A Wrinkle in Time & the Philosophy of Failure

Madeline L'Engle's "A Wrinkle in Time" won the American Library association's Newberry medal for children's literature. It's been read and cherished by millions, eventually made into a motion picture. The renowned book also received around 30 rejections before it finally found a publisher.

"Over the years I've worked out a philosophy of failure which I find extraordinarily liberating," L'Engle wrote. "If I'm not free to fail, I'm not free to take risks, and everything in life that's worth doing involves a willingness to risk failure. Although I have had 30 books published, [I've had unpublished failures] which were necessary for the book that then gets published. The same thing is true in all human relationships. Unless I'm willing to open myself up to risk and to being hurt, then I'm closing myself off to love and friendship."

What L'engle points to is that its worth asking ourselves "Where in life am I armoring myself against rejection, rather than taking risks? Which emotions and feelings am I concealing from others?" When we hold back feelings from our core friends and loved ones, we allow our defenses and suspicions to define us. While many of us have had deep, wounding abandonments and abuses in the past, the only path to freedom is to incrementally lower our defenses, again and again, testing the waters of each new relationship that's available. We gain nothing from deflecting real connection with humor or guarded, fearful self-censorship. 

We need to develop a new, wise relationship with fear; while our defenses made sense during earlier, vulnerable times, there is a time to cast aside our defenses and risk everything to live with an open and undefended heart. it's possible to be free. Each moment we're interacting with wise friends, we can ask, "where do I feel guarded? what don't I want others to know?" This can be useful during times of change in life: allowing ourselves to express our desire to run from a promising relationship or family obligations, allowing ourselves to express relief during times of loss. We push through fear each time we dare to express feelings that are not culturally enshrined and expected, for the real human emotional experience is not predictable, it is both fluid and messy.

In short, we don't need to perform to be ok, what we need is to persist in effort of revealing the truth, until we find those who are capable of receiving and holding it with grace.