So Long, and Thanks for All the Text

 The text stops here.

My webby little heart is broken, as I have just read that author and scholar Alan Jacobs is retiring his blog Text Patterns. It’s hard for me to overstate Text Patterns’ influence on me and this blog. Jacobs opened up a whole new world of topics to cover in my own blog writing, helping me discover a passion I barely knew I had; exploration of the history, fate and role of the written word in our modern technological landscape. This is a common enough topic, I suppose, on the Internet, but Jacobs covered it with erudition, accessibility, humor, and humility. When I blog about books, writing, and communication, I am very much aping — if only aspirationally — Jacobs and Text Patterns.

I don’t remember how I discovered Text Patterns to begin with, but I suspect it was probably via a linking by Andrew Sullivan, or perhaps I was googling about for things Kindle-related. Whatever the first cause, I found Text Patterns at its original home, the now-defunct “Salon-for-conservatives” known as Culture 11 (which also featured the likes of Conor Friedersdorf and David Kuo). When I realized what Culture 11 was, I was a little trepidatious to be hanging around there, but it became apparent very quickly that Jacobs’ blog was not some ideological screed in a web browser (nor was the wider Culture 11), but a thoughtful, independent-minded destination. When Culture 11 went under in 2009, I presumed all was lost, but then the magazine The New Atlantis picked up Jacobs’ blog, and Text Patterns continued. Now, I have to suffer its loss a second time.

And it is Jacobs’ more conservative roots that make my affinity for his work all the more remarkable to me. I spent a couple of years blogging nearly exclusively on atheism and the harm done by religion. Jacobs is not only a Christian, but a scholar whose frequent focus has been theology. Yet, like Andrew Sullivan, he is clearly no Tea Party know-nothing, but a brilliant man who has arrived at very different conclusions than myself in regards to things like the nature of reality and, presumably, (because I have not read any political writing he may have done) policy.

Those differences matter little. In fact, they make him and his work all the more fascinating to me. My tens of readers will already know how I adored his recent book The Pleasures of Reading in an Age of Distraction. I hope, as Jacobs notes in his final post, that this ending means more writing along those lines.

I am glad that Jacobs will be able to pursue new avenues of discovery outside the bounds of his blog, but the end of Text Patterns leaves a gaping black hole in the Internet that will not easily be filled.

What’s a Book Review For?

Miranda Celeste Hale (my Bespectacled Blog Twin™) writes thoughtfully and passionately in favor of the continued existence of the book review, a counter argument to a piece from n+1 by Elizabeth Gumport. On the whole, I agree with Miranda’s take. Here’s the meat of her argument:

Although Gumport would deny it, there’s a reason why many of us still read publications such as the The New York Times Book Review or The New York Review of Books: we hope to find expert analyses of the merits of literary texts. The simple truth is that some voices are more credible than others. I strongly believe in the democratization of knowledge, but not in the devaluing of earned authority and expertise.

And so do I. But I also thought it worth adding that not all book reviews are created equal — or should I say, not all book reviews serve the same purpose, not for me anyway. Indeed, if anything I feel that the great swath of (let’s call them) upper-middle-brow book reviews (such as those from the publications Miranda mentions) tend to have a similar construction: a general statement about the overall theme, a lengthy synopsis, and a conclusion as to whether the author’s intent is realized. I find this construction to be perfect in some cases, woefully wrong in others.

Here’s where this becomes relevant to Miranda’s argument. We have to decide what is a given review’s function — particularly when we’re talking about Miranda’s talking about: literature, as opposed to nonfiction. For literature, we’re dealing with something with a story; a plot with characters taking part in events. In this case, it seems to me there needs to be a kind of division of labor: a “you haven’t read the book yet” section that simply explains why the book is or is not worth your time, along with a small hint of the book’s plot; and a “come back after you’ve read it” section that can deliver the kind of deep analysis that Miranda wants. If it’s not divided as such, I feel that the review (wrongly) treats the literature as nonfiction.

With nonfiction, the review that handles the whole shebang makes sense. I want a learned mind to tackle the questions posed by the author of the book in question, and to weigh in on how well the author achieves what they set out to achieve. This is precisely why I enjoy turning to the New York Review of Books. Life is short, one can only read so many books, and the NYRB can be a wonderful digest of material one might not ever return to. And if the review sparks more fervent interest, then it can serve to turn me to the book itself.

