Thursday, September 6 saw the loss of two artists: Luciano Pavarotti, tenor, and Madeline L'Engle, author.
I've read most of L'Engle's novels, and many of them more than once. From middle school through college I often revisited the Murrys, the O'Keefes, and the Austins. My family read The 24 Days Before Christmas every year during Advent, and my love for that book led me to read and enjoy many more of L'Engle's works. I loved Vicky and Meg and I believe that most adolescent girls must feel a sense of common ground with these characters. I particularly remember Meg Murry. A member of a quirky scientific family, she felt awkward and unappreciated by her peers. Her parents taught her that her wit and intellect, her care for others and deep-seated feelings of right and wrong - the things that made her unique and sometimes unaccepted - were the very things they valued most about her. What adolescent hasn't felt like Meg? Of course, I was a lucky one, with parents remarkably similar to Meg's. My Dad's frequent response to any mention of insecurity or unacceptance always began the same way: "Nonsense!" My parents were always there to dispel the faintest notions of value for things like popularity or 'coolness' that didn't deserve to be highly valued. A "children's author" who never wrote down to children, L'Engle was among the great Christian writers whose books can grow up with a child. I grew up on L'Engle novels.
The New York Times article quotes L'Engle's beliefs in the power of a story:
But she often said that her real truths were in her fiction.
“Why does anybody tell a story?” she once asked, even though she knew the answer.
“It does indeed have something to do with faith,” she said, “faith that the universe has meaning, that our little human lives are not irrelevant, that what we choose or say or do matters, matters cosmically.”
While I grew up with the writings of Madeline L'Engle, I can't say I was very familiar with Pavarotti until I left home for college. While my parents love instrumental classical music, opera never really made it into their CD collection. When I was a sophomore at Wheaton College I discovered that I actually liked opera! First it was Mozart, then Rossini and Puccini... by the end of the school year I was spending summer evenings in my bedroom listening to opera. My mutinous siblings and parents had to institute a "closed-door policy;" I could listen to those warbling women and golden-throated men only at reasonably low volume behind my closed bedroom door. But while my younger brothers may not have thought much of Nessun Dorma or Una Furtiva Lagrima, I grew to love the great tenor arias, and among many tenors who sang them, Pavarotti.
"Our truest responsibility to the irrationality of the world is to paint or sing or write, for only in such response do we find the truth." ~ Madeleine L'Engle