Control, Influence, and Madeleine L’Engle

A Wrinkle in Time by Madeleine L'Engle

Image by Dana Durell via Flickr

While I was blogging yesterday about community, church, and worship my Zemanta plugin suggested a possibly related link with a quote from the author, Madeleine L’Engle.  I found part of that quote very interesting:

Artists have always been drawn to the wild, wide elements they cannot control or understand — the sea, mountains, fire. To be an artist means to approach the light, and that means to let go our control, to allow our whole selves to be placed with absolute faith in that which is greater than we are. The novel we site down to write, and the one we end up writing may be very different, just as the Jesus we grasp and the Jesus who grasps us may also differ.

We live under the illusion that if we can acquire complete control, we can understand God, or we can write the great American novel. But the only way we can brush against the hem of the Lord, or hope to be part of the creative process, is to have the courage, the faith, to abandon control.

Personally, I think L’Engle is onto something profound here, and it’s something that is as important in witchcraft as it is in L’Engle’s faith.  That profound truth is that it’s never about control, because control is an illusion.  Whether you’re talking about art, faith, or magic, there is no such thing as absolute control.

But something that L’Engle points out that there is a difference between control — especially absolute control — and influence and the creative process.  It is possibl to not still be in control and still hold considerable influence.  It is possible to be a less-than-perfect co-creator.  In fact, it’s the only thing we can be.  I’d even go so far as to say that it’s the only thing we should be.

Our job is not to gain mastery over everything.  That’s good, because that would be an impossible task.  (And my gods and my faith do not require me to undertake impossible tasks.)  Instead, ours is to look at the reality around us and identify what we can do and do exactly that.  No more.  No less.

Magic does not change that goal.  It is not a means by which we discover all the secrets of the universe and therefore become its master.  It’s merely another tool we can use to manifest our limited and imperfect influence.  And it’s a nice tool to have.

I also like how L’Engle makes that connection between faith and art.  I think it’s a great one, and I think there’s a similar connection between art and magic.  After all, they are both processes of creation, and I think all such processes are ultimately of the same essense.

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