And as Miranda states, I want that direction. If I were to go about as Gumport would have us, I would have such a limited mental store of words as to be tragic. There is a serendipity, much like that explained by Alan Jacobs, that a good book review publication can facilitate, and it would be madness for a lover of books to forego that serendipity altogether.

For my own writing, I probably fall somewhere in between the utility desired by Miranda and Gumport. I write book reviews for this blog, but they are personal responses, flavored with whatever “expertise” or experience I bring (naturally). They are not from a trained literary scholar by any means, but I think I have enough “merit” that my reviews are useful to friends, like-minded thinkers, and the general passer-by. I might be wrong, of course.

And one other side note: I am very sympathetic to Miranda’s eye-rolling over Gumport’s seeming fixation on there being something “orgiastic” about one’s relationship to a book — or, more specifically, an author’s relationship to one’s patron. I find it tedious when something pseudo-scholarly reaches for the over-sexualization card in what often feels like an attention grab.

 I’d write in iambic pentameter for that.

But that said, Gumport is far from off-base with her read on the author-patron relationship of old. Let’s check in with my old “employer,” Mr. Shakespeare, and see what he has to say in his dedication for The Rape of Lucrece written to one (rather mischevious-looking) Earl of Southhampton:

The love I dedicate to your lordship is without end; whereof this pamphlet, without beginning, is but a superfluous moiety. The warrant I have of your honourable disposition, not the worth of my untutored lines, makes it assured of acceptance. What I have done is yours; what I have to do is yours; being part in all I have, devoted yours. Were my worth greater, my duty would show greater; meantime, as it is, it is bound to your lordship, to whom I wish long life, still lengthened with all happiness.

Your lordship’s in all duty,

Yowza. Take that, New York Times Book Review!

The WTC Cross: Like it or Not, It’s a Piece of History

Among the many government-funded museums of New York, Washington, and other cities across the country, there are historical artifacts and pieces of art that are significant to their creators and to their later admirers for their religious meaning. From ancient Egyptian idols and glyphs, to Renaissance paintings of Christ, from the religious trinkets of concentration camp victims in the Holocaust Museum, to Bibles owned by American presidents, all these items have a place in our national memory and deserve to be housed and protected at taxpayer expense, not because they are religious, but because they help tell the story of who we are, and who we were. Regardless of our religious or nonreligious affiliation, they are part of our human story.

That is why that even as a hardliner secularist, even as an evil, arrogant, militant, fundamentalist New Atheist, I believe that the so-called World Trade Center cross belongs in the 9/11 Memorial and Museum. American Atheists, a group with whom I have worked and whose leader, Dave Silverman, I know and deeply respect, is suing to keep the cross — two steel girders which emerged from the smoldering wreckage of Ground Zero in a cross shape — from being displayed in the museum on mainly constitutional grounds, lest it be accompanied by religious and nonreligious symbols from all sects that wish to have their point of view represented.

I think this is the wrong fight. As with the examples I mentioned in the opening of this post, the cross is a part of the story of the attacks and their aftermath. It so happens that we live in a predominantly-Christian country, and in the event of such a trauma, there will be a lot of meaning that surrounds the accidental appearance of such an object, and events will coalesce as they will. Yes, it’s meaning is religious, but its existence is historical.

Here’s a piece of American Atheists’ argument:

[Plaintiffs] find the cross, a symbol of Christianity, offensive and repugnant to their beliefs, culture, and traditions, and allege that the symbol marginalizes them as American citizens.

[ … ]

Plaintiff American Atheists opposed inclusion of a cross on the grounds that other religious groups were not given the opportunity for a similar faithbased memorial at the site of an American tragedy.

It would be different if a Christian-themed display were being constructed out of whole cloth just for the purposes of the museum. That would be a clear violation of the Constitution, and I would join American Atheists in opposition. But this is akin to suing to hide away Lincoln’s Bible. It doesn’t matter that Abe’s book was a Christian tome. What matters is that it was Abe’s. If he were also leafing through his own copy of On the Origin of Species, I’d want that saved, too.

To get a clearer picture of the intent, read the museum’s own description of its mission, and it’s idea of what the cross represents:

The mission of the National September 11 Memorial Museum, opening in September 2012, is to tell the history of 9/11 through historic artifacts like the World Trade Center Cross. In the historical exhibition, the Cross is part of our commitment to bring back the authentic physical reminders that tell the story of 9/11 in a way nothing else can.

