Madeline L’Engle has always been there for me. Her space/time fantasies, her memoirs, and her book on faith and art—have been resources for me throughout my life. If I decide to be a Christian of any kind, she is the sort I would want to be. She was frank about her doubts and frustrations, and even in old age spared no fire for what she called the “fundalets.”
I got to meet her once. I waited in a line, and by the time I got to the front she looked really tired. Last week I was organizing some stuff and came across a 3” by 5” card of the notes I took from her talk.
The first thing on my card is the maxim she branded onto my mind that day. “We owe our readers the best book we can possibly write.” Maybe it’s self-evident. L’Engle’s son-in-law once remarked that she tended to state the obvious as if it were a profound insight. But sometimes the obvious must be stated. (Rebecca West said “The tragedy of man is that he cannot learn complex truths, and forgets simple ones.”)
According to my 3” by 5” card, L’Engle also said:
“Fairy tale is the blueprint of the human soul.”
“Anthropomorphism helps us to know ourselves.”
“Intellect and intuition must work together.”
“Stay a child forever and grow up.”
And, she criticized “people who think truth and fact are the same thing,” saying:
“Truth can transcend fact."
L’Engle understood understood how to live a good life, and how to create community for herself. She understood that relationships are horribly difficult but worth it. She understood that science and faith are not naturally at war, until we force them to be. These things I grasp. But there are things L’Engle understood about God that I am not able to grasp—things that my mentor, Obi-Wan-- the gay Christian sage who has done so much for me—also understands. I don’t know how to resolve faith and doubt, how to allow God to be mysterious. I am determined to square the divine with reason, and if I can’t, I don’t think I can have God at all. I’d like to be a mystic, but I am still a modern.
Because my dialog with Madeline L’Engle is open ended, I don’t feel as though she's lost to me.