I can’t express myself sometimes in words, and I often borrow the words of others; others that have had so much more experience then I have; others who I look up to. Here is some excerpts from the book, A Circle of Quiet, which is by Madeleine L’Engle. She is my favorite author. Please, sit back and bask in these words.

I like hanging sheets on lines strung under the apple trees—the birds like it, too. I enjoy going out to the incinerator after dark and watching the flames; my bad feelings burn away with the trash. But the house is still visible, and I can hear the sounds from within; often I need to get away completely, if only for a few minutes. My special place is a small brook in a green glade, a circle of quiet from which there is no visible sign of human beings. There’s a natural stone bridge over the brook, and I sit there, dangling my legs and looking through the foliage at the sky reflected in the water, and things slowly come back into perspective. If the insects are biting me—and they usually are; no place is quiet perfect—I use the pliable branch of a shadblow tree as a fan. The brook wanders through a tunnel of foliage, and the birds sing more sweetly there than anywhere else; or perhaps it is just what when I am at the brook I have time to be aware of them, and I move slowly into a kind of peace that is marvelous, “annihilating all that’s made to a green thought in a green shade.” If I sit for a while, them my impatience, crossness, frustration, are indeed annihilated, and my sense of humor returns.

I suppose the perfect isness of anything would be frightening without the hope of God. An oak tree is, and it doesn’t matter to it—at least Sartre thinks it doesn’t; it is not a thinking oak. Man is; and it matters to him, this is terrifying unless it matters to God, too, because we are sufficient unto ourselves—I am not: my husband, my family, my friends give me my meaning and, in a sense, my being, so that I know that I, like the burning bush, or the oak tree, am ontological: essential: real.

When we are self-conscious, we cannot be wholly aware; we must throw ourselves out first. This throwing ourselves away is the act of creativity. So, when we wholly concentrate, like a child in play, or an artist at work, then we share in the act of creating. We not only escape time, we also escape out self-conscious selves. The Greeks had a word for ultimate self-consciousness which I find illuminating: hubris: pride: pride in the sense of oneself in the center of the universe. The strange and terrible thing is that this kind of total self-consciousness invariably ends in self-annihilation. The great tragedians always understood this, from Sophocles to Shakespeare.

The kind of unself-consciousness I’m thinking about becomes clearer to me when I turn to a different discipline: for instance, that of playing a Bach fugue at the piano, precisely because I will never be good enough pianist to play a Bach fugue as it should be played. But when I am actually sitting at the piano, all there is for me is the music. I am wholly in it, unless I fumble so badly that I perforce to become self-conscious. Mostly, no matter how inadequate my playing, the music is all that matters: I am outside time, outside self, in play, in joy. When we can play with the unself-consciousness concentration of a child, this is: art: prayer: love.

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