In honor of International Women’s Day, I’d like to share with you an excerpt from a book (Two-Part Invention) by one of my favorite women writers, Madeleine L’Engle. Here, she is sharing an extensive quote from an unknown source that she recorded in a journal during her first year of marriage when she was 27, 28. It is illustrative of the sort of deep, internal growth ML’E was intent upon as a young woman – and indeed, as far as one can tell from her works, not only as a young woman, but all throughout her life:
And I copied out these unidentified words: ‘In the face of such shape and weight of present misfortune, the voice of the individual artist may seem perhaps of no more consequence than the whirring of a cricket in the grass, but the arts do live continuously, and they live literally by faith; their names and their shapes and their uses and their basic meanings survive unchanged in all that matters through times of interruption, diminishment, neglect; they outlive governments and creeds and societies, even the very civilizations that produced them. They cannot be destroyed altogether because they represent the substance of faith, and the only reality. They are what we find when the ruins are cleared away. And even the smallest and most incomplete offering at this time can be a proud act in defense of that faith.’
In all ways I was struggling to articulate reality.
Still a few years younger than L’Engle was when she first copied down these words, I, too, in many (if not quite all) ways, find myself “struggling to articulate reality” on a near-daily basis. This struggle, as I understand it, includes trying to get a better sense of myself, and of this beautiful, messy world we’ve been given, and to better intuit (if not fully cognitively understand) the place of humans in the world, and my own place in it, in particular.
I am always returning to such questions. I find myself endlessly drawn to articulations of reality – particularly literary ones.
(And I think that this is the strongest driving force behind the existence of this blog. Tapping is, for me for this time, one of the main tools I am using to try and get a better grasp on reality, and its meaning. Always grasping. Often in the dark – though He is not far from each one of us…as per Acts 17:26-27.)
As I see it, my chief work at this time lies in becoming. I am starting to suspect that perhaps I will forever be a student, in some fashion or another, if not formally – which is certainly not an unwelcome thought. And along with this perpetual student-hood, perhaps becoming will always be my chief work – as an individual person, and as a member of the larger human race. And I don’t think it’s just me. Biblical language comes to mind, words such as My little children, for whom I labor in birth again until Christ is formed in you, (a great feminine image if there ever was one!) and But we all…are being transformed into the same image [of Christ] from glory to glory, and with these words, the concept of the life-long work of becoming deepens in significance for me.
Madeleine L’Engle again, later on in her life, now many years past 27:
I have a great deal left to learn, and I believe that God’s love will give me continuing opportunities for learning. And in this learning we will become truer to God’s image in us.
Same here, dear Madeleine. Same here. I have a very great deal left to learn. But I’ve already learned at least a little bit, and most of it, I think, from writers and thinkers like you, and also from teachers who have helped me to understand the language of books, poets, and writers better – many of them women. For all that you, and others like you – both women and men – have already taught me, and for all that I (hopefully!) have yet to learn from you, Madeleine L’Engle: Thank you.
Happy International Women’s Day, World.
And to all the other women out there – I am deeply, deeply glad, and count myself truly privileged, to be one of you. Womanhood is a great gift. Women: you are incredible, and you make me so proud.
With Much love, Your Sister,