Tag Archives: A Course in Miracles

Pursuit of Happiness

At our A Course in Miracles meeting yesterday one of our members asked during our break: “Why are there so many homeless and hungry people in America when we’re supposed to be the richest and most powerful nation on earth?”

It is a valid question and one whose answer includes the very foundation that the United States of America was founded upon. I have long found it irksome that our founding fathers skewed John Locke’s Natural Rights to Life, Liberty, and Property into Life, Liberty, and the Pursuit of Happiness. The Pursuit of Happiness, what a meaningless phrase that is in and of itself.

As part of our United States Government course I ask our high school students to write a Compare and Contrast Essay between the Bill of Rights and Franklin Delano Roosevelt’s Four Freedoms as outlined in his 1941 State of the Union Address. To iterate the Four Freedoms are: Freedom of Speech, Freedom of Religion, Freedom from Want, and Freedom from Fear. While it is clear the Freedom of Speech and Religion are covered by the First Amendment most students do not grasp what Roosevelt’s Freedom from Want and Fear actually implies.

What does it mean to be Free from Want? How would the lives of the people everywhere change if they did not want for adequate jobs and living wages? If they did not want for adequate food and shelter? If they did not want for adequate health and dental care? If they did not want for respect and dignity?

And what does it mean to be Free from Fear? How would the lives of the people everywhere change if they did not fear aliens and homemade bombs? If they did not fear their neighbors armed with guns? If they did not fear the police shooting first? If they did not fear gangsters and drive by shootings? If they did not fear enslavement? If they did not fear pollution and the chemicals in our foods? If they did not fear losing jobs to younger and cheaper workers? If they did not fear not having enough to survive when you cannot get work?

Yes, how would the lives of the people everywhere change if they no longer lacked and were no longer afraid? Perhaps that would be the true Pursuit of Happiness.

Change in Perception

Last October I began having a serious pain in my right shoulder and assumed that somehow I had injured it while working on the fixer-upper house of ours. I did not do anything at the time because my annual physical had already been scheduled for the end of October and I would discuss it with my doctor at that time. We did indeed discuss it and he ordered x-rays of my shoulder to see if they would show anything. A few days after the x-rays were done I received a letter telling me that my shoulder showed mild osteoarthritic changes.

I continued working on the house not believing that the shoulder pain I suffered was arthritic in nature and continued to think that I had somehow injured myself. The pain intensity was such that I had to numb it a bit with regular doses of ibuprofen and after a while I began to question my quality of life and whether or not continuing on with the pain on a day to day basis was worth it. Shortly after these negative thoughts began I contracted a bad cold and was forced to slow down my level of effort.

After the cold passed I turned my attention to some small woodworking projects, namely two display shelves for the master bathroom, and attempted to wean myself off of the ibuprofen with no success. I had a follow up with my doctor scheduled for the first week of March because he was concerned about an abnormally low level of vitamin D and an abnormally high level of cholesterol. During this visit we discussed the pain in my shoulder and he suggested I have a shot of cortisone to relieve the arthritis pain. I told him I did not believe the pain was arthritic and I showed him exactly where it originated. He in turn palpitated the area and declared it was coming from an inflamed occipital tendon and that I was suffering from tendonitis.

I left the medical clinic with exercises and in higher spirits than I had been in for several months because I knew that what I had would heal and the pain would eventually be gone. In fact, it seemed to me that my pain was no longer as severe as it had been just because of my new prognosis.

In A Course in Miracles we define a miracle as a change in perception and on the 3rd of this month I had a change in perception. When I feared the pain I endured was a lifetime affair it seemed at times to be wholly unbearable. When I learned the pain I endured would be a transient affair it then seemed tolerable and surmountable.

We have all had setbacks and it is often hard to realize that while we are caught within the unrest a small change in perception is indeed a true miracle.


At yesterday’s A Course in Miracles meeting we discussed the purpose of the Course and I concluded that the main goal of the Course was to learn to be at peace with oneself and the world about. This is, of course, my opinion that has been derived from twelve on-and-off years of study and discussion. I look at the people about me and to world in which we dwell and it seems that so many are not at peace and do not know what it might feel like to be at peace.

I know people who are so unhappy because their circumstances are not what they believe was meant for them. Their car is not nice enough, their house is not big enough, their bank account is not fat enough, and their job is not powerful enough. It is impossible task to find peace in the face of all the not enough’s that creep into the thoughts and dreams of those running the maze that is often referred to as the rat race.