In addition to the Cross, other religious artifacts that will be displayed in the 9/11 Memorial Museum’s historical exhibition include a Star of David cut from World Trade Center steel and a Bible fused to a piece of steel that was found during the recovery effort.

In everyday context, these things are purely religious. In the context of the events of that day, as the American Jewish Committee’s Mark D. Stern told the New York Times, “It’s a significant part of the story of the reaction to the attack, and that is a secular piece of history.”

And so it is. I don’t like the idea one iota that in a time of great tragedy, people find their hope not necessarily in each other’s goodness, but in the notion that an invisible sky-emperor took the time not to save lives or change hearts, but to stick a couple of pieces of debris in the shape of a T. I wish with all my heart that people did not waste their energy and emotions on a being that is not really there and never will or can do anything for them.

But I don’t have to like it. The World Trade Center cross was there, and the people of New York divested it with meaning, and thus it became a character in the story of the 9/11 attacks. Its placement in the museum is not an endorsement of Christianity, it’s a page in that story. Whether I like that part of the story or not.

Update: Katherine Fellows makes an excellent point on Twitter, one which I wish I’d made myself.

A Natural Worshiper of Serendipity and Whim: Alan Jacobs’ “Pleasures of Reading”

Alan Jacobs, who readers of this blog (all ten of you) may know from previous references to his excellent blog TextPatterns, has recently released a wonderful book about reading that I simply can’t recommend highly enough. The Pleasures of Reading in an Age of Distraction is just the sort of pithy, sympathetic tract that our times demand — it encourages bibliographic exploration, celebrates chance literary encounters, while offering sincere understanding for the would-be “well-read” among us who fear missing out on an overly massive menu of “great works.”

Those chance literary encounters are the subject of this passage, which I found so delightful and even moving, that I thought I’d share it here.

The cultivation of serendipity is an option for anyone, but for people living in conditions of prosperity and security and informational richness it is something vital. To practice “accidental sagacity” is to recognize that I don’t really know where I am going, even if I like to think I do, or think Google does; that if I know what I am looking for, I do not therefore know what I need; that I am not master of my destiny and captain of my fate; that it is probably a very good thing that I am not master of my destiny and captain of my fate. An accidental sagacity may be the form of wisdom I most need, but am least likely to find without eager pursuit. Moreover, serendipity is the near relation of Whim; each stands against the Plan. Plan once appealed to me, but I have grown to be a natural worshiper of Serendipity and Whim; I can try to serve other gods, but my heart is never in it. I truly think I would rather read an indifferent book on a lark than a fine one according to schedule and plan. And why not? After all, once upon a time we chose none of our reading: it all came to us unbidden, unanticipated, unknown, and from the hand of someone who loved us.

As the daddy of a toddler who absolutely loves to be read to, this strikes a chord. Jacobs reminds us that just as we trusted our parents to bring the world of words to us when we could not yet even speak sentences, so we can, as adults, allow the myriad chaotic forces around us to drop texts in our path, and accept them as they come, rather than worry over the time not spent on things we feel we are “supposed to” read.

Jacobs, incidentally, also confirms my feelings about the benefits of dedicated ereaders such as the Kindle. Particularly at this time in our technological lives when so many other gizmos promise to inundate us with all manner of simultaneous stimuli, Jacobs recognizes that this gizmo can help to cleanse the palate and provide oasis.

… people who know what it is like to be lost in a book, who value that experience, but who have misplaced it … They’re the ones who need help, and want it, and are prepared to receive it. I had become one of those people myself, or was well on my way to it, when I was rescued through the novelty of reading on a Kindle. My hyper-attentive habits were alienating me further and further from the much older and (one would have thought) more firmly established habits of deep attention. I was rapidly becoming a victim of my own mind’s plasticity, until a new technology helped me to remember how to do something that for years had been instinctive, unconscious, natural. I don’t know whether an adult who has never practiced deep attention—who has never seriously read for information or for understanding, or even for delight—can learn how. But I’m confident that anyone who has ever had this facility can recover it: they just have to want that recovery enough to make sacrifices for it, something they will only do if they can vividly recall what that experience was like.

