A Living Man is Blind and Drinks His Drop

My reunion with Jim and other members of my class had at least one unexpected result, though, in retrospect, perhaps it shouldn’t have been unexpected.

One of the turning points in my life was Mr Thomas’ English class my senior year. I remembered the class as a year-long class, but Jim told me otherwise and Willy confirmed Jim’s view. Since every other high school English class lasted a year, I guess I just assumed that that class must have been a year long, too, especially since it stands out in my memory and played a pivotal role in the rest of my life.

Considering how little work I used to get from seniors in my classes the final semester, it’s amazing that Mr. Thomas could inspire me to read four Thomas Hardy novels, a book of Hardy’s poems and write a long research paper on them outside of class in my final semester, especially since I was trying to get caught up in Calculus at the same time. No wonder I was so impressed by him. Obviously I wasn’t quite as laid-back, i.e., “cool,” in high school as I remember.

Though I was accepted into the University of Washington as a Physics major. Mr. Thomas’ class, plus the disastrous Calculus class I had my senior year convinced me to pursue an English degree instead. While Jim agreed with me that the calculus class was a disaster, Willy, who became a math professor, seemed to feel exactly the opposite.

Jim managed to stay awake because Mrs Dunn poked him in the back with a pencil. I managed to stay awake when Jack would pull out his switch blade and stab my seat if I was drifting off. Not surprisingly I spent more time watching Jack than I did the TV. It didn’t help that Jim and I were “W’s” and sat in the back of the room watching a small-screen, black-and-white television in a room with the lights turned off right after lunch. It probably didn’t hurt that Willy was a “B” and had a natural aptitude for math.

It didn’t take too much discussion to reveal that my view of other classes wasn’t necessarily shared by others, either, though Jim and I often had similar views. These revelations supported my observations over 30 years of teaching high school that nearly every teacher was “someone’s favorite.” Teachers dismissed as incompetent by honors students were often beloved by other students who were just as likely to hate teachers adored by honors students. Different students like different teachers or different teaching styles, and it’s nearly impossible to be a “good” teacher for all your students.

Perhaps most surprising of all were our memories of Jack, one of the classmates Jim and I would most like to have seen but one who’s never come to a reunion and almost certainly never will. Jim and I often rode around with Jack, as he had a cool car and we didn’t, but we always knew that Jack had a whole ‘nother life outside West Seattle High School. What we didn’t realize until our reunion was that each of us knew things about him that the other person knew nothing about. I’d always assumed that he hung out with Jim and his friends, who partied more than I ever did. Apparently he didn’t. Three of us who knew him all had totally different impressions of him. I always thought of Jack as our class’ Fonz, but he may well have been our Rinehart, and our reaction to him may say more about ourselves than about him.

At one point during our Reunion when I was talking about my experiences in Vietnam and, later, as a caseworker I exclaimed that despite being on the honor roll I was stupid when I left high school, and even college. They had taught me next to nothing about the real world, a world I discovered while stationed various places in the Army. When I became I caseworker after leaving the army, I discovered that I knew very little about the very places I grew up in, that America does a good job of hiding the poor. Fifty years later I discovered that I even seem to have been confused about what I should have known through personal experience.

It’s scary to think I made some of the most important decisions in my life based on such shaky perceptions. Thank goodness I’ve been a life-long learner, capable of adapting on the fly to life’s surprises. Perhaps the greatest surprise of all is that life has been so good.

Looking back from this perspective I’m reminded of one of Yeats’ greatest poems, “Dialogue of Self and Soul:”

My Self. A living man is blind and drinks his drop.
What matter if the ditches are impure?
What matter if I live it all once more?
Endure that toil of growing up;
The ignominy of boyhood; the distress
Of boyhood changing into man;
The unfinished man and his pain
Brought face to face with his own clumsiness;

The finished man among his enemies?
How in the name of Heaven can he escape
That defiling and disfigured shape
The mirror of malicious eyes
Casts upon his eyes until at last
He thinks that shape must be his shape?
And what’s the good of an escape
If honour find him in the wintry blast?

I am content to live it all again
And yet again, if it be life to pitch
Into the frog-spawn of a blind man’s ditch,
A blind man battering blind men;
Or into that most fecund ditch of all,
The folly that man does
Or must suffer, if he woos
A proud woman not kindred of his soul.

