Yesterday I finished reading Book 7 (the second to last) of the first volume of Les Misérables, taking advantage of a rare slow morning at work to confront the scenes I'd been avoiding--Fantine's sickbed, and then the courtroom in Arras. I'm not sure what I'd been expecting. Something grim and dire, the limits of the bearable in "great" art being familiar to me from afar (and from Puccini). The rumble of the cataract I was approaching raised a picture in my mind of waste and wreckage: mighty falls ahead. But what happened was the falls flowed upward. I was lifted, sitting at my desk, onto a higher plane by Jean Valjean's behavior in the courtroom. Solemn, joyful, comforted, amazed, all before lunch hour: I was soaring, for awhile there, taking deep breaths, and when I walked away from my desk my step was light, my posture ideal. It is good to read about heroic acts, maybe especially while at work: it raises the spirits, elevates morale. Strangely enough this never occurred to me when I was reading the Bible every day. I'll have to keep it in mind, when I return to that practice, so maybe I'll find it more helpful.