So beyond Jacobs’ excellent prose and insight, perhaps one of the things that recommends this book to me so strongly is validation. I can live with that.

Why We ‘Refudiate’ the Brasolaeliocattleya: Thoughts on ”The Lexicographer’s Dilemma”

Jack Lynch’s fascinating book, The Lexicographer’s Dilemma, is full of original insights, refreshing perspective, and delightful trivia about our mother tongue. It spans history and academia to lend understanding to what it means for a word to be considered an “official” part of the English language. The gist, as you might surmise, is that there is no such thing as the official version of the language. Dictionaries and pedants have over the centuries set down guidelines about propriety, some more sternly than others, but on the whole, the language is an ever-evolving, gelatinous swarm of words, idioms, and ideas. Lynch would have it no other way, and has little regard for those prescriptivists who attempt to nail it down.
To give an idea of the book’s overall theme, see Lynch’s take on the word/non-word “ain’t,” which he describes as…

… the most stigmatized word in the language … [which] every five-year-old is taught is not a word. But why not? Just because. It originally entered the language as a contracted form of am not (passing through a phase as an’t before the a sound was lengthened) and first appeared in print in 1778, in Frances Burney’s novel Evelina. We have uncontroversial contractions for is not (isn’t) and are not (aren’t), so what’s wrong with reducing am not to ain’t? The problem is that it was marked as a substandard word in the nineteenth century, people have been repeating the injunction ever since, and no amount of logic can undo it. It’s forbidden simply because it’s been forbidden.

You see where he’s coming from. We can so easily take for granted notions of what words are “real” and which are not (I am more guilty of this kind of parsing than most), forgetting that the real arbiters of these disputes are not thick books of alphabetically arranged terms, nor English text books, but actual human beings using those words. We don’t fault Shakespeare, for example, for inventing new words — whether they were based on existing words, or made from whole cloth — in fact, the earliest lexicographers used great writers such as Shakespeare as the starting point for what was and was not an English word. But any such effort made before Shakespeare would have missed his substantial contributions.

So what other kinds of words tend to get nudged out of “proper” or “official” English? It can be pretty surprising when one considers what gets to stick around. For example. it makes perfect sense that newer words like “blog” or even the latest sense of the word “tweet” should be given general lexicographical approval, but what about words based entirely on error — not on some creative use of language? I’m thinking, of course, of the recent decision of the folks of the Oxford English Dictionary to give “word of the year” credence to Sarah Palin’s “refudiate,” a word muddled entirely from her ignorance of the word’s two roots. If a “wrong” word falls into common use by millions, that’s one thing. When a narcissistic anti-intellectual mob-inciter like Palin screws something up, I have trouble understanding why that should be given any credibility, even if it is half-tongue-in-cheek.

Another example of those terms that are real English words in the sense that Anglophones use them, but don’t get dictionary codification because of their arcaneness in the eyes and ears of the general populace: scientific terms. Lynch again:

… if including everything scientific is impossible, so is excluding everything scientific. Everyone recognizes the need to include some scientific words like fruit flykoalacarbon, and salt. But why should a lexicographer include daffodil and atom but omit brasolaeliocattleya (a kind of orchid) and graviscalar bosons (theoretical subatomic particles)? There’s no difference in the character of the words, only in the familiarity of the things they identify. If some future technological breakthrough makes us all familiar with graviscalar bosons, they’ll eventually show up in the major general dictionaries. Until then, they have to remain in the language’s antechamber.

I’m pulling for graviscalar bosons. I see no reason why it shouldn’t be in general use, if for no reason than that it’s a delight to say. Try it.

But, like “ain’t,” some words are beyond the language’s antechamber and instead find themselves in the house’s hidden dungeon. These are of course our “dirty words.” The origin of the concept of utterly-unacceptable words may surprise you, and be especially enlightening to my atheist readership:

The notion that particular words are taboo can probably be traced back to primitive beliefs about sympathetic magic, in which language can be used to injure people at a distance. It’s telling that many of our unseemly words are known as curses, since the conception of offensive language seems to have derived from a belief in the power of a malefactor to place a curse on an enemy.

So not only are “curse words” arbitrary and, on the whole, harmless in and of themselves, but their supposed power derives from notions of the supernatural, as though uttering them could do actual physical or spiritual damage. Makes the case for their enfranchisement even stronger, as no one will be made mysteriously ill or forced to reincarnate as a dung beetle by my typing the word “fuck.”

