What Madeline Said

Recently, I came across some quotations from Madeline L’Engel, and they seemed to me so useful, and so essentially true, that I thought I would make a list of them here. I read in part to get myself through the difficulties of life, and I’m always grateful for a book that takes me away from them, and at the same time teaches me how to deal with them more effectively. Because life is difficult, isn’t it? If you think it isn’t, you’re very lucky . . . or haven’t been paying attention. That doesn’t mean a book has to be therapeutic. The fairy tales of Hans Christian Anderson have more to teach us, I think, than many self-help books.

I first read L’Engle as a child: A Wrinkle in Time, A Wind at the Door, and A Swiftly Tilting Planet. Those books were infinitely comforting to me. They said, the universe is bigger than you know. Evil exists, but you can fight it. You have allies, the whole of creation is your ally.

So if you’re in need of some wisdom, as I am right now, here are a few quotations from L’Engle. May they help.

“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.”

“A self is not something static, tied up in a pretty parcel and handed to the child, finished and complete. A self is always becoming.”

“When we were children, we used to think that when we were grown-up we would no longer be vulnerable. But to grow up is to accept vulnerability . . . To be alive is to be vulnerable.”

“Some things have to be believed to be seen.”

“Our truest response to the irrationality of the world is to paint or sing or write, for only in such response do we find truth.”

“We are all strangers in a strange land, longing for home, but not quite knowing what or where home is. We glimpse it sometimes in our dreams, or as we turn a corner, and suddenly there is a strange, sweet familiarity that vanishes almost as soon as it comes.”

“Stories make us more alive, more human, more courageous, more loving.”

“Inspiration usually comes during work rather than before it.”

“But unless we are creators we are not fully alive. What do I mean by creators? Not only artists, whose acts of creation are the obvious ones of working with paint of clay or words. Creativity is a way of living life, no matter our vocation or how we earn our living. Creativity is not limited to the arts, or having some kind of important career.”

“We don’t want to feel less when we have finished a book; we want to feel that new possibilities of being have been opened to us. We don’t want to close a book with a sense that life is totally unfair and that there is no light in the darkness; we want to feel that we have been given illumination.”

“I think that all artists, regardless of degree of talent, are a painful, paradoxical combination of certainty and uncertainty, of arrogance and humility, constantly in need of reassurance, and yet with a stubborn streak of faith in their own validity no matter what.”

“It’s a good thing to have all the props pulled out from under us occasionally. It gives us some sense of what is rock under our feet, and what is sand.”

“If it can be verified, we don’t need faith . . . Faith is for that which lies on the other side of reason. Faith is what makes life bearable, with all its tragedies and ambiguities and sudden, startling joys.”

“That’s the way things come clear. All of a sudden. And then you realize how obvious they’ve been all along.”

“Only a fool is not afraid.”

“I do not think that I will ever reach a stage when I will say, ‘This is what I believe. Finished.’ What I believe is alive . . . and open to growth.”

“Stories are like children. They grow in their own way.”

“On the other side of pain, there is still love.”

Madeline L'Engle

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7 Responses to What Madeline Said

  1. Phyllis Holliday says:

    Oh this is so beautiful. I especially like “creativity is a way of living.” I have known many men and women who have that gift. It’s like some magic DNA and when you know them, they teach by being who they are.

  2. andreablythe says:

    Thank you for compiling these lovely quotes.

    I really resonate with this one right now:
    “I think that all artists, regardless of degree of talent, are a painful, paradoxical combination of certainty and uncertainty, of arrogance and humility, constantly in need of reassurance, and yet with a stubborn streak of faith in their own validity no matter what.”

    I’ve only ever read A Wrinkle in Time and I need to get around to reading more of her work.

  3. A Maine Mama says:

    What a wonderful tribute to an amazing author. I had the pleasure of reading the Wrinkle In Time series and fell in love with Meg and Charles Wallace. I read the stories again and again, never tiring of the neighbor ladies who fawned over the siblings. Thank you for sharing these great quotes. I’m thinking it’s time to pull out these stories once again!

  4. Martin says:

    “Some things have to be believed to be seen.”

    Yes, I’ve noticed that from time to time, but it’s all too easy to forget – thank you for reviving that realization in me.

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