life itself. All of it was unearned, undeserved.

“And unasked for.”

So you would ask it all away if you could?

“I don’t know. Commit suicide, you mean? I don’t think so. If you are trying to get me to say it’s good to be alive, I guess I can concede that some aspects of being alive are good.”

But other aspects are intolerable, and since you didn’t ask for them, it’s rather unfair to expect you — or me — to just sit there and take it.

“Yes, now you understand.”

So life is like a delicious meal, cooked up by an person who sometimes grates on your nerves. And the meal isn’t always perfect either. But still it’s better to sit down and eat rather than starve to death out of principal? Somehow you always end up at the table, despite your constant complaints. You don’t want to turn down the potatoes any more than I do.

“Ha ha, very nicely turned. Now you are being the biting, sarcastic one.”

I’m sorry, I couldn’t help it. It’s one of life’s little pleasures.



12 comments on “I Would Like To Register a Complaint

  1. Kristor says:

    The Dwarves are for the Dwarves!

  2. zhai2nan2 says:

    “Tokien was so unrealistic. None of his characters ever clip their toenails, get stuck in traffic, or masturbate furtively.”

    They smoked pipeweed. Realism with regard to pipeweed is sufficient (and should be recognized as sufficient).

  3. bgc says:

    Tolkien himself became somewhat habituated to the Joy of Curmudgeonry in later life – or, at least, that was how he seemed to young Leftists; which seems perfectly understandable.

    He foresaw what was coming, and that it was not at all likely to be stopped or reversed.

    His unfinished story The New Shadow about the Fourth Age of Middle Earth was intended to be about the very swift decline of Gondor into decadence, orc cults, that followed Aragorn’s death. Tolkien knew that these things happened very quickly. As they did in England after her ‘finest hour’ in WWII – less than a decade brought Look Back in Anger and the like.

    I feel particularly sorry for Tolkien that the Latin Mass, which was the focus of his life and something he saw as eternally dependable, was taken from him (and millions of other Roman Catholics) by the unforced error that was Vatican II (and the elite-led ‘liberalization’ of the Catholic clergy).

    (Unless and until this truly dreadful lapse and fall – of world historical significance – is repented and reversed by the Roman Catholic Church, it will continue to dwindle and dwindle as a spiritual force in the world.)

    Vatican II was a real body blow, and I suspect the most deeply dismaying event of his whole life.

    His friend George Sayer said that when participating in Mass in the late 1960s/ early 70s Tolkien continued to speak out the Latin words, loud and clear – presumably to the end of his life.

    • outofsleep says:

      There is a Catholic church in my town that holds services in the full Latin rite, complete with the priest’s back to the congregation. Currently it’s the most consistently-crowded church in the area, with standing-room-only at the back of the church every Sunday.

      The most interesting thing is that it’s not just old-timers with nostalgia. Actually, the demographics of this parish are far far younger than most churches. It’s mostly young marrieds and 20-somethings, and their young children, plus a few old-timers.

      People are so hungry for nourishment. Meanwhile, the church I attended as a child — a small suburban church that nevertheless had beautiful choirs and simple services — has started having acoustic Christian rock guitar songs during Sunday services. The place is almost totally empty… I certainly never go there except on rare occasions. It’s far too depressing.

      • Manwe says:


        Interesting anecdote about Tolkien, thank you! I do very much like the idea of him at Mass, still saying the words in Latin, that does sound like Tolkien!

        As for Vatican II itself, it certainly was not perfect, but it is not the total disaster that bgc made it out to be. Most of the problems came about because of bad implementation, and intentional misinformation done by those who intended to change the Church from the inside out. That said however, thankfully we have had two excellent Popes (JP II and B16)since then who have done much to fix things, especially B16.


        Yes the more traditional masses are gaining in popularity, and most of it coming from the youth I’m happy to say 🙂 Again another thanks to B16
        In case you have not guessed it already, I am a Catholic. A convert actually. I’m happy to say that my local parish no longer plays the guitar service! Sadly however, it has yet to drop the awful pop crap, ugh!