There was a short time in my youth where I was at peace with who I was and where I was going but then I was seduced by the dark side of life – overwhelming ambition and devotion to career. I was a chain-smoking, coffee-guzzling, accountant who became an Accounting Services Manager for Xerox at the tender age of twenty-six. I was not at peace and I did not even realize it until I met the teacher who had been waiting for me to take tutelage with him. Graham was a man who had found peace with himself and with the world around him, which is not to say he was perfect for he was a man like any man and had his vices and foibles like White Owl cigars and tall cans of Budweiser’s. Yes, Graham became my Peace Tutor and the best friend I ever had.

Graham died of lung cancer in 1982, the year my world went into a spiral so violent that by the end of 1983 my marriage had ended and I walked away from Xerox to accept a Corporate Vice-presidency. At that time of my life I remembered Graham’s lessons but failed to practice them and for the next two and a half years I suffered with the undulating economy until the day of my rebirth in September of 1986 when I was given the opportunity to be let out from my employment contract. It was as if the weight of the world had been lifted from off me. I went on to become a Senior Consultant for a small consulting firm and spent the next twenty years creating software solutions for companies about the United States. In that capacity I was at peace with who I was and mostly at peace with the world about me.

Yesterday’s message in the Course was: To have peace, teach peace to learn it, and yesterday I had the opportunity to practice a real-time lesson with one of our co-students who is having a very difficult time finding the peace within himself. One of the exercises many of us engage in is focusing on the good and beautiful aspects of our world thereby limiting the negativity that is the destroyer of peace. I opened the window shades of the hall in which we meet, which overlooks a garden area between the hall and the church, and asked him what he saw. His reply was the aged wall of the church and the ugly power lines draped between them. Had he lowered his eyes into the garden he would have seen a variety of green plants and a single red rose that was tucked among them. I believe peace may be found in the petals of a flower should one choose to focus there.

Peace is such a powerful desire that much of the world’s population uses it in greeting one another in much the same way American’s say How’s it going and Catch you later. Peace, you can look for it everywhere and find it nowhere or you can look for it within and find it everywhere.

As-salamu alaykum wa rahmatullahi wa barakaatuhu.
(May Allah’s peace, mercy, and blessing be upon you.)

Blind Eye

20150920-A Blind Eye2I attend sessions of A Course in Miracles on an irregular basis beginning some time following the start of the new millennium when my friend Swallow encouraged me to attend with him. What I found were a lot of different interpretations of the messages within the text as well as a number of people whom I counted as friends. Way back then we would have 20-30 students of the Course meet every Saturday, including some of the original founders of the study group from the early 1980’s.

During my on and off years with the study group I was also associated with Unity as a YOU Sponsor (YOU = Youth of Unity). In that capacity I taught, among many other things, the 5 Basic Unity Principles of which the third is: I create my experiences by what I choose to think and what I feel and believe.

That seems pretty straight forward and is essentially a declaration that an individual’s attitude has a lot to do with how much joy s/he can get out of life. Now in the Course there is a somewhat similar idea that has been expressed differently by its students and in its extreme it seems to be that expression is: Life is an illusion and nothing matters because we are eternal spiritual beings.

The extremity of this idea hit me hard yesterday when the plight of the Syrian refugees in Europe was mentioned by one of the students. Now, that is one of a few news stories I have been following because it tears at my heartstrings. (The other two stories are the horrendous wildfires that have been plaguing California and the national carnival we call a presidential campaign.) I am afraid I became angry soon after the subject was broached and it was suggested that those lazy Syrians, who were looking to Europe and the rest of the world for handouts, should be turned right back around or simply left to starve to death.

Lazy Syrians? I was appalled that intelligent adults did not even acknowledge that a massive Civil War has been waging in Syria since 2011 and estimates have well over 300,000 dead, that nearly eight million have had their homes, towns, and villages destroyed, and that more than five million have fled the country. In a country whose total population was approximately eighteen million these compute into obscenely high statistics: over 40% displaced and more than 27% have fled their country. It is nothing less than a disgrace to all of humankind. To put things in perspective the population of Southern California, where I live, far exceeds the population of Syria.

