Between the Lines: Mark Nepo's Miracle

Feb 26, 2016

Mark Nepo
Credit Michelle Gossman

Update: Mark Nepo's reading at Kalamazoo College has been rescheduled for March 29 at 7 p.m. 

Almost thirty years ago, philosopher and poet Mark Nepo nearly lost his life in a battle with cancer. It changed him forever. In his new book Inside the Miracle: Enduring Suffering, Approaching Wholeness, Nepo shares the lessons he learned through his ordeal.


“This experience unraveled the way I see the world,” Nepo says. “It scoured my lens of perception, landing me in a deeper sense of living. That struggle brought me close to death. Today, I remain committed to surfacing the lessons of transformation, as they continue to shape the lens that life has given me. The transformative events may differ for each of us, but every soul will face a life-changing threshold that will keep shaping who we are for the rest of our life.”

Inside the Miracle is a collection of poems and prose, including essays. Some are from Nepo’s earlier works but many are new. Nepo sometimes refers to the collection as a “survival kit” for readers living through some form of suffering, physical or emotional, and in need of healing.

Credit Mark Nepo

“What I’ve endured is the journey that everyone endures in different circumstances and with different names,” Nepo says. “Sooner or later, we’re asked to be honest with our fears and hopes. After all this way, I know that I am weak and strong, stubborn and determined, afraid and brave, giving and demanding, resilient and stalled, confused and clear—sometimes all at once. I know now that going on without denying any aspect of the human drama is what strength is all about. Joy is the transformation of our suffering, not the escape of all we have to face.”

Nepo says another aspect of suffering is that it builds a connection between people. With that connection comes the ability to feel compassion and empathy. Once you have endured a test similar to that experienced by another, he says, you can’t help but build understanding for that person.

“I honor the inevitable call to be a bridge for each other, so we can endure what we suffer, and inhabit the gifts we were born with, until we can enter the days that remain with awe and wonder,” he says. “One of the great paradoxes of being alive is that each of us is born complete and yet we need contact with life in order to be whole. The gift of true relationship is that we awaken and complete each other.”

Mark Nepo will read from Inside the Miracle and sign copies on Tuesday, March 1, at 7 p.m., at Stetson Chapel on the campus of Kalamazoo College. The reading is free and open to the public.

Listen to WMUK's Between the Lines every Tuesday at 7:50 a.m., 11:55 a.m., and 4:20 p.m.