One of my favorite authors, Madeleine L’Engle’s, works are in demand again with the release of A Wrinkle in Time…a popular children’s book turned into a movie. She used the “story as a redemptive act” about her own father’s death that occurred when she was only 17.
Madeleine writes in her book (The Rock that is Higher) “His lungs were irrevocably damaged by mustard gas in WWI. He lived with physical pain and the pain of being unable to do the work he loved, traveling all over the world as a foreign correspondent. When his last attack of pneumonia finally killed him, I was stunned, but somehow not surprised.”
Madeleine described the sadness in her father’s eyes when he put her on the train from Jacksonville to Charleston to finish her senior year at Ashley Hall. In her journal the night of the news of her father’s death…stunned..she wrote simply…”Father died.” But it was his death that started her on a new path…using fairy tales and science fantasy to explore her grief for a father she loved but didn’t get to fully know as an adult, herself.
“In fairy tales and myths there are doors that should not be open, boxes that must remain closed. And human curiosity being what it is, we open the doors and open the boxes, like Pandora; we eat the forbidden fruit, like Eve. Now we have to live in a world that is irrevocably changed by what was in those secret rooms and what has escaped from the mysterious closed boxes and by the loneliness that came from being forever expelled from the Garden.”
Madeleine reminds us that it has only been in recent times that fairy tales, fantasy, and myths have been thought of being exclusively for children. Originally they were not written for children at all. In fact when she wrote A Wrinkle in Time publishers thought the reading and content were too difficult for children. But children proved them wrong.
Madeleine’s comment to this criticism still makes me smile:
“You have to write the book that wants to be written. And if the book will be too difficult for grown-ups, then you write it for children.”
It is easy to underestimate the ability of children to understand complex concepts and want to protect them. By doing this, we rob them of the opportunity to receive new information, process it and better understand the world around them—and their own imaginations.
L’Engle said that it was adults who thought children would be afraid of the Dark Thing in A Wrinkle in Time, not children. If we are writing for younger audiences, our responsibility is to write honestly and not shy away from more advanced ideas if those are part of the story we want to tell. Children will appreciate it.
L’Engle recognized that fairy tales prepare adolescents for the inevitable question “Who Am I?” Fairy tales assure us we are all on a special quest…we do not know the entire nature of the quest, nor where it is going to take us…for that we turn to faith in our Creator.
The great Sufi master Nasrudin went into a small store and said to the shopkeeper, “Have you seen me before?” “No, never,” replied the shopkeeper. “Then how do you know it is me?” the Sufi master demanded.
*It was here I stopped in my reading yesterday and thought to myself “How does anyone really know it is me?” “Sometimes I have a hard enough time figuring that question out myself.” Don’t we only show what we want to with the people around us? Does anyone really know who we are deep deep down inside ourselves?”
Our relationship with Him should be wide open…no hidden boxes or doors…just ‘face to face’ daily encounters that go like this “Good morning God (my eternal prince charming)…Thanks for knowing who I am, really am, and still loving me unconditionally.”
(When I cuddle Eloise each week I wonder what all is going on in her mind as she watches the world come into focus a little more each time. L’Engle says “In folklore it is usually accepted that infants in their cradles understand the language of angels and fairies. What finally eliminates them from our daily lives, tragically, is time.”)
“Today is my favorite day” Winnie the Pooh
*Ken Nerburn’s book, Small Graces, arrived yesterday and I read it last night. It is a small, thin book and one I could not put down…I have never underlined and highlighted a book as much as I did his book. Profound…at least to me… in his amazing ability to take complex spiritual concepts and turn them into something so basic, clear, and concise it leaves the reader in awe.
In fact…I discovered something in it that made me stop reading and start remembering. Nerburn writes:“For though we may not live a holy life, we live in a world alive with holy moments. We need only take the time to bring these moments into the light.”
Bingo…my episode Sunday morning with the scripture message on the new church sign, ‘Let there be light’ followed by the sun immediately breaking through the morning clouds to shine down upon me through the branches and Spanish moss draped over the old oak tree. It was a holy moment …because it brought the moment, the message, into the light.
A wonderful God Wink. Thank you God!