I am not a religious man but I am a spiritual one who has many questions and far too few answers, which leads me back to the: Life is and illusion concept. I have fully embraced that portion of the concept in that being human we are subjected to our limited perceptions and cannot fully appreciate the All. However, what we do perceive in our own limited means is still a reality that is a far cry from Plato’s cave and the idea that nothing matters because we are eternal spiritual beings grates at me when the response to it is utter apathy, which my dictionary defines as: “lack of interest or concern : indifference.”

I believe it is true that no one is able to prove the existence of an eternal soul or spirit and I certainly can respect a person’s right to their faith that one does exist. However, I don’t believe that people who call themselves Christians can ignore the basic teachings of Jesus of the Nazarene and turn a blind eye to those who go where but fortune do they. Just saying.

What Dreams May Come

Fortune Teller2

When I was all of seventeen I accompanied some friends to a carnival in Santa Ana. One of the girls in our little troop insisted that we each pay to have our fortunes read by a Gypsy fortuneteller that accompanied the carnies. Well, I never put much cotton in the idea that a person could predict the future and resisted but was finally pushed inside as the last of our group, all of which had previously exited her tent with smiles on their faces.

Inside the dark, yet colorful, tent I was encouraged to sit and offer my palm. The dark woman took one look at it and any vestige of mirth that might have been on her face immediately disappeared and was replaced by a look that might have been called horror. She then proceeded to consult the cards I selected from a Tarot deck and then some runes with peculiar markings that she had me warm inside my cupped hands and then release as if I was throwing dice. None of this brought a smile to her face but in the end she told me that she was sorry but I was going to die before my twenty-first birthday.

Now I often wondered if one of my so-called friends at the time slipped her ten or twenty dollars and said: “When Sam comes in you tell him he’s going to die soon.” I cornered them with that accusation and they all swore “cross my heart” they didn’t. Okay, if they didn’t then why would a Gypsy woman who made a living giving people good news would tell me I would be dead within the next three years? It didn’t make sense to me and after a period of what might be called grief or depression I decided I wasn’t going to let her fortune change my life, which is not to say it didn’t cross my mind a lot over the next several years.

I recently went to an Asian restaurant with my wife and two youngest children (21 and 19) and when we opened our fortune cookies my little slip of paper was blank on both sides. On our previous visit I had opened my fortune cookie only to discover that it was empty. Both of those incidents took me back to that Gypsy fortuneteller from so long ago and this past Sunday my wife and I had lunch at the Canton Palace and when I went to open my fortune cookie it was with hesitant trepidation. I opened the cookie, found a fortune, and read: “You will be healthy and wealthy in your old age.” That was so much better then no future at all.

In A Course in Miracles we are told that we are living in a dream and none of what we perceive is real. My friend Jerrie, who is in his eighties and refers to himself as a recovering Catholic, says that we are really lying on a grassy bank beside a river in Heaven having a dream about not being an eternal spirit. At sixty I have been thinking more about the end that is inevitable and, like Hamlet, I wonder if we will still be able to dream when the heart and brain stop functioning but the analytical side of my intelligence says no while the hopeful side wonders maybe. Then there is that other self who worries that what happens after death is exactly what we believe will happen. That’s just too frightening but would make a good story in the vein of The Lathe of Heaven.

In the Course we are told that Death has no power unless we choose to identify with it and that Death is not real. Yet, I look around me and I know that it is oh so real and oh so inevitable. Thirty-eight years ago tomorrow, the thirteenth of December, my cousin and best friend Carol took her own life and some seven years before that my dear friend Marsha had had enough of life and at sixteen she stepped in front of a truck to end the pain.

Are they dreaming now?

E-Ticket Ride


At our A Course in Miracles meeting yesterday we were reading Chapters 8 and 9 in the Manual for Teachers but were having a lot of asides and discussions about why we are here in this plane, on this Earth, in this life, and in this dream. We talked about our ongoing challenges, or opportunities, as a previous mentor of mine liked to impress upon his grasshoppers. Now some of my fellow travelers like to point out how we must have chosen to be here in the first place, which got me to thinking that as furious and intense as this roller coaster journey is that: “Life is the ultimate E-Ticket Ride.”

Now, not all of my fellow travelers knew that the E-Ticket Rides were the premium rides at Disneyland in Anaheim but a quick explanation from one of my dear friends clarified the metaphor and we were back to the discussion on whether or not we chose to have this experience. It’s that ancient musing that always begs the question: If I had known then what I know now – would I have chosen life?