I am content to follow to its source
Every event in action, or in thought;
Measure the lot to forgive myself the lot!
When such as I cast out remorse
So great a sweetness flows into the breast
We must laugh and we must sing,
We are blest by everything,
Everything we look upon is blest.

I’ve loved these lines the first time I read them in college nearly fifty years ago. Perhaps even then I sensed that “A living man is blind and drinks his drop.” We never know quite as much as we think we do and as a result find ourselves unexpectedly in “the ditch,” but life is good if we can still manage to laugh and sing, even if it sounds like the Blues.

Yeats Odds and Ends

I felt complimented, or perhaps that’s complemented, that Visible Darkness chose to comment on what I had written about Yeats in the last few days. I’ve always felt that differing opinions, at least well-informed, differing opinions, are a vital part of learning. That’s one of the reasons I invited Diane to join me on commenting on various authors.

That said, I think Visible Darkness sees Yeats from a slightly different perspective than I do. Part of this difference probably comes from where each of us was originally taught. Visible Darkness rightly points out that Yeats has to be seen as link between the Victorian poetry and modern poetry. I was taught at the U.W. under Roethke’s influence, though, and it’s obvious Roethke saw himself as a direct descendent of Yeats. Yeats was seen as a link from past romanticism to modern romanticism. Modern (well, at least moderately modern), confessional poets like Roethke were obviously influenced by Yeats, though they seemed to owe less to older romantic poets like Wordsworth, Byron, Keats, or Shelley.

Visible Darkness also saw the Tower symbol in a different light than I did, and I found his explanation of art practiced for the sake of art and art as an exploration of life itself enlightening.

I still, however, tend to see the tower as a symbol of “reason,” reason as opposed to “intuition.” The rational thinking of scientists and scholars is continually opposed to the inspiration or intuition of the artist in Yeats’ poetry, as it was in almost all forms of romanticism. The tower is a symbol I will need to re-examine and come back to later. Maybe next time around I’ll argue that the tower symbolizes Yeats’ view that art should be practiced as an act of life, not removed from the world.

I have to admit that scholarship at times can lead to new insight into a poet’s work. For instance, I wish I had read Diane’s biographical information about Plath’s father before I discussed the symbolism of the bees last week. Generally, though, my discussion of poems tends to reflect the fact that I took almost all my poetry classes from practicing poets, not from critics. None of those classes required much scholarship, per se, but they did demand a close reading of the poems themselves and an attempt to relate them to your own views. One of my favorite quotes from those days was David Waggoner’s reply when a new student would ask what a poem “meant.” (This is a paraphrase of what he said. I wouldn’t want to offend any Poetry Gods by misquoting David.) People don’t understand their father, their mother, or their brother, but they have to understand a poem. In other words, a poem is a living thing; you don’t have to understand it completely to appreciate and admire it. I treat every poem I meet that way.

Maybe that’s why I particularly like this poem by Yeats:


BALD heads forgetful of their sins,
Old, learned, respectable bald heads
Edit and annotate the lines
That young men, tossing on their beds,
Rhymed out in love's despair
To flatter beauty's ignorant ear.

All shuffle there; all cough in ink;
All wear the carpet with their shoes;
All think what other people think;
All know the man their neighbour knows.
Lord, what would they say
Did their Catullus walk that way?

And, no, my head isn’t bald, nor is it particularly respectable, a common complaint among respectable ex-students.

I also tend to most admire poems that follow Yeats’ “five/ That make the Muses sing.”


WHAT if I bade you leave
The cavern of the mind?
There's better exercise
In the sunlight and wind.

I never bade you go
To Moscow or to Rome.
Renounce that drudgery,
Call the Muses home.

Seek those images
That constitute the wild
The lion and the virgin,
The harlot and the child.

Find in middle air
An eagle on the wing,
Recognise the five
That make the Muses sing.

Somehow “The Hawk” reminds me of that great American romantic poet, Walt Whitman, whose “yawp” still transcends the ages:


'CALL down the hawk from the air;
Let him be hooded or caged
Till the yellow eye has grown mild,
For larder and spit are bare,
The old cook enraged,
The scullion gone wild.'

'I will not be clapped in a hood,
Nor a cage, nor alight upon wrist,
Now I have learnt to be proud
Hovering over the wood
In the broken mist
Or tumbling cloud.'

