Books to Consider series note: To avoid spoilers and make these reviews unique, I will include a short comment about each book, and one or seven of my favorite quotes from the book.
A Circle of Quiet, by Madeleine L'Engle
This is a lovely, rambling book, mostly made up of the author's journals. Although it was published in 1973, her comments and insights right startlingly true for today's life and culture as well. I marked about 50 passages that I loved, but pared it down a bit for this post.
From the book:
(This first quote could be straight from my own heart.)
. . . [Two] people whose opinion I respect told me that the word "christian" would turn people off. This certainly says something about the state of Christianity today. I wouldn't mind if being a Christian were accepted as being the dangerous thing which it is; I wouldn't mind if, when a group of Christians meet for bread and wine, we might well be interrupted and jailed for subversive activities; I wouldn't mind if, once again, we were being thrown to the lions. I do mind, desperately, that the word "Christian" means for so many people smugness, and piosity, and holier-than-thouness. Who, today, can recognize a Christian because of 'how those Christians love one another?"
We are a generation which is crying loudly to tear down all structure in order to find freedom, and discovering, when order is demolished, that instead of freedom we have death.
So I know, with a sense of responsibility that hits me with a cold fist in the pit of my stomach, that what I am is going to make more difference to my own children and those I talk to and teach than anything I tell them.
The minute we begin to think we have all the answers, we forget the questions.
No long-term marriage is made easily, and there have been times when I've been so angry or so hurt that I thought my love would never recover. And then, in the midst of near despair, something has happened beneath the surface. A bright little flashing fish of hope has flicked silver fins and the water is bright and suddenly I am returned to a state of love again — till next time. I've learned that there will always be a next time, and that I will submerge in darkness and misery, but that I won't stay submerged. And each time something has been learned under the waters; something has been gained; and a new kind of love has grown. The best I can ask for is that this love, which has been built on countless failures, will continue to grow. I can say no more than that this is mystery, and gift, and that somehow or other, through grace, our failures can be redeemed and blessed.
The more limited our language is, the more limited we are; the more limited the literature we give to our children, the more limited their capacity to respond, and therefore, in turn, to create. The more our vocabulary is controlled, the less we will be able to think for ourselves. We do think in words, and the fewer words we know, the more restricted our thoughts.
Bird by Bird: Some Instructions on Writing and Life, Anne Lamott
I loved this book. It reminded me of how much I enjoy Lamott's honest, self-deprecating, hopeful, beauty-seeking, voice so very much. It stirred my writer's soul and just generally made me happy.
Almost all good writing begins with terrible first efforts. You need to start somewhere.
Lighthouses don’t go running all over an island looking for boats to save; they just stand there shining.
Perfectionism is the voice of the oppressor, the enemy of the people. It will keep you cramped and insane your whole life, and it is the main obstacle between you and a shitty first draft. I think perfectionism is based on the obsessive belief that if you run carefully enough, hitting each stepping-stone just right, you won't have to die. The truth is that you will die anyway and that a lot of people who aren't even looking at their feet are going to do a whole lot better than you, and have a lot more fun while they're doing it.
You get your intuition back when you make space for it, when you stop the chattering of the rational mind. The rational mind doesn't nourish you. You assume that it gives you the truth, because the rational mind is the golden calf that this culture worships, but this is not true. Rationality squeezes out much that is rich and juicy and fascinating.
Writing and reading decrease our sense of isolation. They deepen and widen and expand our sense of life: they feed the soul. When writers make us shake our heads with the exactness of their prose and their truths, and even make us laugh about ourselves or life, our buoyancy is restored. We are given a shot at dancing with, or at least clapping along with, the absurdity of life, instead of being squashed by it over and over again. It's like singing on a boat during a terrible storm at sea. You can't stop the raging storm, but singing can change the hearts and spirits of the people who are together on that ship.
Writing can be a pretty desperate endeavor, because it is about some of our deepest needs: our need to be visible, to be heard, our need to make sense of our lives, to wake up and grow and belong. It is no wonder if we sometimes tend to take ourselves perhaps a bit too seriously.
Other posts in this series:
Free Range Kids
Books to Consider: May 2013 (Seasons of a Mother's Heart, First Light: A.D. Chronicles)
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