        • bgc says:


          Tolkien and almost all the RCs I respect saw and felt (among other things) that 1. The Latin Mass combined beauty and truth – vernacular Masses that replaced it would merely be narrowly theologically correct according to current ‘scholarship’, 2. Was a vital basis of the universal nature of the Church and its unity, 3. Was being gotten rid of by the wrong kind of people for the wrong reasons. 4. The process would open the door to and encourage endless fashion-driven (or hedonically driven) revisions to the language and ritual – ending with the Church led pursuit of the Enemy’s plans.

          And so on.

          Vatican II was an absolutely typical piece of strategic modernist legislation, unstable in itself and putting the Church on a slippery slope towards hedonic secularization. It was a vast, public international concession to Leftism.

          I think you are clutching at straws to imagine that there is any kind of significant change in the tide of the Catholic Church Magisterium – it continues strongly Leftward and toward the world (politics, social change etc) – a reversal of this could only follow repentance and acknowledgment of Vatican II as a huge error which was badly-motivated (not well motivated) – because its motivation was worldly, hedonic, political.

          What we need from the Church is what we lack – not more of what we have – and what we lack is an example of uncompromising, unworldly, mystical devoutness.

          This is why I have found so deeply nourishing the work of Fr Seraphim Rose (and the Saints and Holy Fathers whose work he links us with – the lineage represented in St John of Shanghai and San Francisco) – above all else I have discovered among modern writers.

  4. fsg says:

    @bgc and Manwe

    Various perspectives on Vatican II have failed to give a convincing answer of why such a disaster has managed to persist in its pernicious influence. The misinterpretation theory I believe you are describing, Manwe, is not satisfactory. Certainly many well-intentioned people believe it: the Holy Father subtly expresses it under the name of “hermeneutic of continuity,” and I held to it for a while. But simple misinterpretation does not have the steam to survive and thrive unless it is built on a principle that supports it. Yet at the same time I believe Mr. Charlton to be wrong that the tide of Catholic development is towards modernism; as I see it, it is really stopped, stationary but not firm, a little adrift.

    Charlton’s idea about repentance is very valuable here. Despite having many several people in the church, who manage small efforts towards the good, no one will repent. Everyone wants to go forward without addressing the past. No public repentance for Benedict or the others who were involved in a great error. (In this way most Catholics honestly resemble the old caricature of a monarch’s subjects who always ascribe disasters to the king’s bad advisors, never to the king himself). Where did thousands of priests and bishops get the idea to implement VII badly if not from a coherent intellectual and strategic plan – one that was evil and wrong.

    We must have repentance. But I doubt we will have it from this pope, and so we will remain stuck in the mud, so to speak, of the reform-of-the-reform position.

  5. Manwe says:

    Well there is not much point in continuing this argument, I don’t think we will get any one of us to totally agree with the other.
    But I wil say this to fsg:
    You really think B16 is a bad or lacking Pope? I could not disagree with you more on that one. And as for blame for VII, it would not fall on B16, that man is an orthodox hound! Remember he was not the only adviser there…Hans Kung was also there (for example).

  6. bgc says:

    @Manwe – my opinion is that B16 is a good but lacking Pope.

    He is lacking for the reasons described, he is good – amazingly good – for starting the Anglican Ordinariate which I have hopes will in time provide a niche that I can inhabit: but leaving aside my own gratitude, to do this at all was an incredible feat, almost out of the blue, and a remarkable personal achievement.

  7. fsg says:

    Manwe, I very much regret if I gave the impression I think B16 is a ‘bad’ Pope! He is very good indeed, much better than I had reason to hope. I can never be grateful enough to him for freeing the Latin Mass. That renewal brought me to the faith.

    But I think he is flawed, which is his unwillingness to admit that the great achievement of his youth, and his colleagues – the project of reform – was essentially a mistake.

    That is, started for mistaken reasons and aimed at the wrong or undefinable ends.

    He was definitely not one of the principal architects, but he was invested enough in it that he wishes to save what they made while also saving the Church (which he is doing an admirable job doing).

    I am certain I would not be able to do what I think Benedict must do if he is to be the pope of the true restoration of the Church. I suspect that we will not see fundamental change until the next papacy, though I hope to be proven wrong. In the world of the nearly billion Catholics outside the English-speaking world and France, there has been much less return to tradition. They are much more dependent on clear direction from the Vatican.

  8. Wm Jas says:

    Nice They Might Be Giants reference.

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