Friday, July 16, 2010

Childhood Favorites Post #6: A Spiritual Journey with A Wrinkle in Time

"She keeps thinking she can say things in words," (page 70).  This was one of the first quotations in A Wrinkle in Time that made connect in more than just a literary sense with what Madeleine L'Engle was up to while writing this book. There are a lot of different lenses that I try to teach my students to read literature through, and one of them is by making personal connections.  Mrs. Who's quote I just shared reminded me of the "mystery" that is a part of my personal faith...the fact that there are some things that I cannot physically give name to, either for their beauty, glory, brokenness or depth.  Not long after this quote came many others that echoed my Christian faith and many verses from the old and new testament. That in turn led me to do research on L'Engle.  This is partly a record for me of some of the examples, and an attempt try to pull some of the threads together to think about author's purpose. I'm looking forward to discussing this book as soon as someone would like to volunteer to read it!

One of the planets that the children land on is filled with creatures singing: "Sing unto the Lord a new song, and his praise from the end of the eath, ye that go down to the sea, and all that is therein; the isles, and the inhabitants thereof. Let the wilderness and the cities thereof lift their voice; let the inhabitants of the rock sing, let them shout from the top of the mountains. Let them give glory unto the Lord!" (Isaiah 42:10, page 77).

The universe is fighting the Black Thing and it hovers over the earth, that echoes biblical themes of spiritual warfare and the sense that something is amiss in our world. Mrs. Who and Charles Wallace discuss some of the strategy involved in fighting it:
"All through the universe it's being fought, all through the cosmos, and my, but it's a grand and exciting battle." 
"Who have our fighters been?" 
"Oh, you must know them, dear. And the light shineth in darkness; and the darkness comprehend it not." "Jesus!" Charles Wallave said. 
"Of course!" Mrs. Whatsit said. "Go on, Charles, love. There were others. All your great artists. They've been light for us to see by." 
"Leonardo da Vinci? And Michaelangelo? And Shakespeare, and Bach! And Pasteur and Madame Curie and Einstein! And Schweitzer and Gandhi and Buddha and Beethoven and Rembrandt and Saint Francis!" (page 100-101). What I love here is that credit is given to artists and musicians and scientists that deepen the richness of the human experience and amplify the good and the beautiful, and are a microcosm of truth in themselves, much of what C.S. Lewis discusses in his essay The Weight of Glory.

"We were sent here for something. And we know that all things work together for good to them that love God, to them who are the called according to his purpose,"  (page 190, Romans 8:28).

"Are you fighting the Black Thing?" Meg asked.  
"Oh, yes," Aunt Beast replied. "In doing that we can never relax. We are called according to His purpose, and whom He calls, them He also justifies. Of course we have help, and without help it would be much more difficult." 
"Who helps you?" Meg asked. 
"...Good helps us, the stars help us, perhaps what you would call light helps us, love helps us."  I think that L'Engle's theology here is incredibly refreshing.  In my own life I have enormous frustrations when Christians aren't able to see glimpses of universal goodness and truth in all aspects of the world, and how all people who are doing good are moving the earth toward a better place.

"We look not at the things which are what you would call seen, but at the things which are not see. For the things which are seen are temporal.  But the things which are not seen are eternal," (2 Corinthians 4:18, page 205) To read this in the context of the story, you would see that L'Engle uses her science-fiction imagination to give a name and space to that which we don't know or understand.  Some of Christian theology's biggest mysteries are revealed through that imagination in a way that enables the reader to grasp it in a more tangible way.

"Listen, Meg. Listen well. The foolishness of God is wiser than men; and the weakness of God is stronger than men...but God has chosen the foolish things of the world to confound the wise; and God hath chosen the weak things of the world to confound the things which are mighty..." (page 222, 1 Cor 1:25).

So, here's the bottom line for me as a public school English teacher who read this book and also happens to be a Christian: I love that anyone can read this and get lost in the adventure, be captured by the settings and relate to the inner struggles the characters face.  At the same time, my personal reading experience was enhanced by the way that L'Engle used adventure, story, art and science to amplify many of the truths of my faith and pushed me to think about them more deeply. I think it could also be an interesting angle for an adult reader of a different faith. Either way, reading A Wrinkle in Time was a win-win for me.

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