Tuesday, November 27, 2007

Madeleine L'Engle

Madeleine L'engle's memorial service is tomorrow, November 28th, the day before her 89th birthday. I wish I were in New York, to experience and witness the gathering of people celebrating Madeleine's life.

Madeleine L’engle died September 6, 2007. I was at work, producing entertainment news, and came across the wire of her obituary with a shock that was a kick to my stomach. My nose swelled with the pressure of sudden tears. I made it to the bathroom and then called my sister Christina, my parents, and my best friend Caroline, the people who would understand that I felt I’d lost a dear friend.

Without her knowing it, Madeleine was like a god-mother to me, a spiritual and creative mentor. The ways she influenced my life are innumerable. Quotes come to mind of books I’ve read so many times that I’ve absorbed them into my being.

Being. Ontological – the word about being, as I learned from L’engle’s Crosswick journals. How important it is to remember our being, as opposed to all the doing we get caught up in.


Tesseract – the possibilities of traveling through time and space. Falling in love with Einsten, expanding my understanding of relativity of time. The creative wonder of Troubling A Star and the theory of the butterfly effect, the discovery that disaster literally means
“separation from the stars.” That we are made of the same stuff as stars, and how beautiful that is, and enhances my understanding of being a part of creation.

The love of words. Words to capture the beauty and pain and chaos and meaning of life. To reclaim the word myth not as a lie or a made-up story, but as story that illuminates truth. The importance of words and language and story. “When language becomes exhausted, our freedom dwindles – we cannot think; we do not recognize danger; injustice strikes us as no more than ‘the way things are.’” (Walking on Water) Madeleine’s writing, both fiction and essay, opened her life to us, the connection I feel is from her willingness to bare her thoughts and soul on paper, to share with as many as were willing to take her in. To share her experience on art and marriage and family.

As a teen I found myself and felt understood in the character of Vicky Austin, struggling with death and beauty and adolescence and the singing of dolphins. Stories that expand my imagination as I learn to embrace the mystery of the cosmos and God. Kything – communication on a different plane than speaking.

Returning to Katherine Forrester’s world in The Small Rain when I need to both escape and go home. Living fully. “How many of us really want life, life more abundant, life which does not promise any fringe benefits or early retirement plans? Life which does not promise the absence of pain, or love which is not vulnerable and open to hurt?” (Walking On Water)

Madeleine told the truth, risking herself before her readers, sharing her life, her insights, her joys and weaknesses so that I felt I knew her as a friend and mentor.

“The ability to be aware of our tiny, yet significant part in the interdependence of all of God’s creation returns, and one’s mind naturally turns to cosmic question, rather than answers.

… But mortal time is part of cosmic time, and during that short walk we are given glimpses of eternity, eternity which was before time began, and will be after time ends. The Word who moved into time for us and lived with us, lives, as Christ, in eternity; so, when we live in Christ, when Christ lives in us we, too, are free from time and alive in eternity.”

- And It was Good – Reflections on Beginnings

“… whereas my Trinitarian God is frequently unreasonable and intellectually offensive – and yet speaks to the whole of me, mind and heart, intellect and intuition, and speaks most clearly to that element in me which accepts the incomprehensible beauty of love: married love, the loves of friendship, to that element in me which participates in music, poetry, painting.”

- The Irrational Season

“Perhaps the morning stars still sing together, only we have forgotten the language, as we have forgotten so much else, limiting Christianity to a mere two thousand years.”

- The Irrational Season

I started reading L’engle at the time I started sensing questions about life, faith, church, religion, friends and family. Rather than provide easy answers, her books reassured me that it was normal, yes, even good, to live with questions and doubts and ambiguities in faith. That God was big enough for my questions.

She introduced me to the mystery inherent in faith, to accept that I will not have all the answers, that much is beyond my human comprehension. Not only to accept that, but to live in it, to dwell in the mystery, dance and revel in the mystery. Acceptable and good to find God speaking in ways that the modern church does not teach – through our own work and creativity and stories, that, if we listen to the truth they try to teach us, will guide us back to creative order, to truth, to, above all else, love.

In Walking on Water L’engle introduced me to Francis Bacon’s idea that, “’If we begin with certainties, we will end in doubt. But if we begin with doubts and bear them patiently, we may end in certainty.’

… Love, not answers.”

That is the one word I can find to describe L’engle’s work: love.

Saturday, November 17, 2007

"The Kosovo Test"

When I was living in Kosovo, there was a mix of excitement and apathy about status and hope for independence. Almost everyone (Albanian) with whom I spoke agreed that they could (or would) not return to the status of a province of Serbia, but most did not exude a sense of ownership over the government, elections, or prospect of independence. Many encouraged me to stay through May of 2006, so that I could celebrate their independence day with them.

Nearly two years later, today Kosovo held a parliamentary election. The Serb population was encouraged to boycott it, and in fact, the turnout was only around 45 to 50%.

The early election talk indicates, and a friend over there is currently IM'ing that the radical party, the PDK, won. The PDK party was established by KLA soldiers after the war, while the LDK party, who had been the majority, was established by former president Rugova, a pacifist leader who died in January of 2006.

It is understood that the majority Albanian government will back independence, and the date draws near when the international talks over Kosovo's status will end, and the US, the EU, and Russia will report to the UN. I've heard and read mixed reports about the anticipation of what will happen at or after that December 10 deadline. There are extremists on both sides who seem to view violence as the only option. There are protesters for peace who view continued dialogue as the only means to resolve the question.

The article below, titled "The Kosovo Test," reminds me of a friend's comments that Kosovo is being used as a test lab. There were warnings, often from Russia, that if Kosovo were granted independence, other provinces would demand the same. It might be easy to feel as if Kosovo's interests were second (or fiftieth) to international interests and demands. It's hard for me to balance the interconnectivity we have now as a world and the needs I hear from my friends living in the divided city of Mitrovica, their daily fears and their common hopes.

It reminds of the the "butterfly effect" -- "the phrase refers to the idea that a butterfly's wings might create tiny changes in the atmosphere that ultimately cause a tornado to appear (or prevent a tornado from appearing)." How the outcome of this small province of 2 million people, smaller than the city in which I live, "would be felt not only in the western Balkans, but within the EU's own borders and beyond." (Ian Bancroft)

"The Kosovo Test"
Decisions taken over Kosovo will help to determine whether Europe's common foreign policy is an aspiration or reality

Talks about the status of Kosovo are scheduled to end on December 10, and the Troika of Russia, the EU and the US will report back to the UN secretary-general, Ban Ki-moon. Several EU members oppose the independence for Kosovo that the US strongly supports, while Russia is promising to veto any imposed settlement. Should Kosovo Albanians unilaterally declare independence on or after December 10, the ramifications would be felt not only in the western Balkans, but within the EU's own borders and beyond.
(from "The Kosovo Test" by Ian Bancroft, The Guardian UK)