Madeleine L’Engle—one of my most favorite authors of all time—died of natural causes earlier this week. Although I was momentarily sad and shocked when I heard the announcement on NPR, it almost seems an insult to lament the loss. She lived a long, meaningful, creative life and died peacefully. What more could a person ask for?
I am simply going to take this moment instead to remember and celebrate her life and works.
I always found her novels to be rather insightful into the condition of humanity. One of my favorite quotes (also listed on my facebook profile) is uttered by Aunt Beast in A Wrinkle in Time: “We do not know what things look like, as you say,” the beast said. “We know what things are like. It must be a very limiting thing, this seeing.”
In A Wind in the Door, Blajeny constantly asks Meg “What is real?” There is a deep human need to look beyond empirical evidence, even beyond reason itself at times to discover what is reality. Even Blaise Pascal once said, “The heart has its reasons, whereof reason knows nothing.”
And of course, love has always been a main theme running throughout L’Engle’s novels, with love ultimately overpowering and overshadowing evil.
I always loved the sense of interconnectedness that the whole universe had in L’Engle’s novels, from the galaxies of stars burning light years away, to the well-being of our mitochondria at the cellular level. The battle between good and evil finds no corner of the universe untouched or unaffected. In A Swiftly Tilting Planet, a tribal boy, a young Puritan settler, a Civil War vet, a mad modern-day South American dictator, are all deeply connected by free will, choosing light over darkness, good over evil. And although the immediate effect of such decisions seems monumental only to the one making the decisions, the ramifications of each choice ultimately have an effect on the fate of humanity. The consequence of each young man’s choice unquestionably “echoes in eternity.”
L’Engle puts these reluctant heroes in these fantastic, otherworldly experiences, and seems to declare that we are all caught up in something larger than ourselves and there is simply no escaping it. The question is not whether or not we’re a part of the story—we most definitely are—but rather how we choose to participate in it.