Tuesday, May 12, 2015

A dangerous thing

Last month, in The Wall Street Journal appeared "A New ‘Wrinkle in Time’" describing an excerpt from the first draft of Madeline L'Engle's A Wrinkle in Time not included in the published book:
Madeleine L’Engle, the author of A Wrinkle in Time, resisted labels. Her books weren’t for children, she said. They were for people. Devoted to religious study, she bristled when called a Christian writer. And though some of her books had political themes, she wasn’t known to write overtly about politics. That is, until her granddaughter, Charlotte Jones Voiklis, came across an unknown three-page passage that was cut before publication.

The passage, which Ms. Voiklis shared with The Wall Street Journal so it could be published for the first time, sheds new light on one of the most beloved and best-selling young-adult books in American literature. .... [more]
From the three page excerpt (with corrected typos):
Meg said, "But Father, how did the black Thing capture Camazotz?"

If Mr. Murry, still firmly massaging Meg's limbs, knew that Meg was thinking not nearly as much of surrendered Camazotz as their own shadowed earth, he gave no indication. He said, "Well, Megatron, if you're thinking that perhaps the brain simply marched in and took over all the minds on Camazotz, that IT and the Black Thing are one and the same, it isn't nearly as simple as that."

"Well, how, then?" ....

"Well, it was the logical outcome of two things. Of complete totalitarianism in certain countries."

"What's totalitarianism?"

Calvin had come back and was standing with a load of wood in his arms. Mr. Murry looked at hime, and Calvin said, "It's like Russia under Khrushchev. Or Germany and Hitler. Countries under dictatorships. Franco. Mussolini. Castro. Mao."

"Well, then, what about countries like like ours?" she asked. "Ones that aren't under dictatorships?" ....

...[H]e answered her question, "It's an equally logical outcome of too much prosperity. Or you could put it that it's the result of too strong a desire for security." ....

...[S]he said, "But Father, What's wrong with security? Everybody likes to be all cozy and safe."

"Yes," Mr. Murry said, grimly. "Security is a most seductive thing."

"Well but I want to be secure, Father."

"But you don't love security enough that you guide your life by it." ....

"I've come to the conclusion," Mr. Murry said slowly, "that it's the greatest evil there is. Suppose your great great grandmother, and all those like her, had worried about security? They'd never have gone across the land in flimsy covered wagons. Our country has been greatest when it has been most insecure. This sick longing for security is a dangerous thing, Meg...."
.... In a gloss on the famous passage from Paul’s first epistle to Timothy, Mr. Murry concludes that the love of security is “the greatest evil there is.” Placing security as the highest social good leads people to stop taking risks, to cease being entrepreneurial, to give up liberty, and even love itself. Mr. Murry goes on to talk about the insidious nature of such “lust for security.” It is often hard to detect, and therefore all the more difficult to combat. It is a form of, to borrow a phrase from Tocqueville, the “soft despotism” intrinsic to democratic forms of tyranny. ....

Even if this didactic section was rightly omitted for literary and aesthetic concerns, hints remain of this deeper connection between atomistic individualism and totalitarian collectivism in the published text. IT’s emphasis on economic “efficiency,” for instance, shows how economic and political collectives often cohere. .... A Wrinkle in Time thus remains a powerful articulation of the dangers of worldly ideologies, such that even its unpublished sections have things to teach us today. [more]