March 04, 2008


The theme at Goat Rope this week and last is Dante's Divine Comedy, one of literature's all time greatest creations. You'll also find links and comments about current events. El Cabrero's goal, Gentle Reader, is to encourage you to give Dante a whirl whether for the first or fiftieth time.
For more background on Dante, please click on the earlier entries.

To briefly recap, Dante is so far gone that his only hope for salvation is to take the grand tour of the afterlife, which was brought about by the intercession of souls in Heaven. His guide for most of the story is the ancient Roman poet Virgil, author of the Aeneid.

Basically, hell is shaped like a funnel with the spout pointed down. It's bigger at the top and gets worse as you go to the bottom. There are nine circles, although some circles have more circles within them. The kind of punishment a condemned soul gets in hell is designed to fit the sin. To use just two examples, fortunetellers have their heads on backwards and people driven by lustful passions are blown around in a storm, just as they metaphorically were in life. You kind of become what you invest in.

The only difference, however, between souls that are saved and those that aren't is that the latter did not repent. People in Heaven did just as much bad stuff as those in hell but changed course. Here's a line from Heaven explaining that:

When condemnation of the sin bursts forth from the sinner's lips, here in our courts, the stone is turned back against the blade.

Dante's classification of sins and punishments in hell is probably different than ours would be. Most people today would probably place violent people in the bottom. He uses a different schema, based on an ancient version of psychology. Sins of intemperance, such as lust or gluttony, are not as bad for him as sins of violence. Sins of violence are not as bad as sins of fraud and deceit.

I think this goes back to the Greek idea that we had a three-part soul. The lowest level was associated with the appetites, the middle was concerned with honor and spirit, and the highest was the rational. The perversion of our highest self was considered more serious than lack of self control or lashing out in anger.

One more item for today: Dante's hell has scars. It was wrecked at the time between the death of Christ and his resurrection when, as the Apostle's Creed asserts, "he descended into hell." In medieval times, this was believed to mean that he rescued the souls of the faithful from the Hebrew Bible or Old Testament who were held there. He pretty much trashed the place.

More on hell tomorrow...

ON A RELATED SUBJECT, many Iraqi refugees have given up the hope of returning to any kind of decent life, according to this report.

RESTORING THE RIGHT TO ORGANIZE could get us back to an economy with shared prosperity, economist Dean Baker argues here.

BEING HAPPIER is easier when we don't act like selfish jerks, according to this Washington Post article.


HYENAS are smarter than we thought.


1 comment:

El Cabrero said...

I think I already answered the survey.