There are a few personages from history who have garnered my utmost respect and one of those giants in my esteem was William Blake who addressed the question with elegance in The Book of Thel. Now Thel had the opportunity to leave the Vales of Har and see first hand what awaited her should she choose to be born. What she saw disturbed her greatly and when she came to her grave she asked herself a series of questions, shrieked, and fled back into the Vales of Har.

One of my dear friends remarked that she, like many of us, have earned far too many scars on this pilgrimage, which got me to thinking about the Boogeyman from Tim Burtons The Nightmare before Christmas. What can I say? It was a very visual discussion. Anyway, the Boogeyman was held together by a thread that when pulled released the consortium inside that without there was no substance, or even existence, to the feared Boogeyman. In some ways I think we can view our scars as the badges of honor that we have survived the challenges hurled at us and actually can serve to be the bindings that hold us intact – given our perception.

I believe that, had I been in Thel’s singular position of perceiving life before she had to endure it, I would still have chosen life as long as I saw that along with the pain there was also the happiness. As it was pointed out in the ACIM Manual for Teachers we perceive because of contrasts, which begs the question: Could I know joy without knowing misery? Not that I know the answer but the philosopher in me believes that it is worth pondering.

When I was a kid the E-Ticket was the most treasured in the booklet. Indeed, to the extent that junk drawers all over Southern California held numerous unused A, B, C, and D-Tickets without an unused E-Ticket in sight and I wonder if the junk drawers in the Vales of Har look the same.

Life, the ultimate E-Ticket Ride, replete with its Tunnels of Love and its Chambers of Horrors. Yes, I have my jagged scars and my wretched nightmares but I also have Love and all is well.

Remembering Rachel Joy Scott

Rachel Joy Scott

This morning I was researching nonfiction reading materials to use with our high school curriculum in the spirit of the Common Core Standards when I happened across a sidebar that indicated Susan Klebold received a book deal to write a memoir regarding her experiences following the Columbine Tragedy. I can well imagine how difficult a process this will be for her to go back in time in order to recount what had to have been the most painful experience of her life but the first thing that came to mind for me was that now iconic image of Rachel Joy Scott sitting peacefully upon a boulder beside a lake in a purple blouse and blue jeans.

The Columbine Tragedy took place more than fifteen years ago and yet if often seems as if only days have passed by and even 9/11 sometimes seems to pale beside the horror of those two troubled boys turning their wrath and weapons upon their classmates, some of whom they once called friends.

One of the more touching books I have read was Rachel’s Tears and I continue to refuse to part with it. It was a book I stumbled upon many years ago in a Deseret Industries Thrift Store and it truly served to personalize the Tragedy of April 20, 1999.

I have been troubled with the stance that some of my A Course in Miracles friends take when they insist that all of the bad that goes on out there is only an illusion that we have manufactured in our ego consciousness and means nothing at all. I don’t buy it.

Now I understand that we human beings have a limit to our perceptions and, as such, can never truly appreciate the true and complete nature of anything but that doesn’t mean the out there is illusory. Yes it’s true that we may not see it all but what we sense is real and the pain and suffering of our sisters, brothers, and cousins around this planet of ours is as real as Rachel’s disbelief when Eric walked to where she was sitting and shot her dead.

Rachel Joy Scott inspired a legacy and I have had the good fortune to experience several of the Rachel’s Challenge assemblies, both as a teacher and as a private citizen, and found them to be truly inspiring events. In this small way Rachel lives on.

In his poem A Refusal to Mourn the Death, By Fire, Of a Child in London Dylan Thomas concludes with the line: After the first death, there is no other. That line has been a cryptic puzzle for me for sometime and I have tried many times to reason what Thomas meant by it. Now this is a poem that comes to mind whenever the memory of Rachel intrudes and, for some reason, I have subconsciously connected London’s daughter with Columbine’s daughter and it’s likely because Rachel was the first to die on that black Tuesday.

I returned to work after the distraction but my mind wouldn’t let it go and I later recalled that Rachel had developed some strong Christian convictions and it occurred to me how Thomas’s last line might apply to Rachel and that is: After the first death there is the resurrection and eternal life and, if there really is a happily ever after, I believe Rachel has earned her place in it.

