Friendship: I'm a fan of Tolkien...

A photo of my dad and a friend taken using the Korean War. — Fr. Robert Bengry
I found this photo of my dad (right) and a friend of his taking just after the Korean War in the 1950s. My dad didn't speak much about his experience over there but it was one hell of a war. My dad (who was actually my step-dad) raised me as his own son and treated me so well. He gave me his military medals when I was a lad and they are among my most prized possessions. R. Bengry

I, like many, am a fan of J.R.R. Tolkien — the world he imagined and wrote of has always fascinated me. He created fifteen or so artificial languages that he used for his artistic endeavours but what fascinates me more so are the writing systems he created. I believe there were nine or ten of them. 
    When I was a boy, I designed a language (with an associated writing system) and compelled my sister to speak it! But alas, I am not enough of a linguist to do a good job of constructed languages and gave that up rather early. But as far as writing systems and typography are concerned, I do find that aspect an interesting hobby. My mother gave me an original edition of George Bernard Shaw’s effort, which I still cherish.
    My own most useable writing system (designed by me some years ago) found inspiration in Tolkien’s Gondolic and Cirth letters along with the typical Anglo-Saxon letter forms used perhaps as early as the fifth century until the eleventh. My system has a wide range of forms that make it possible to type set multiple Western languages, which I do from time to time.    
    Of course what I like about Tolkien’s writing is much more than made up languages and writing systems: its his themes on brotherhood; on friendship appeal to me.
    We live in a very sad time that does not seem to know much about friendship or true brotherhood and I believe a rediscovery of friendship, especially masculine friendships, will help us through. 
    It was almost a year ago now that I had the opportunity to travel to the Holy Land (a kind benefactor made it possible). One of the things that sticks with me, from time spent praying at the Sea of Galilee, is what an adventure the Twelve signed up for. ‘Leave everything and let’s wander around!’ And wander they did, here and there.
    I can imagine the friendship and the deep sense of brotherhood the Twelve had for each other as they did their work. I can imagine the masculine friendships that came together and would not be broken; surely tried by Judas’ betrayal and by the death of Christ, but fully cemented by the time the Lord Ascended into heaven. 
     I recall how the Lord sent His friends out two-by-two. 
     What does a culture, mediated through facebook, youtube, and blogs, have to tell us about friendship? Not much as it turns out.
    How many friends do you actually have? How many love you for you? 
    And, as the Newman quote above suggests, if you don’t have any best friends to love as Christian brothers/sisters, then how are you practiced loving other people? People you don’t know?
     Everyone needs a friend who truly knows and understands them. I hope you have at least one such person in your life. If you don’t, get off the computer and find one in real life. — Fr. Robert Bengry


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The photograph: From the Bengry collection. My step-dad in the 1950s. Copyright 2019. All Rights Reserved.