February 27, 2008


The man himself, courtesy of wikipedia.

The theme lately at Goat Rope is Dante's Divine Comedy and how to enjoy it. And, yes, you really can. You will also find links and comments about current events. If this is your first visit, please click on earlier posts.

To understand the Divine Comedy, you need to know something about its author and protagonist, Dante Alighieri. The whole thing is in a sense autobiographical. I don't mean that Dante literally went to hell, purgatory and heaven (although most of us have made at least part of that journey at some point in our lives), but rather that Dante is the main character and much of the story refers to his real life.

Dante was born in Florence in 1265 to a respectable family. His father was a member of a guild. We don't know much about his education but he obviously had a good one. We also know that from childhood, he had a major crush on Beatrice Portinari, who was the subject of much of his poetry.

As a relationship, this one never went anywhere, but Beatrice was The One That Got Away (maybe a little like Charlie Brown's red headed girl). She was for him the essence of beauty. In the Divine Comedy, she came to represent spiritual grace. Dante wedded Gemma di Manetto Donati in a marriage that was probably arranged in childhood. They had several children together.

He was a poet, diplomat, soldier and politician. If you think our times are politically polarized, check out Italy in the late medieval period. There were huge tensions between Guelphs and Ghibellines. Guelphs tended to favor the papacy, while Ghibellines supported the Holy Roman emperor (Voltaire once pointed out that the Holy Roman Empire was neither holy nor Roman nor an empire.)

In Florence, the Guelphs won decisively but then split into two opposing camps, the Black and White Guelphs. Dante was a member of the latter party. He fell afoul of political intrigues around 1301 and was exiled from Florence on pain of death for the rest of his life. He died in 1321.

Thus the Divine Comedy is a poem of exile, written after his banishment. He sets it the year before, on Holy Week in the year 1300. The journey related there helps prepare him for the exile to come and the work itself may have been his way of working through the trauma.

But here's the kicker. While Dante is definitely Dante, he is also us. His story is ours as he makes the trip. So don't just read it; put yourself in it.

OH GREAT. Employers in Britain are trying to take a leaf from US union busters.

BUT IT COULD BE WORSE. Here's a snapshot from the Economic Policy Institute on the murder of trade unionists in Colombia.

TALKING SENSE. Here's a good blog post from Create West Virginia about moving to a high road economy. The Gov. and Legislature in El Cabrero's beloved state are hooked on corporate tax cuts, but a lot of good data cries out for public investment in education.

WORKER FREEDOM BILL. A bill that would prohibit employers from requiring workers to attend meetings to listen to views on politics, religion and unions passed the WV House of Delegates earlier this week. Here are several links courtesy of Lincoln Walks at Midnight. The WV Public Radio story is worth a listen if you're wired for sound. It faces a tougher fight in the senate.

FUN ITEM. Writer Beth Lisick spent a year reading self help books and lived to tell the tale. Here's a diverting interview. Apparently some of them were pretty good.

OK, SO I'M ADDICTED. To The Wire that is. But living without cable in the sticks, we're still on season two.

SINCE WE'RE BEING KIND OF RANDOM TODAY, here's an item on C.G. Jung.


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