Of late, there may be no one who better illustrates — through written and verbal usage — the delightfully changeable nature of language than humorist Stephen Fry, who wrote a few years ago in an ever-relevant essay:

Convention exists, of course it does, but convention is no more a register of rightness or wrongness than etiquette is, it’s just another way of saying usage: convention is a privately agreed usage rather than a publicly evolving one. Conventions alter too, like life… . Imagine if we all spoke the same language, fabulous as it is, as Dickens? Imagine if the structure, meaning and usage of language was always the same as when Swift and Pope were alive. Superficially appealing as an idea for about five seconds, but horrifying the more you think about it.

If you are the kind of person who insists on this and that ‘correct use’ I hope I can convince you to abandon your pedantry. Dive into the open flowing waters and leave the stagnant canals be.

But above all let there be pleasure. Let there be textural delight, let there be silken words and flinty words and sodden speeches and soaking speeches and crackling utterance and utterance that quivers and wobbles like rennet. Let there be rapid firecracker phrases and language that oozes like a lake of lava. Words are your birthright.

This being so, we should make better use of this birthright. Embrace the changes, relish the experimentation, the creative truncations, the inventions, and at the same time, educate yourself. Learn the words that are unfamiliar. You can’t do Jackson Pollock-type abstract painting until you learn to reproduce the works of the impressionists. You can’t do improvisational jazz until you have mastered, note for note, the classical works of centuries past. Likewise, don’t presume to change the language until you are sufficiently familiar with it that your creativity means something — be aware of what you and those around you are doing to the language hundreds of millions of us share. And as Fry says, in this, find pleasure.

Hume and the Panhandler: The Chief Triumph of Art and Philosophy

I am directed to a quote of David Hume’s, whose 300th birthday is this week, from Robert Zaretsky in the New York Times, which for me sums up beautifully my best hopes for art, theatre, literature, and deep, considered thought. Though Hume himself (at length) expresses his “doubts” about their overall power, he still nails it:

Here then is the chief triumph of art and philosophy: It insensibly refines the temper, and it points out to us those dispositions which we should endeavor to attain, by a constant bent of mind and by repeated habit.

When folks see well-done Shakespeare or read a brilliant novel, particularly when they might not otherwise have done so, this is what I hope will be the effect. As my former boss at the American Shakespeare Center Jim Warren put it, every performance helps make the world a little bit better.

But since Hume was in fact dubious of art and philosophy’s efficacy as a whole, seeing it only as a small influence over the powerful pull of raw emotion and desire, I think my own position is best bolstered by the panhandler interviewed in Al Pacino’s wonderful Looking for Richard:

We should introduce Shakespeare into the academics. You know why? Because then the kids would have feelings. We have no feelings. That’s why it’s easy for us to shoot each other. We don’t feel for each other, but if we were taught to feel, we wouldn’t be so violent. Does Shakespeare help us? He did more than help us. He instructed us… . If we think words are things and have no feelings in words then we say things to each other that mean nothing. But if we felt what we said, we’d say less and mean more!

So art and philosophy are not just mitigators of our baser desires, not just  helping hand, but a way to reframe, express, and refine our thoughts and feelings into something more constructive.

The Internet is as Exhausting as You Make It

In the consistently-fascinating journal n+1, Alice Gregory insightfully expounds on the modern race to keep pace with the imagined expectations of the social digital world.

I have the sensation, as do my friends, that to function as a proficient human, you must both “keep up” with the internet and pursue more serious, analog interests. I blog about real life; I talk about the internet. It’s so exhausting to exist on both registers, especially while holding down a job. It feels like tedious work to be merely conversationally competent. I make myself schedules, breaking down my commute to its most elemental parts and assigning each leg of my journey something different to absorb: podcast, Instapaper article, real novel of real worth, real magazine of dubious worth. I’m pretty tired by the time I get to work at 9 AM.

I have felt this pressure myself, the desire to maintain a respectable degree of relevance online means, even for a lowly, largely-unknown individual, generating content on a regular basis. And I often fail. But I intentionally used the word “imagined” in the first sentence to describe the expectations, because they are just that. No one is forced — or even asked — to be social networking machines, or reliable human e-periodicals. If we take part, if we struggle to tread water, it’s because we choose to.