'What tumbling cloud did you cleave,
Yellow-eyed hawk of the mind,
Last evening? that I, who had sat
Dumbfounded before a knave,
Should give to my friend
A pretence of wit.'

And when you get my age, a poem like “The Wheel” seems more relevant than it did when I was in college.

The Wheel

THROUGH winter-time we call on spring,
And through the spring on summer call,
And when abounding hedges ring
Declare that winter's best of all;
And after that there's nothing good
Because the spring-time has not come
Nor know that what disturbs our blood
Is but its longing for the tomb.

Yeats’ Lapis Lazuli

At my age “Lapis Lazuli” poem doesn’t seem quite as remarkable as it did when I first read it in college, but it still provides a nice perspective on life. It somehow seems even more appropriate in the midst of America’s war on terrorism and our attempts to destroy evil, for it seems like it is going to be a long “war:”

(For Harry Clifton)

I have heard that hysterical women say
They are sick of the palette and fiddle-bow,
Of poets that are always gay,
For everybody knows or else should know
That if nothing drastic is done
Aeroplane and Zeppelin will come out,
Pitch like King Billy bomb-balls in
Until the town lie beaten flat.

All perform their tragic play,
There struts Hamlet, there is Lear,
That's Ophelia, that Cordelia;
Yet they, should the last scene be there,
The great stage curtain about to drop,
If worthy their prominent part in the play,
Do not break up their lines to weep.
They know that Hamlet and Lear are gay;
Gaiety transfiguring all that dread.
All men have aimed at, found and lost;
Black out; Heaven blazing into the head:
Tragedy wrought to its uttermost.
Though Hamlet rambles and Lear rages,
And all the drop-scenes drop at once
Upon a hundred thousand stages,
It cannot grow by an inch or an ounce.

On their own feet they came, or on shipboard,
Camel-back, horse-back, ass-back, mule-back,
Old civilisations put to the sword.
Then they and their wisdom went to rack:
No handiwork of Callimachus,
Who handled marble as if it were bronze,
Made draperies that seemed to rise
When sea-wind swept the corner, strands;
His long lamp-chimney shaped like a stem
Of a slender palm, stood but a day;
All things fall and are built again,
And those that build them again are gay.

Two Chinamen, behind them a third,
Are carved in lapis lazuli,
Over them flies a long-legged bird,
A symbol of longevity;
The third, doubtless a serving-man,
Carries a musical instrument.

Every discoloration of the stone,
Every accidental crack or dent,
Seems a water-course or an avalanche,
Or lofty slope where it still snows
Though doubtless plum or cherry-branch
Sweetens the little half-way house
Those Chinamen climb towards, and I
Delight to imagine them seated there;
There, on the mountain and the sky,
On all the tragic scene they stare.
One asks for mournful melodies;
Accomplished fingers begin to play.
Their eyes mid many wrinkles, their eyes,
Their ancient, glittering eyes, are gay.

Surely if one is to believe the media in the last few months, the war on terrorism, America’s noble attempt to eliminate evil, is the most important thing in the world. President Bush tours the world promoting support for his war. And here I sit, writing about a Yeats poem.

Everyone, without exception, performs in “their [own] tragic play.” Every one of us has “aimed at, found and lost out,” which, of course, also explains why plays like Hamlet and King Lear remain popular. All the plays in the world cannot grow or shrink the personal tragedy.

Civilizations, just like individuals, suffer tragedies. History shows that all civilizations are “put to the sword,” and most, if not all, of what is remarkable in those civilizations disappears with the civilizations. Amazingly, blessedly, those “that build them again are gay,” unaffected by all the tragedy that has preceded them.

And then, almost as if to suggest that not everything is lost from the past, Yeats introduces an ancient artwork where two Chinamen and a servant climbing up a mountain to a house are carved into a piece of lapis lazuli. Each accident that has happened to the artwork is envisioned from within the artwork as a water-course of avalanche. These Chinese survey the “tragic scenes” of destruction, and “Their eyes mid many wrinkles, their eyes,/ Their ancient, glittering eyes, are gay.”

This stanza seems to lend itself to two equally valid interpretations. One is that art transcends time. In “Sailing to Byzantium” the narrator says once he dies he wants body to take a “form such as Grecian goldsmiths make” because in doing so he would finally transcend time. These two Chinamen have done precisely this. Another equally valid interpretation, though, would be that we, like the Chinese gentlemen, should look on such tragedies with gay eyes. To do otherwise is to give the tragedy more than its due.

