"Progo! Help me! How can I feel love for Mr. Jenkins?"
Immediately he opened a large number of eyes very wide.
"What a strange idea. Love isn't a feeling. If it were, I wouldn't be able to love. Cherubim don't have feelings."
"Idiot," Proginoskes said, anxiously rather than crossly. "Love isn't how you feel. It's what you do..."Darling mummy. She got me the books. And I don't care, I don't care - it's summer and I will read as many "kid's" books as I want to. So there.
Okay. I didn't totally understand this book. It is certainly less straightforward than A Wrinkle in Time. I didn't like it as much, but I did like it.
The two things in it that really hit me were love and the naming.
WARNING: This post is about to get looooong. And I was just telling myself that truly snappy blogs confine themselves to one witty paragraph. Oh well. (Dear me, that new Katy Perry song is going through my head... and I don't even listen to Katy Perry! Totally does not go with this book either.)
I've been thinking about love a great deal lately. Love between men and women, love for enemies, just love, love, love in general. In the bodies of the elephants too.
Mum and I have been devouring the Up series lately, and in last night's installment (49), every other person seemed to have gotten divorced. When the couples were interviewed pre-divorce, a really ridiculous number said things like, "And who knows how long we might be together." It felt like they weren't expecting to make it, giving themselves an out even before troubles came along. "Well, I always knew it might not work out..." I'm not condemning the people in the Up movies - it was just such a vivid example of an attitude I encounter every day. Just thought a little outside example might make things a bit more crystal, what?
(Also, I've been dying to tell someone about the Up series. It's fascinating. I wish I could be all serious and moral and say "how pointless!" and refuse to watch because it's invading lives and all that. But I can't. 56 up is coming out this year or early next. I'm so glad for Bruce.)
Lately I've been wondering if we sometimes go into relationships with an idea that love is a feeling which ought last forever. Particularly in romantic relationships. The way I'm beginning to understand it (with help from C.S. Lewis) is that love is not a feeling that is going to stay all dithery and wild the way it does when you first meet someone. Nor would you want it to, really. Life would be so stressful. (I imagined that last sentence in a 7 Up John Brisby voice - "So crowded!") L'Engle is totally right: love has to be something more than feelings that can change. Jesus could never have said things like "Love those who hate you" if love were just a feeling over which you have no control. There's a lot in C.S. Lewis about how you can learn to love people by behaving the way you would if you did love them. You have to be able to do love, not just feel it. Rather a practical thing to find in a kids' book.
The naming bit made me think about a Dorothy Sayers thing - if you're doing what you're truly good at, then you're doing the right thing, no matter how trivial it may seem. It reminds me of how I worry about the way I don't feel like I am ever being my true self with people. And then I remember that C.S. Lewis thing about how you can't be a social success until you stop worrying about being a social success. "Even in literature and art, no man who bothers about originality will ever be original: whereas if you simply try to tell the truth (without caring twopence how often it has been told before) you will, nine times out of ten, become original without ever having noticed it." Very convicting, that always is. A lot of problems could be solved if I could just wrench my focus away from myself for one second.
I am now running on reserve battery power. Poo. ("Thank God!" said the imaginary reader, wiping the blood from his ears. "Thank God!") Must be off to bed.
CONCLUSION: I'm very awed by people who can write books that are actually about something. Three more L'Engle books are sitting on the bookcase in a very tantalizing manner. Yay.