‘Joy’ isn’t a word that gets used much in a straight-faced way any more. We can conceive of ‘pleasure’ easily enough, but I wonder if we’re impaired in our ability to conceive of joy.
I’ve been reading The Lord of the Rings to my kids recently – it’s the first time I’ve read it – and I’ve been quite struck by the character of Tom Bombadil. He strikes me as a sort of ideal human – joyfully discharging his dominion over creation, in harmony with nature. I was intrigued, then, when I heard that The Fellowship of the Ring was on TV – I couldn’t remember his presence in the movie, so was curious to see how he was portrayed. The answer? He was left out. Maybe he’s in an extended version, but he wasn’t in the regular version at all.
It reminded me of the recent film version of Prince Caspian. In the book – which I had also read to my kids – there is a parallel between the joyful advance of Aslan’s kingdom in the feasting led by Bacchus, and the sombreness of the battle against the kingdom’s opponents. But in the movie, the whole ‘joyful feasting’ is left out, and is replaced with in-fighting between Caspian, Peter, and Edmund as they battle opponents. It left Aslan’s kingdom rather one-sided and, to be honest, boring.
This is a cynical century, and I feel all too at home here. I’m too mystified by the summons to ‘rejoice in the Lord always.’ Perhaps a little more time in Tolkien and Lewis might do me good!