The Family

The Family

Thursday, July 25, 2013

A Circle of Quiet

I was disappointed during the first 50 or so pages. I expected to be wowed, calmed and transformed. Instead, I was just trying to keep up with her train of thought.

"A Circle of Quiet" is a memoir by Madeleine L'Engle, wife, mother and famous author of many children's books.

Once I slowed down - I would describe myself as a fairly fast reader - I came to realize how much I think like the author. She's incredibly opinionated and idealistic. Two traits that can be both a blessing and a curse.

I erroneously presumed this was going to be more about a young mom finding her way during the early years of motherhood. It's more about a writer trying to find her way through motherhood AND life.

The book was first published in 1971. It spans mostly through the decades of the 50s and 60s. She died in 2007.

She was a Christian with doubts. That's something refreshing to hear because I'm not sure that many of us don't have doubts. It's just most of us are too afraid to face them or admit it to anyone else, let alone another Christian.
She was a mother struggling to be a writer and a writer struggling to be a mother. She accepted the many paradoxes of life. It amazes me that many of the things she wrote about then, in terms of the struggles of her time, are the exact things many of us struggle with today. She worried about pollution, disease, the disconnect between many parents and children - why the two generations couldn't talk or connect.

She advocated reading the great writers, both in children's and adult literature, and to read them at all ages.

Here she is in her own words. As you can guess, I picked the passages that most resonated with me.

"How do we teach a child - our own, or those in a classroom - to have compassion: to allow people to be different; to understand that like is not equal; to experiment; to laugh; to love; to accept the fact that the  most important questions a human being can ask do not have - or need - answers."

"But the adolescents today are concerned over a general lack of memory in their parents and teachers, and it is this forgetfulness of what it is like to be twelve, or seventeen, or twenty-one, that is largely responsible for the famous generation gap. The young look at the amnesiac over-thirties and say, 'We look at the adults around us, and if this is what it means to be grownup, then we say, No! We don't ever want to be like most of the adults we see.'"
"What about your relations with the rest of the world? It's all right in the very beginning for you to be the only two people in the world, but after that your ability to love should become greater and greater. If you find that you love lots more people than you ever did before, then I think that you can trust this love. If you find that you need to be exclusive, that you don't like being around other people, then I think that something may be wrong. This doesn't mean that two people who love each other don't need time alone. Two people in the first glory of new love must have great waves of time in which to discover each other. But there is a kind of exclusiveness in some loves, a kind of inturning, which augurs trouble to come."

"What about the mothers who loathe the thought of getting old, who think it a disgrace to look or act their age, as though becoming mature were something to be ashamed of instead of rejoiced in, mothers who pride themselves on dressing like their teenage daughters, and consider it a compliment when people say they look like sisters. Perhaps the daughter doesn't want a sister; perhaps she wants a mother."
 Amen on that one Mrs. L'Engle.

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