I think it is this kind of objective way of looking at the world that most draws me to art. It allows me to stand outside life for a moment and look in on it, almost as if I have, but for a moment, transcended my own existence.

Yeats’ Dialogue of Self and Soul

I’m a little hesitant to try to interpret a poem as difficult and as important as “A Dialogue of Self and Soul” because I am no Yeats’ scholar nor have I done any scholarly research on the poem, quite possibly because I don’t like scholarly research. I just like reading and thinking about poetry.

However, I believe Yeats is quite possibly the greatest poet of the 20th Century, and I know he has been one of my favorite poets since I was in college. I have read his Autobiography, his Collected Plays, and his Collected Poems several times. After reading in Visible Darkness that Yeats wrote a book called A Vision, I knew that was another book I’m going to have to run down, though I doubt I’m going to pay $1,200 dollars for it.

Simply put, Yeats has helped me to discover what I believe in life, and avoiding him because of personal inadequacies would thus defeat the purpose of my blogging. That said, one of my very favorite Yeats poems is:



My Soul. I summon to the winding ancient stair;
Set all your mind upon the steep ascent,
Upon the broken, crumbling battlement,
Upon the breathless starlit air,
Upon the star that marks the hidden pole;
Fix every wandering thought upon
That quarter where all thought is done:
Who can distinguish darkness from the soul?

My Self. The consecrated blade upon my knees
Is Sato's ancient blade, still as it was,
Still razor-keen, still like a looking-glass
Unspotted by the centuries;
That flowering, silken, old embroidery, torn
From some court-lady's dress and round
The wooden scabbard bound and wound,
Can, tattered, still protect, faded adorn.

My Soul. Why should the imagination of a man
Long past his prime remember things that are
Emblematical of love and war?
Think of ancestral night that can,
If but imagination scorn the earth
And intellect its wandering
To this and that and t'other thing,
Deliver from the crime of death and birth.

My Self. Montashigi, third of his family, fashioned it
Five hundred years ago, about it lie
Flowers from I know not what embroidery
Heart's purple-and all these I set
For emblems of the day against the tower
Emblematical of the night,
And claim as by a soldier's right
A charter to commit the crime once more.

My Soul. Such fullness in that quarter overflows
And falls into the basin of the mind
That man is stricken deaf and dumb and blind,
For intellect no longer knows Is from the Ought, or Knower from the Known—
That is to say, ascends to Heaven;
Only the dead can be forgiven;
But when I think of that my tongue's a stone.


My Self. A living man is blind and drinks his drop.
What matter if the ditches are impure?
What matter if I live it all once more?
Endure that toil of growing up;
The ignominy of boyhood; the distress
Of boyhood changing into man;
The unfinished man and his pain
Brought face to face with his own clumsiness;

The finished man among his enemies?
How in the name of Heaven can he escape
That defiling and disfigured shape
The mirror of malicious eyes
Casts upon his eyes until at last
He thinks that shape must be his shape?
And what's the good of an escape
If honour find him in the wintry blast?

I am content to live it all again
And yet again, if it be life to pitch
Into the frog-spawn of a blind man's ditch,
A blind man battering blind men;
Or into that most fecund ditch of all,
The folly that man does
Or must suffer, if he woos
A proud woman not kindred of his soul.

I am content to follow to its source
Every event in action, or in thought;
Measure the lot to forgive myself the lot!
When such as I cast out remorse
So great a sweetness flows into the breast
We must laugh and we must sing,
We are blest by everything,
Everything we look upon is blest.

Personally, I think Part II is the heart of this poem and is by far my favorite part, but I’m not going to presume to separate them. Part I does serve as a prelude to Part II, though to my thinking Part II would stand as an outstanding poem by itself.

In the first stanza the Soul calls the reader to the tower of learning where “the star,” the most distant part of our universe, “marks the hidden pole.” The soul seems to be talking about the contemplation of eternity. On the other hand, the poem itself seems to imply that the soul’s goal is so vague as to be virtually unknowable. “Thought,” as represented by the tower, cannot distinguish “darkness from the soul.” In a later poem Yeats says the tower is “half dead at the top.” If we see the tower as an individual, as a source of knowledge, this would seem to imply that there is no more original thought there. If, on the other hand, we see the tower as a phallic symbol, it has become impotent.

