January 22, 2013
Penguins and Golden Calves: Icons and Idols - Madeleine L'Engle
I love Madeleine L'Engle's books. I loved her Wrinkle in Time books when I was young (the original trilogy), and have continued to re-read the full expanded series through high school and as an adult. I have also read some of her non-fiction, which I have found to be equally enjoyable.
This book falls into the non-fiction category. It was written as she traveled to Antarctica after recovering from a severe car accident that almost took her life. The basic premise is that an icon is any item that opens our eyes so that we can see God better; and yet if begin valuing it as an item rather than for it's power as a window to God, then it becomes an idol. Each chapter deals with items or ideas that can be either icons or idols. (How's that for an alliterative sentence?!). Expectations, Family Values, Bodies, Stars, Words, The Bible - all of these and more have a chapter dedicated to them.
Each chapter reads almost as stream of consciousness, with one idea leading to the next leading to the next, but eventually relating back to the theme of the chapter. I loved it for the window into the author's mind that it gave me. I also think that reading books like this give me a much deeper understanding of how Madeleine L'Engle's theology impact in her fiction.
And in general, I agree with the themes that she emphasizes through the book. If it isn't love or loving, than it isn't God. God is mystery - if we can understand God, than it isn't God. She writes that the penguins in Antarctica, in their vulnerability, became icons for her; and very good icons since it is difficult to turn a penguin into an idol.
If you like Madeleine L'Engles other writing, I strongly suggest that you add this book to your To Be Read stack!
And finally, let me end with a prayer that she ends the chapter on Stars with:
"Maker of the stars, maker of me, I do not understand, but I love you for your love of us, for all of us, for every sparrow, every galaxy, every gnat, every drop of water and all that is within it, universes within universes, and all made by you, with love.
Amen. So be it.