The Undoing Of Fear

Today our A Course in Miracles study group started Chapter 28; The Undoing of Fear, and, as we read through Section 1, I recalled Franklin Roosevelt’s Four Freedoms Speech of 1941, which I understand was technically his State of the Union Address, but growing up with Norman Rockwell’s paintings forever at hand it will always be remembered as the Four Freedoms Speech. The Elementary School I attended had copies of the Rockwell paintings displayed along with portraits of George Washington and Abraham Lincoln. Our family had reproductions as did most of my friends’ families whose parents were all of an age to have listened to the speech on the radio on that 6th of January, eleven short months shy of Pearl Harbor.

As we read about the Undoing of Fear I thought back to all the times I was taught to be afraid while growing up in Los Angeles County. The first thing I was taught to be afraid of was the Commies and their Atom Bombs all reinforced by the regular Duck and Cover drills in school, the monthly test of the air raid siren that could be heard for miles and miles, the atomic bomb bunkers on the nearby Palos Verdes Peninsula, and of course that was all capstoned by the Cuban Missile Crisis in 1962.

Then it was George Putman’s news where his conservative coverage of the Civil Rights Movement was portrayed as something we should all be fearful of and then brought home in August of 1965 when we all stood upon our rooftops and watched the flames and smoke rising from Watts. All too soon though it was back to the Red Menace and that dirty little Southeast Asian war and the Hawks were clamoring for a nuclear strike on Hanoi. It always amazed me how Ho Chi Minh, who stood 4’ 11’’ and weighed all of 90 pounds, caused so much fear in the self-proclaimed most powerful country on Earth.

China, the Ku Klux Klan, Osama Bin Laden and al-Qaeda, the Taliban, Iran, Iraq, and Terrorism comprise only a partial list of reasons to harbor fear. My wife and I were watching Brian Wilson’s news show last night and there was coverage of the TSA and their new scanners and footage of the heavily armed agents in the airports and it hurt to remember as a teen and in my twenties there was none of that. Loved ones could even accompany the passengers out to the plane and kiss them goodbye then wave as they walked up the stairs. The only fear of flying seemed to be restricted to mechanical failures and Acts of God.

After last nights news I’m not exactly sure what I’m supposed to be afraid of, the threat of terrorism or the worst drought in California History. I suppose we’ve been given so many things to be afraid of that maybe we’re being desensitized to fear itself. At least that’s the way I feel these days. I think the last thing I really worried about was a war with China. In fact, on the morning of September 11, 2001, I was away on a business trip and awakened by a phone call from my wife who declared that; “We’re under attack,” and my immediate response was to ask; “The Chinese?”

I’m sure it was also Franklin Roosevelt who declared: “We have nothing to fear but fear itself,” and that’s what The Undoing Of Fear is really all about – simply changing our perspectives and choosing not to give fear a place to roost.


As a somewhat less than zealot student of A Course in Miracles I seem to have the ability (if not need) to occasionally step back and question what it is I may be reading or hearing. Now some would likely call this ego. However, I prefer to think of it in terms of a lifetime of diverse education that includes degrees in Philosophy and Anthropology (with a minor in Behavioral Science), coursework in Accounting and Business Administration, Certifications in Adult and Vocational Education, Art, Music, and more.

This is only to set the background for my reaction to a recent statement made my one of my fellow students of the Course. This particular statement was: “Animals may feel pain but only human beings suffer.”

Well, I and/or my ego, took immediate exception to that statement and I expressed my disagreement with that particular interpretation. My fellow student went on to clarify by adding: “While humans and animals both experience pain only human beings dwell on it, become obsessed with the circumstances surrounding it, make it a part of their future, and therefore are the only creatures that suffer.”

I think I said one or two more words on the subject and then dropped it because I could see that my fellow traveler was very attached to this belief – to the point it seemed that it was an unvarnished Truth. But, it led me to thinking about all of the things I’ve read, viewed, and witnessed firsthand in my life.

Way back in the summer of 1968, when I was still thirteen years old, my uncles took me dove hunting in Arizona. They put a .410 shotgun in my hands and told me to point at the doves as they flew overhead and once I got the course slide the barrel 12 or 18 inches ahead and pull the trigger. Prior to that day my sum experience with firearms was summer camp at the Lake Arrowhead Boy Scout Camps where they taught us to shoot .22 shorts at stationary targets. On that summer morning in 1968 I pointed that .410 shotgun fifty times and knocked twenty-five white-winged doves out of the sky.

Now, the problem with bringing them down was that they were not always dead when they hit the ground and so I was taught a merciful way of dispatching them. That is, I picked them up by the head between my index and middle fingers and spun the poor things around in order to break their necks. Forty-five years later I haven’t forgotten the terror in those poor creatures eyes and no one will ever convince me that they were not suffering.