In the second stanza, Self says it holds an ancient Japanese blade wrapped in a piece of embroidered silk. As pointed out in the next stanza, these seem to be symbols of war and love. The sword can stand for the blood that has been spilled, while the dress seems to have been given to the samurai out of love. The sword also seems to represent self-discovery, “a looking glass,” where man discovers his penchant for violence. The silken embroidery represents art, one thing many romanticists felt transcended time.

Soul argues that these are foolish symbols, and that if imagination would just “scorn the earth” (perhaps, instead, contemplate how many angels can dance on the head of a pin or meditate on its navel) and intellect would quit wandering from topic to topic, then together they could deliver us from the “crime of death and birth,” suggesting a Buddhist-like escape from the cycle of eternal rebirth.

In the fourth stanza, Self sets purple flowers the color of the heart and the sword, with its implied blood, against the darkness that the tower represents. Passion, in and of itself, Yeats seems to suggest can make life meaningful. We shouldn’t try to avoid life and death; we should live it passionately.

Soul finally argues that when intellect and imagination are focused on philosophy that intellect no longer knows Is from Ought or Knower from Known and that is like ascending to Heaven. It’s obvious that Yeats is a Romantic and believes in the power of intuition, not rational arguments.

Part II of the poem is spoken entirely by the Self. Luckily, it needs little explanation. It is a celebration of life itself, though a rather strange celebration, no doubt, by some people’s standards. No matter how miserable our life has been, the narrator argues, if we follow it to its source, measure the lot, and forgive ourselves for our mistakes, we will transcend those mistakes and become “blest.”

Part of the power of the poem comes from our realization that, we, too, have suffered most of these indignities. Who hasn’t felt the awkwardness of childhood, or the fears of becoming a man or woman, and fear of enemies who would have our job? How can we escape the hurtful image that malicious acquaintances project onto us at different times of life?

The power of the poem, of course, also comes from the power of the description, not the mere intellectual argument. Lines like ... if it be life to pitch/ Into the frog-spawn of a blind man's ditch, / A blind man battering blind men” are the kinds of lines that can stay with you for years. Equally amazing is how these lines can be transformed into the optimistic lines that the poem ends with: “We must laugh and we must sing, / We are blest by everything, / Everything we look upon is blest.” Yeats must have been blessed by the blarney stone to compose lines this magnificent.

Yeats’ Heart and Soul

Originally I had planned on discussing Yeats’ “A Dialogue of Self and Soul” but quickly realized that there was far more symbolism in that poem than I was willing to discuss in a single day. Instead, I turned to the Yeats’ poem I have loved the longest, one that, like “A Dialogue of Self and Soul,” includes the theme of transcendence:

Crazy Jane Talks with the Bishop

I met the Bishop on the road
And much said he and I.
'Those breasts are flat and fallen now,
Those veins must soon be dry;
Live in a heavenly mansion,
Not in some foul sty.'

'Fair and foul are near of kin,
And fair needs foul,' I cried.
'My friends are gone, but that's a truth
Nor grave nor bed denied,
Learned in bodily lowliness
And in the heart's pride.

'A woman can be proud and stiff
When on love intent;
But Love has pitched his mansion in
The place of excrement;
For nothing can be sole or whole
That has not been rent.

This poem is part of “Words for Music Perhaps,” a sequence of twenty-five poems focused on Crazy Jane, who ain’t quite as crazy as The Bishop would have you believe. The first poem in the sequence, “Crazy Jane and the Bishop,” provides important background to this poem. In that poem the Bishop had banished Jane’s lover Jack the Journeyman because he was a “coxcomb.” Jane’s retorts that the bishop Jack stood straight as a birch tree while the Bishop had “heron’s hunch upon his back” though, implying that Jack was certainly more of a man than the Bishop could ever hope to be.

Years later, the Bishop meets Crazy Jane on the road and argues that now that she’s old and about to die, she must surely be ready to give up lustful desire, that “foul sty,” and live in God’s holy mansion. It’s understandable, he implies, that a young person could be overcome by desire, but surely an older person will be ready to give up bodily desire for the chance of an everlasting life in heaven.

