If you've ever had one of those moments in life where you realized you're not where you wanted to be and don't know how you got there, you will be able to relate to Dante's Divine Comedy, which is the theme at Goat Rope these days. If this is your fist visit, please click on last week's entries. You'll also find links and comments about current events.
Here's the opening line:
In the middle of our life's journey, I awoke to find myself in a dark wood, having lost the true path.
Roger that. I've been there quite a few times.
Here's a ridiculously brief summary of all three volumes (there will be more to come this week).
Dante in the dark wood is threatened by three wild beasts, which probably symbolize his own sinful tendencies. He meets a stranger who offers to guide him to a better place. The guide is none other than Virgil, ancient Roman author of the Aeneid and the most venerated poet in the late classic and medieval periods. All this has come about by the intercession of three people in Heaven, the Virgin Mary, Saint Lucia (aka "holy light") and Beatrice, a woman that Dante adored from afar.
The reason for all this special attention is that Dante's soul is so far gone this is his only chance for salvation. And he needs a boost. He will find out on his journey that he is destined for a life of exile from his beloved city of Florence.
Virgil takes Dante on a tour of hell. At first, Dante is totally dependent on him, although he begins to mature as the journey continues. Virgil, by the way, as a pagan, didn't make it to Heaven but resides in Limbo on the outskirts of Hell with other good pagans who never had the chance to hear the Gospel. There's no punishment there, other than "desire without hope of attainment"--i.e. wanting to see God but not being able to.
After going all the way through hell, they come up on the far side of the world at the seven storey mountain of Purgatory. End of Inferno.
Purgatory is a place where people who are going to be saved but still have sins to atone for work off their time. It's pretty bad, but you know you're getting out. Unlike Hell, people are nice to each other here. At a certain point, Virgil goes as far as he can and disappears and Dante has other guides. He drinks from two rivers to purify his mind and is ready to see the vision of Heaven. End of Purgatorio.
Heaven from one point of view is like what was known of astronomy. There were different levels (the moon, Mercury, Venus, the Sun, Mars, Jupiter, Saturn, etc.) according to the capacity of the saved soul to see God. But it's all good. Dante gets to talk to all kinds of saints and to his great great grandfather who tells him he's going to have a rough life of exile and gives him some good advice.
After going to the top and passing a quiz administered by the Apostles, he gets a brief vision of God. It kind of ends suddenly there. Presumably Dante goes back to his life and faces the trouble in store for him, but the grace he has gained has given him both a way to deal with it and a mission in life: to tell of what he saw in The Divine Comedy. End of Paradiso.
That's a really crude overlook, so check back this week for some more details.
CIVIC ENGAGEMENT. Harvard sociologist Robert Putnam of social capital and Bowling Alone fame sees hope in the social engagement of younger Americans.
GAME ON for the next health care debate.
MIDDLE CLASS SQUEEZE. Here's a good source with lots of links on the declining state of the economy for most Americans under Bush misrule.
AWESOME OP-ED from today's Sunday Gazette-Mail is here.
It's about the need for WV Supreme Court justice Brent Benjamin to recuse himself from cases involving Massey Energy. Benjamin was elected due to Massey CEO Don Blankenship's decision to spend $3 million of his own money to defeat his opponent. This mini-drama served as the inspiration for John Grisham's latest novel, The Appeal. Both authors are attorneys who have held posts of responsibility regarding legal ethics.
URGENT DINOSAUR UPDATE here. This one is a 50 foot long sea predator.
GOAT ROPE ADVISORY LEVEL: ELEVATED