“Speaking of ways, by the way, there is such thing as a tesseract.”
So goes my favorite quote from what’s probably my favorite book. At least, it’s the book that opened up to me a world that has become a cornerstone of my life – “A Wrinkle in Time” by Madeleine L’Engle.
It might have been enough that it was a science fiction book with a quirky, misfit, teen girl with glasses as the heroine. It might have been enough that it is full of great quotes. It might have been enough that its imagery takes your mind from a lovely house in New England to the infinite beauty of space, a terrifying dystopia, and a realistic 2D reality.
But what took it all over the edge is its urgent sense of purpose – a purpose that translated perfectly into my reality, as well. Trite as it sounds, that purpose is both simple and infinitely complex: to stand up for what’s right.
Madeleine L’Engle and CS Lewis are my two favorite authors because they explain how to stand up for what’s right in ways far more interesting that what you usually hear. They are both Christian writers so they do come from a belief in God–but rather than binding and choking their ideas, their belief frees them. There are no dry old dogmatic lessons here. In this book and the others in her “Time Quintet,” L’Engle shows how marvelous, how fantastic, how strange and how vast things can be when put right.
“Speaking of ways, by the way, there is such thing as a tesseract,” is the first time the protagonist Meg perceives that revelation. The bizarre Mrs. Whatsit, seemingly no one of consequence, tells her that her missing father’s science experiment had merit. A tesseract, or a wrinkle in time as a method of travel, does exist, and with that a door opens to a world of amazing possibilities – for Meg and for me.
L’Engle also shows how powerful and monstrous the evil can be, translated into characters and settings that fit our mentality now–and how very crucial, how vital it is to fight it. And how do we do that? The answer comes from the book but may actually be best summed up by the tag line from the new Disney movie adaptation: Be a Warrior.
When Meg finds it is up to her to save her father and in so doing, fight the powers of darkness, Mrs. Whatsit and two other witch friends tell her she must be a warrior, or as it is expressed in the book:
“Itt iss Eevill…”
“What is going to happen?”
“Wee wwill cconnttinnue tto ffightt!”…
“And we’re not alone, you know, children,” came Mrs.Whatsit, the comforter. “…some of the best fighters have come from your own planet…”
“Who have our fighters been?” Calvin asked.
“Oh, you must know them, dear,” Mrs.Whatsit said. Mrs.Who’s spectacles shone out at them triumphantly.
“And the light shineth in the darkness; and the darkness comprehended it not.”
Our warriors include our philosophers, our diplomats, and anyone who acts to shine the light. And so of course must we be warriors, especially in these times. If there is anything I’ve learned lately, it is that we cannot at any point take goodness for granted. There will always be those out there willing to trample on others’ rights for personal gain. There will always be a need for warriors, and no one can afford to sit out the fight.
So how do we fight? Maybe in some worlds with a light saber, maybe in others with other weapons. But in “A Wrinkle in Time” the witches arm Meg with far more basic tools: her glasses, good words, and love. It’s not easy but Meg wins in the end with bravery, with insight, and yes, as silly as it sounds, with her love.
As I understand it, this powerful love is allowing yourself to be open to the other and accepting the good there – even if you don’t understand it. For Meg, that’s being open to Mrs. Whatsit and then seeing her as a glorious creature, once a star. Being open to her little brother Charles and accepting him, flaws and all. Being open to her friend Calvin and his overtures of friendship, and being open to the new perspective of the sightless beasts who offer her care in her most awful moments.
So too we can we be open to the other. When we are in Warrior I pose, balanced with one leg in front of the other and arms raised, we are opening ourselves up physically. We can open ourselves up to new ideas, new perspectives, new people, new places – and in so doing, accept their help and their insight.
Ironically, it is in this open, precarious posture, that we are armed with what we need. “A Wrinkle in Time” armed me with sympathy for a star, insight without sight, and a new way of knowing what’s right and how to fight for it.
In these difficult times now and in those that are to come, I’m going to adjust my glasses, raise my arms to the sky, and be a warrior.
A beautiful review of a great book. You have pinpointed an essential component of a brave life: openness. At its best, faith embodies openness. The hospitality of Jesus Christ and many of his faithful followers is marked by openness. Sadly, this is often lacking in the contemporary Church.
Hi Tony, thank you so much! I completely agree. Christians should be the poster children for being open and understanding – not the other way around.