Quotations from A Circle of Quiet
by Madeleine L'Engle
- p. 12
I would venture a guess that an artist concentrating wholly unself-consciously, wholly thrown into his work, is incapable of producing pornography. All perversion is self-gratification. In true love, the lover's pleasure comes in giving himself wholly to the loved one. When we try to give ourselves to ourselves, that is not only perversion, it is ultimately suicide.
- p. 14
All of us who need icons -- and I am convinced that all artists do -- also need an iconoclast close by. I'm lucky; my husband is an iconoclast par excellence.
- p. 14
And I have found that the longer we have been married, and the more deeply I love him, the less I "see" him visually. "Close your eyes," I'm in the habit of telling my students of all ages, "and really think about the person you love most in the world. Do you really see him visually? Or don't you see on a much deeper level? It's lots easier to visualize people we don't know very well."
- p. 15
There were two years when illness or accident kept someone in the hospital so constantly that it became a joke: "Oh, not you again!" Friends would telephone, laughing, and ask, "What's happened now?"
- p. 26
And it is also a letter of love to my mother and my children and the friends of my right hand, like Tallis, those who have made me know who I am, who have taught me the meaning of ontology, who, like my husband, bear with me, pick me up when I fall down, literally and figuratively, for I frequently do both; who shove me back into a sense of proportion and a sense of humor. My dears: here: to you.
- p. 26
I have been wholly in joy when I have been in pain -- childbirth is the obvious example. Joy is what has made the pain bearable and, in the end, creative rather than destructive.
- p. 26
To be fifty-one in the world of today and to be able to say, "I am a happy person," may seem irresponsible. But it is not. It is what keeps me capable of making a response. I do not understand it or need to. Meanwhile, I am grateful.
- p. 43
I am finite; in the earthly sense, mortal; with a good mind flawed by naïveté; dependent on my friends; on hope; on joy.
- p. 43
An IQ cannot measure artistic ability. A potential Picasso may be a flop at objective vocabulary or number tests. An IQ does not measure a capacity for love.
- p. 45
A friend of ours, Hugh Bishop of Mirfield, says in one of his books: "Love is not an emotion. It is a policy." Those words have often helped me when all my feelings were unlovely. In a summer household as large as ours I often have to act on those words. I am slowly coming to understand with my heart as well as my head that love is not a feeling. It is a person.
- p. 46
The creative impulse, like love, can be killed, but it cannot be taught. What a teacher or librarian or parent can do, in working with children, is to give the flame enough oxygen so that it can burn. As far as I'm concerned, this providing of oxygen is one of the noblest of all vocations.
- p. 48
But I think we confuse the word sex, in the sense of rutting, with the enjoyment of our senses. Breasts are to be enjoyed, and to name the Grand Tetons thus is wholly appropriate.
- p. 48
We must push our to the moon, the solar system, our galaxy, the galaxies beyond, because they are there, because they are mysterious. We must explore them in the same way that our great-grandparents pushed across the covered wagons, not knowing what lay beyond the mountains; in much the same way that Abraham left the comfort of home and went out into the wilderness.
- p. 49
In one of the rooms was what I thought to be an appalling picture of Jesus, wishy-washy, powerless, plain bad art. The senior nun fixed me with a stern eye and demanded, "Madeleine, what do you think of that?" I swallowed and answered, "I think it's ghastly." To which the Sisters chorused, "Oh, thank God."
- p. 53
If I become subjective about pain, no matter what causes it, then it becomes destructive, not creative. Colette said to a young poet who complained to her that he was unhappy, "Mais personne ne t'a demandé d'être heureux. Travaille!"
- p. 63
... Una, a brillian fifteen-year-old, a born writer who came to Harlem from Panama five years ago, and only then discovered the conflict between the races, asked me out of the blue" "Mrs. Franklin, do you really and truly believe in God with no doubts at all?" "Oh, Una, I really and truly believe in God with all kinds of doubts." But I base my life on this belief.
- p. 99
To refuse to respond is in itself a response.
- p. 99
Those of us who write are responsible for the effect of our books. Those who teach, who suggest books to either children or adults, are responsible for their choices. Like it or not, we either add to the darkness of indifference and out-and-out evil which surround us or we light a candle to see by.
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Last Update: September 21, 2002