But Gregory sees it differently, writing as though she has little choice. In the context of a novel review, she writes:

Shteyngart [the novel’s author] says the first thing that happened when he bought an iPhone “was that New York fell away … It disappeared. Poof.” That’s the first thing I noticed too: the city disappeared, along with any will to experience. New York, so densely populated and supposedly sleepless, must be the most efficient place to hone observational powers. But those powers are now dulled in me. I find myself preferring the blogs of remote strangers to my own observations of present ones. Gone are the tacit alliances with fellow subway riders, the brief evolution of sympathy with pedestrians. That predictable progress of unspoken affinity is now interrupted by an impulse to either refresh a page or to take a website-worthy photo. I have the nervous hand-tics of a junkie.  For someone whose interest in other people’s private lives was once endless, I sure do ignore them a lot now.

To which I would say: Then leave the phone in your pocket. If these “analog” interactions are so important to a given person’s humanity, then allow for them. Embrace them. And as the other riders with whom you share the subway stare into their own iPhones, accept that this is the new reality that you are presented with to observe, one in which the private lives that interest you so now have a new factor.

But if you actually prefer the life of the iPhone, if it actually suits you, despite whatever preconceived notions you have of yourself or what you are “supposed” to prefer, embrace that, and make it your own. Not by some unwritten (or unblogged) standard of content generation consistency, but by the e-periodical that is you. If nothing else, the Internet allows us the space to give as much of ourselves as we wish: no more and no less.

The Food of Art

On last week’s Thinking Unenslaved podcast, we considered raising for discussion the topic of religion in the arts, and what might become of the arts if religion were not the force it is in our society and culture. We wound up not getting around to it, though I expect we probably will. Regardless, I had written up a few paragraphs to get the conversation started, and I thought I’d post them here. Remember, it’s intended to be the beginning of a conversation, not a complete thesis. But here you go.

A common form of fretting done by theists and atheists alike concerns anxiety over whether a religion-free society would be capable of producing great works of art, music, poetry, etc. Would we have Bach or Michelangelo without Christianity?

The question posed by our host before we began tonight was, “How would future societies replace the creative energies of religion in the Arts?” It presumes that a large enough percentage of quality art today is inspired by or derived from religious belief, and that its absence, in a vacuum, would leave a significant hole in our society’s cultural life, which I think it almost certainly not the case. Particularly if we’re talking not about less trite or less propagandistic art and media, but rather the kind of art that makes lives richer in the broadest sense. My confident guess would be that the vast majority of quality art and culture is produced without religion ever coming into the picture.

There were almost certainly times in human history when religion was a driving force behind wonderful visual art and music that will weather the centuries. But I don’t think this is so today.

But even if we grant the premise, that a lack of religious influence and inspiration would leave a great vacuum in our artistic and cultural life, I believe that vacuum is easily filled.

What we’re really talking about when we worry over this question is; what could possibly move the human heart to the degree that the wonder over the supernatural does? My answer: Plenty. First, consider the things that are already in place that move the human heart: love in all its forms (romantic, familial, etc.), idealism and deep belief in a cause, and despair, just to name a few.

But of course, these are not necessarily based on awe over something greater than oneself (but can be, I suppose), so the hole left by hypothetically-absent religion must be filled by something that satisfies that need. Well, lucky for the arts, humans are very small in the grand scheme of things. Earth is, too, as is our sun, our galaxy, and possibly even our universe. There is so much to ponder, so much to imagine when it comes to the workings of the cosmos and our place within it — and that encompasses the positive connotations of “wonder” as well as the feelings of insignificance or alienation. Even with no religion, the human heart cannot help but be stirred by such images, concepts, and questions.

And we need not even be so lofty: why not be awed by the ecosystem of our planet, the fact that civilization lumbers on despite our species’ missteps and greed, the potential for us as individuals and as a global society, the bonds of family and community. This just scratches the surface, but the point is, how can the artistic soul NOT be moved by such thoughts? How can the creative person NOT weigh in or react? If you ask me, these ideas are more full of wonder than any stories about fictional celestial superheroes and their meddlings in our lives.

So would we have Bach or Michelangelo without Christianity? Of course. Because artistic genius will not stay hungry. It will find its food of awe and wonder wherever it lies.