Friday, August 21, 2015

Colbert quoting Tolkien is awesome

I know that adjective at the end of the blog post title deserves to be retired, but it fits better in this context than it would in many others.

Writer and comedian Stephen Colbert talked about the nature of suffering with a writer from GQ magazine (how's that for an unexpected sentence?). He made such an impression on his interviewer that the resulting cover story is surprisingly full of wisdom about how "our lives are compendiums of loss and change and what we make of it."

"Tragedy is sacred," Colbert suggests; "People's suffering is sacred."

When a man paraphrases the Incarnation that way, you listen -- or I listen, anyway. And paraphrasing the Incarnation is exactly what Colbert was doing (as he might have said, had interviewer Joel Lovell been as steeped in Catholic theology as Colbert himself is).

Do read the article to find out why Colbert says, "I love the thing that I most wish had not happened."

The benevolent spirit of J.R.R. Tolkien shows up to shed light on that statement when Colbert quotes from a letter that Tolkien wrote to a priest, because that letter contains at least one profound rhetorical question: "What punishments of God are not gifts?"

By "of God," Tolkien meant "from God." As for the question itself and the man passing it on -- Wow!

Even the timeline and sequence involved deserves grateful scrutiny: This is a literary triple play I hadn't seen coming -- Tolkien to Colbert to GQ (!). Wow again.

I can't remember the last time I read an essay that made me want to shake the hands of both interviewer and interviewee, but this piece in GQ deserves a round of loud huzzahs, and then (also, wonderfully) quiet contemplation.


  1. I finally read the original piece. That was a side of Stephen Colbert I didn't expect. I really wish I could stay up late enough to watch him when his show starts. Did you see the Eminem interview? It was hilarious. That guy is like the best of Dick Cavett, Bob Newhart and the guys who did South Park all rolled up in one.