In a few days, the movie version will premiere in theaters. Like thousands (millions?) of people who grew up loving L’Engle’s books, I hope the movie lives up to the version enshrined in my mind. L’Engle’s story shaped many of my core beliefs, confirming what I was learning from my parents and my community. Those beliefs feel even truer faced with the challenges of the world today.
1. Time and space are human-made constructs that can be manipulated. The novel’s characters travel through time and space using a tesseract, which is explained to be the bringing together of a two points instantly. L’Engle explains it in a way that children can understand and extrapolate to mean that ALL human constructs can be altered. Just because I haven’t been able to tesser yet doesn’t mean that I won’t someday, or that others haven’t or won’t. The limits of my own experience do not define the limits of all humanity. Just because I don’t understand someone else’s experience doesn’t mean that it’s not true. For example, just because I feel firmly female doesn’t mean that those who are gender non-binary aren’t having a real and true experience. Gender is a human-made construct as well.
2. Evil is found in uniformity. The novel’s main character, Meg, finds herself on the planet Camezotz, which has been taken over by IT, the force of evil in the universe. On Camezotz, all children play outside at the same time, bouncing balls in monotonous synchronicity, while the moms make the same dinner at the same time and the dads arrive home from work at exactly the same time. The forces of evil at work in our world today envision a similar world, where all people are of the same race, the same religious beliefs, the same political ideologies. These forces of evil want what is different to be as far away from them as possible. After two decades of teaching public school, I know that what makes us stronger IS our differences. Sitting next to people of different genders, races, religions and beliefs, and listening to them, and trying to understand why they think as they do, makes us better. It allows us to question our own beliefs, find our own truths and understand that others are equally valid.
3. Love is the most powerful force in existence. When Meg has to face IT to save her brother, she fears she will fail. IT is the most powerful force she knows. IT has covered whole swaths of the galaxy with its dark cloud. Meg is told by Mrs. Which that she has something IT does not. Meg can’t imagine what that might be, and feels small and weak, but finally remembers that she loves her brother. She sends her love toward him with all her strength, in the face of the greatest evil, and her love saves them both. Like IT, people who disagree ridicule this belief. They think anger and hate are stronger, and they use these weapons to hurt and kill. But I know, in my heart of hearts, that what will always save us, what HAS always saved us, is our love for each other.
In this precarious moment in history, when it feels like dark forces threaten to overtake us, L'Engle reminds us that what seems true isn't always, that our differences are our strength, and that love is the answer.