Monday, April 7, 2014

Being and Time

            When examining issues of love and appearances in A Wrinkle in Time, the central aspect to understanding the theme of overcoming appearances starts first with an examination of the self. Compared to Celie from The Color Purple, and Billy from Slaughterhouse Five, the problem for Meg dealing with her inability to accept her faults becomes a means by which she can not only liberate herself, but more importantly she can also save others and enable them to act as well. From the outset Meg appears all about action, especially when seen early in the novel when people continually questioned and harassed her about her family. The early Meg risked her own well-being for the sake of keeping up appearances. She did not want others to see into her life because that would cause vulnerability and lead to issues with knowing herself. In fact Meg speaks about this when she writes, “Why can’t I hide it too? Meg thought. Why do I always have to show everything?” (L’Engle 6).
The Meg in the beginning of the novel wrestles with the issue of knowing who one is after the most important things in her life are missing. Her father, the key to her support and love in the family has gone missing, and at school she is performing poorly despite her vast intelligence and accomplished family. In her quest for understanding she misses the true nature of the things around her and relies on their established meaning rather than what they mean to her. Meg’s mother even comments on this early on when she says, “No, Meg. Don’t hope it was a dream. I don’t understand it any more than you do, but one thing I’ve learned is that you don’t have to understand things for them to be.” (L’Engle 25). Meg’s failure to embrace the true essence of the things she encounters around her then leads her down a path where her expectations of whatever thing it is must be true or else she cannot even know it. Speaking about the essence and meaning of things, Aunt Beast says, “We look not at the things which are what you would call seen, but at the things which are not seen. For the things which are seen are temporal. But the things which are not seen are eternal.” (L’Engle 179). 
          Here then Meg continues to miss the meaning of love that her father gives to her because she traps him as a protective figure that will always be there for her to save her. The truth that Meg misses about her father also limits her father’s ability to express himself and any meaning due to this one track way of thinking. Indeed, it is only when Meg comes to understand and act for herself that she can understand the things around her. L’Engle speaks about this when she writes, “Then there was a whirring, and Mrs Whatsit, Mrs Who, and Mrs Which were standing in front of them, and the joy and love were so tangible that Meg felt that if she only knew where to reach she could touch it with her bare hands.” (L’Engle 202). The true meaning of things then, for Meg, comes from feeling them inside her rather than touching some manifestation of them.

Turning to my own experiences with volunteering and understanding meaning, I feel as though Acts for Youth grants me the ability to come face to face with understanding issues from a wide range of viewpoints. Prior to starting homework and basketball, I sit with the kids and with the mentor and we discuss whatever events occurred in the past week while trying to relate them to the ideas that the program hopes to instill in the young men. The problem that occurs centers on the kids’ desire to be open to some of the criticisms and advice that the mentor, the other volunteers, or I have. Because they are so ingrained in their own ways, they feel as though we don’t understand what we are talking about when telling them the importance of homework or studying or being a good son and friend. Coming from different background and circumstances, it makes sense that the students may not feel as though we can understand why they behave the way they do. Although this appears to be a problem, I find it similar to Meg’s situation in A Wrinkle in Time because we volunteers must overcome our ingrained notions and come to understand the kids in a way that allows us to have a dialogue about something where we both can agree on something and take the action needed to become proper mentor and students. Therefore, in this sense, volunteering is no longer a one way street for the kids, but also a learning opportunity for all of us. 

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