If I still lived in New York, and if I could choose any local character to casually bump up against, these days it would be Madeleine L’Engle.
A dear friend recently mailed me an entirely unexpected package (the best kind!) with L’Engle’s Walking on Water: Reflections on Faith and Art wrapped up inside. The book is loaded – so rich I’m having to keep a close watch on my portions, consuming just a little at each sitting, chewing lots and digesting slowly.
I am loving listening to her writings, and would delight to hear her speak. Not so much the addressing-the-auditorium-at-an-artists’-convention type of speech, but more the chatting-in-a-corner-deli-line-on-a-serene-Sunday-morning type. Although, with her intentionally authentic and unpretentious way of being, I doubt the two talks would be all that different.
L’Engle is igniting my imagination in fresh ways and encouraging me to think more regularly in the wonder-filled language of “what if.” Early in the book, she discusses those who have influenced her view of creativity and shares a thought from Aristotle that struck her during her college days and has shaped her ever since: That which is impossible and probable is much better than that which is possible and improbable.
Impossible. Does this word reference real limits, or instead merely describe a state that doesn’t actually exist? For L’Engle, a woman who writes of tesseract traveling through time-wrinkled wormholes, the meaning of impossible is mysterious indeed. Later in the book she reflects on Aristotle’s statement saying,
If the artist can make it probable, we can accept the impossible—impossible in man’s terms, that is. Aristotle, not knowing the New Testament, could not add, “With man it is impossible; but with God all things are possible.“
The artist at work is less bound by time and space than in ordinary life. But we should be less restricted in ordinary life than we are. We are not supposed to be limited and trapped. As a child it did not seem strange to me that Jesus was able to talk face to face with Moses and Elijah, the centuries between them making no difference.
L’Engle’s bold, imaginative faith has inspired me to further embrace one of my own favorite exchanges from Lewis Caroll’s Alice in Wonderland:
“I can’t believe that!” said Alice.
“Can’t you?” the queen said in a pitying tone. “Try again, draw a long breath, and shut your eyes.”
Alice laughed. “There’s no use trying,” she said. “One can’t believe impossible things.”
“I dare say you haven’t had much practice,” said the queen. “When I was your age, I always did it for half an hour a day. Why, sometimes I’ve believed as many as six impossible things before breakfast.”
Each morning my little moleskin journal now receives six far-fetched dreams, hopes, or prayers, recorded as I take my first bites of the day. When I look down at those written words a part of me mocks, “No way. Never. It couldn’t be.” And another part answers back, “What if? Why not? Do you remember who’s your God?” Faith like the tiniest mustard seed.
Now to him who is able to do immeasurably more than all we ask or imagine, according to his power that is at work within us, to him be glory in the church and in Christ Jesus throughout all generations, for ever and ever! Amen. (Ephesians 3:20-21)
Do you think it’s possible?