A physicist loose among the liberal arts

Denethor’s Ring

I touched on the unexpected ability of US and Soviet authorities to avoid destroying the planet in my first post on Denethor. I’m no expert on international relations and military strategy, so it’s gratifying to see that someone who is an expert has done the research and backs up my suspicion that it was, first, the intended consequence of the policies and plans of the leadership and, second, something that J.R.R. Tolkien would not have had any reason to expect.

Bruno Tertrais (who just published a book entitled The Backlash of History or maybe “the revenge”; either way, yikes!) writes in the Washington Quarterly that, “Most strategists of the 1960s would be stunned to hear that as of 2017, there still has yet to be another nuclear use in anger,” and goes on to explain why that wasn’t just coincidence.  It was a consequence of the procedures put in place to control nuclear weapons, and the extreme seriousness with which the leaders of the nuclear-armed countries took their jobs.

So, as Stephen Winter and I ended up agreeing, Denethor was right all along.


The Elevation of Master Samwise


My greatest wonder

1 Comment

  1. I think that I will be thinking about this for some time to come!
    It seems to me that there comes a point where a particular form of consciousness becomes at best redundant and at worst destructive. You gave me a list of those who defend territory in LOTR on my blog post about Sam Gamgee’s resistance to the influence of the Ring. I rather think that you could add Denethor to the list. What strikes me is that for the most part it is the wise thing to do. But there comes a point where it becomes necessary to go beyond such wisdom. In LOTR that point is exemplified in the choice to take the fight to the Black Gate, a decision that is crazy in the terms of received wisdom as Gandalf points out in the final debate, but the only way to give Frodo and Sam a glimmer of a chance. I like the way that Peter Jackson shows the camp fires of the orcs going out as they are all moved away from the plain of Mordor to the Morannon. The tactic is having some effect.
    Surely in our own lives this is expressed in a willingness to give something up, a level of consciousness that we have nurtured for a long time, in order to gain something greater. An example might be to embrace a level of insecurity that at one time we might have regarded as intolerable and so discover an inner freedom that is transformative. I once had the pleasure of interviewing a man who resigned his position as a Vice President of a major international corporation in order to set up and devote himself to a youth work project in his home town. I did so because I had met him before the decision to resign and felt I was meeting a lifeless shell. A year later I met him after the resignation and was struck by the transformation. His reduction in income was considerable. His increase in contentment even greater.
    What would a transformed Denethor look like?

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