Snippets: A Circle of Quiet

Over a year ago, I stumbled on Madeleine L’Engle’s “A Circle of Quiet” in the basement of a used bookstore in Chicago. It’s something of a journal, and it appealed to me because sometimes, I don’t want story. I just want a person who will talk to me, say good and interesting things, make me think and feel alive.

It shouldn’t surprise that a lovely story teller has many other wonderful thoughts, about writing, about growth, about selfhood, about love. And I think the most moving part is that for everything I underline, thinking “She is so wise,” there is another that I underline, thinking “Wow, I have that flaw, too.” She’s honest, accessible, and lives with insight and a sense of humor. What’s not to love?

In lieu of underlining the crap out of my copy, I’m going to keep some of my favorite bits here. I fully intend to add more as I keep reading, and who knows, maybe I’ll even do it.

The moment that humility becomes self-conscious, it becomes hubris. One cannot be humble and aware of oneself at the same time. Therefore, the act of creating–painting a picture, singing a song, writing a story–is a humble act? This was a new thought to me. Humility is throwing oneself away in complete concentration on something or someone else.

If I thought I had to say it better than anybody else, I’d never start. Better or worse is immaterial. The thing is that it has to be said, by me. We each have to say it, to say it in our own way. Not of our own will, but as it comes out through us. Good or bad, great or little: that isn’t what human creation is about. It is that we have to try.

Mostly, no matter how inadequate my playing, the music is all that matters: I am outside time, outside self, in play, in joy. When we can play with the unself-conscious concentration of a child, this is: art: prayer: love.


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