Friday, September 07, 2007

Sad News: Madeleine L'Engle dead at 88

I was deeply saddened today to learn that Madeleine L'Engle passed away yesterday . She was one of those authors I read as a child and enjoyed as only a child can. I began rereading her fiction several summers ago and loved them in an entirely new way. Then I began delving into her non-fiction, starting with A Circle of Quiet. It's a semi-autobiographical recounting of her life, interspersed with her deep insights and perspectives.

The thing I appreciated most about L'Engle was her childlike awe and humility. She never confessed to know or understand everything; in fact she was not afraid to voice her doubts. I think that's pretty amazing in this world where what we know (or think we know) seems to hold rank over everything else.

I recently shared this quotation from A Circle of Quiet with someone. I'm pretty sure it's been one of the most influential things I've ever read. I can't say it has changed me, but rather that it's changing me.

"When we are *self*-conscious, we cannot be wholly aware; we must throw ourselves out first. This throwing ourselves away is the act of creativity. So, when we wholly concentrate, like a child in play, or an artist at work, then we share in the act of creating. We not only escape time, we also escape our self-conscious selves. The Greeks had a word for ultimate self-consciousness which I find illuminating: *hubris*: pride: pride in the sense of putting oneself in the center of the universe. The strange and terrible thing is that this kind of total self-consciousness invariably ends in self-annihilation...

I was timid about putting forth most of these thoughts, but this kind of timidity is itself a form of pride. The moment that humility becomes self-conscious, it becomes hubris. One cannot be humble and aware of oneself at the same time. Therefore, the act of creating—painting a picture, singing a song, writing a story—is a humble act? This was a new thought to me. Humility is throwing oneself away in complete concentration on something or someone else.". ...that special kind of creative courage which is unself-conscious: the moment you wonder whether or not you can do it, you can't."

Rest in peace, Madeleine L'Engle.