I am a Christian, and indeed a Roman Catholic, so that I do not expect ‘history’ to be anything but a ‘long defeat’ — though it contains (and in a legend may contain more clearly and movingly) some samples or glimpses of final victory.
J.R.R. Tolkien, the author of The Lord of the Rings, wrote the above in a letter to a lady in which he discussed Frodo’s attitude towards the weapons and war. He was expressing his own skepticism about how much was possible to accomplish for the good of man through the force of arms. In so doing he quoted a remark of Galadriel about Gandalf and how for many ages they had together “fought the long defeat.”
History often appears to be a long defeat and under its burden we may break, or we may just live for the day and damn the consequences, or we may fight like hell in spite of it all. In any case, the “long defeat” itself may contain “the glimpse of victory” in spite of the fact that no such victory seems to be written into the historical circumstances we experience. Continue reading