Many of us have witnessed the agony of a cat, or dog, or squirrel, or another of God’s creatures being struck by a car and being left on the roadside to writhe and squirm until dead without being able to do anything. Don’t tell me that’s not suffering in their eyes as they know they’re dying and wishing they weren’t.

I think the crux of my education occurred several years ago when I was still consulting for a firm in the South Bay. Where we live we had a serious outbreak of the West Nile Virus. There were only a few human cases and I understand a number of chicken farmers had sizable losses. However, what got to me was the near decimation of our once quite robust population of crows, as I have long been amazed by the corvids, which includes crows, as well as, ravens, magpies, jackdaws, and jays. In fact, our areas population of crows dwindled to the rare sighting of one of the few remaining individuals.

What really hit me was the one morning I was leaving for work, ninety-two miles each way, and at the end of our access road when I came across a dead crow and its mate anxiously, if not frantically, pacing about it and nudging it as if encouraging it to arise. To my way of thinking, and perceiving, the crow was grieving and grieving hard. I watched sadly for a while and then continued on to Hawthorne for a full days work.

I was not prepared to find, when I returned home about nine that evening, that the dead crow’s mate was still pacing about her dead comrade and still appealing to it to arise and fly away together. It was one of the saddest sights I can recall. Now, the surviving crow was not there the next morning when I left for work, although the dead one was. In those days we were supposed to call a special number anytime we spotted a dead bird and I suppose someone did for it wasn’t there when I returned home that evening.

I don’t know why we humans have to underrate the value of others, including our non-human cousins. Not only do we do it with animals, we do it with each other, as can be seen by the suffering of the less able to protect themselves; as in the conquest of numerous indigenous peoples around the world and down through the millennia.

When I observe the Corvidae family of birds I am impressed by their ability to manufacture and use tools, to improvise in new situations, and to reason. I am also fascinated by their sense of community to the point where sometimes I think that, as we humans do not have an exclusive on tool use, maybe we likewise do not have the exclusive claim to that aspiration we call humanity.


This morning, Saturday the 29th of June, my wife and I attended the A Course in Miracles meeting that I’ve been associated with off and on for more than a decade, mostly because a dear friend asked me to attend and I subsequently fell in love with the others attending the meeting.

A Course in Miracles is mostly, I think, about perception. That is, it’s about how we choose to look at and interpret this world we live in. That fact was driven home again this morning when one of our fellow travelers admitted that during the preceding week: “I have been in Hell,” but continued with, “However, next week I will be in Heaven.” This prompted another of our explorers to ask: “So you commute?”

Our friend’s question brought a rather animated round of laughter to several members of our group who recognized that we so often make that commute in the blink of an eye, sometimes willingly, sometimes not.

It is an ancient truth that, while we have little power over what transpires in our universe, we have the ability to learn how to have some influence over how we choose to react. It’s not always easy to maintain a positive, upbeat, and heavenly attitude, which is why those who do their best to practice the principles they study in A Course in Miracles recognize that it is a lifetime journey, and in the words of a professor of mine: “It’s a process.”

Way back in 1642, Richard Lovelace wrote in his poem To Althea From Prison:

Stone walls do not a prison make,
Nor iron bars a cage;
Minds innocent and quiet take
That for an hermitage;
If I have freedom in my love
And in my soul am free,
Angels alone, that soar above,
Enjoy such liberty.

If you haven’t already I would encourage you to read the entire poem. A few years later Satan echoed a similar sentiment (Really? Satan? You don’t say) through the pen of the penultimate John Milton in his epic Paradise Lost, first published in 1667 (and first read by me in 1965). In the opening book Milton, as the voice of the fallen Arch Angel, writes:

The mind is its own place, and in it self
Can make a Heav’n of Hell, a Hell of Heav’n.

And yes, I think you ought to read the entire poem but at nearly 80,000 words it’s definitely an undertaking. I adore Milton (and Blake as well) so I’ve read the epic, along with its sisters, twice now with many excursions back for bits and pieces and will likely read it a time or two more when I’ve retired to the proverbial rocking chair on the front porch.

As you continue on your journey and find yourself in Heaven with some force that intervenes and tries to insist that you commute back into Hell, just remember that you do not have to turn the ignition key and shift into gear. It’s perfectly okay to leave it in park and stay right where you are – in Heaven.