Not Crazy Jane, though, for she believes that “fair and foul are near of kin.” Life can’t be devoted just to the soul or just to the body. There’s no denying that her friends have died, but they, unlike the Bishop, knew all of life, both “bodily lowliness” and “the heart's pride.” To prove her point, Crazy Jane points out that Love fulfills itself with precisely the bodily organs that rid the body of wastes.

God himself has ordained it by the very way he has designed mankind. In the end, nothing can be “sole or whole” that has not been first torn apart or suffered. Bodily suffering is an essential part of life and is our only hope for true salvation. The body represents the passion that is so essential in Yeats’ philosophy.

A Prayer for Old Age


GOD guard me from those thoughts men think
In the mind alone;
He that sings a lasting song
Thinks in a marrow-bone;

From all that makes a wise old man
That can be praised of all;
0 what am I that I should not seem
For the song's sake a fool?

I pray-for fashion's word is out
And prayer comes round again
That I may seem, though I die old,
A foolish, passionate man.
Collected Poems of William Butler Yeats

Here's another Yeats' poem that I didn't really appreciate until recently, perhaps because old age didn't seem too relevant until now. I suspect, though, that what Yeats seeks in all of his poems are eternal values that can guide our entire life.

Although it is common for Romantic poets to emphasize intuition over logic, to emphasize heart over mind, there does seem to be a certain irony in a man who has devoted his life to letters condemning men whose thoughts are 'in the mind alone."

I suspect, though, that this is an ambivalence that haunts many of us who enjoy studying ideas and reading literature. Too often literature seems a form of escape rather than a solution to lifeâs problems. Itâs easier to read a romantic novel than it is to build real love in your life. Itâs certainly easier to analyze politics than it is to effect real change in our society. No matter how many environmental books you read, the environment continues to degrade.

As a literature teacher, I was often accused of promoting this. Many students found literature irrelevant, and it was extremely difficult to show them the relevance if they didn't already see it. Despite my occasional sarcastic remarks that I would hate to marry a person who couldnât even understand the motivation for a character in a novel, too often I felt unable to show students how these ideas were relevant to their lives.

Nor am I denying that reading for escapism isn't sometimes necessary. My best friend sent me a copy of Joseph Heller's Catch-22 to read while I was stationed in Vietnam. Although this later became one of my favorite 20th century novels, I could barely get through two chapters. Instead, I repeatedly read passages from the Rubiat of Omar Khayyam, a work I haven't read since.

Still, I would argue that the major goal of reading and thinking should be to empower your life, not avoid it. Reading and thinking should enrich your life, make you happier, and give you the understanding you need to cope with an increasingly complex world. They should unite you with your world, not alienate you from it.

Most of all, though, they should create a passion for life that, no matter how foolish it may appear to others, provides meaning to your life.


'In our time the destiny of man presents its meaning in
political terms!--THOMAS MANN

How can I, that girl standing there,
My attention fix
On Roman or on Russian
Or on Spanish politics?
Yet here's a travelled man that knows
What he talks about,
And there's a politician
That has read and thought,
And maybe what they say is true
Of war and war's alarms,
But 0 that I were young again
And held her in my arms!
Collected Poems of William Butler Yeats

After a week spent living in the moment and trying to keep the little guy laughing, not crying, I'm finding it difficult to suddenly switch back to "reality."

Thus, I was happy to find links to Pretty Faces Get Men's Brains Going: Study at wood s lot

Simply put, if you have to start thinking again, it's much easier to start thinking about girls than it is to think about Afghanistan, the Florida ballot, or, particularly, the airplane crash in New York that greeted me when I re-encountered the "real world" by turning on the television this morning.

A week taking care of a one-year-old didn't actually make me think about girls, but it did make me think about what it means to be young again.

And for a short while, I could recapture the wonder of seeing things in a new light when we spent fifteen minutes walking ten feet while picking up and discarding fallen leaves in order to find the "perfect" leaf, perfect, at least, until we decided to drop it ten minutes later because we wanted "up." Nothing's too precious to let go of in a new moment.

What a wonder this world is when you can see it in new ways, whether itâs from the top of a slide sitting next to a child who finds the descent to earth terrifying, even if it is only five feet away, or from a swing, where the world seems in constant motion.

Up close and personal, the world is a miraculous place if we allow it to be.