A Wrinkle in Time
Wisdom and Knowledge Quotes
How we cite our quotes:
[Mrs. Murry] "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." (2.7)
It's kind of funny that Mrs. Murry uses the word "learned" here, since what she's learned is that you can't know everything. Instead of learning as gaining knowledge, here it's recognizing a lack of knowledge.
Meg smoothed out the paper and studied it. "Do they care how you do it?" she asked. "I mean, can you work it out your own way?"
"Well, sure, as long as I understand and get the answers right."
"Well, we have to do it their way. Now look, Calvin, don't you see how much easier it would be if you did it this way?" Her pencil flew over the paper.
"Hey!" Calvin said. "Hey! I think I get it. Show me once more on another one."
Again Meg's pencil was busy. "All you have to remember is that every ordinary fraction can be converted into an infinite periodic decimal fraction. See? So 3/7 is 0.428571."
"This is the craziest family." Calvin grinned at her. "I suppose I should stop being surprised by now, but you're supposed to be dumb in school, always being called up on the carpet."
"Oh, I am."
"The trouble with Meg and math," Mrs. Murry said briskly, "is that Meg and her father used to play with numbers and Meg learned far too many short cuts. So when they want her to do problems the long way around at school she gets sullen and stubborn and sets up a fine mental block for herself." (3.38-45)
Meg's way of doing math is sort of like a tesseract – a shortcut that not everyone understands, but if you do get it, it becomes incredibly tedious to have to go the long way around. This passage also highlights the difference between Meg and her teachers: she seems to feel that the results are the important thing, and so long as she gets the right answer she should be golden; her teachers, however, are more concerned with the process, and with Meg following their set of rules to get to the result rather than the result itself.
"What's a megaparsec?" Calvin asked.
"One of Father's nicknames for me," Meg said. "It's also 3.26 million light years."
"What's E stand for?"
"The square of the velocity of light in centimeters per second."
"By what countries is Peru bounded?"
"I haven't the faintest idea. I think it's in South America somewhere."
"What's the capital of New York?"
"Well, New York City, of course!"
"Who wrote Boswell's Life of Johnson?"
"Oh, Calvin, I'm not any good at English."
Calvin groaned and turned to Mrs. Murry. "I see what you mean. Her I wouldn't want to teach." (3.49-65)
For all her math whizzery, Meg apparently lacks basic logic skills. ("Who wrote Boswell's Life of Johnson?" is basically the same question as "Who is buried in Grant's Tomb?" - you shouldn't need to know anything about Boswell, Johnson, or Grant to be able to answer.) Perhaps Meg's lopsided knowledge is in part due to a link between learning and affection – the things her beloved father teaches her stick, while the lessons from her hated teachers don't.