Monday, June 27, 2016
Back to Dante: when reading an old book such as The Divine Comedy a guide is somewhat helpful. First, my copy is an Everyman's Library edition, translated by Alan Mandelbaum, and there is a page or so of notes in back for each canto, very helpful. Secondly, I have been listening to lectures from The Teaching Company's Great Courses, given by Professors William Cook and Ronald Herzman. The lecture series is simply titled Dante's Divine Comedy. Twenty-four 30 minute lectures providing me with a wealth of information.
Saturday, June 25, 2016
Summer Reading - Dante's Divine Comedy is not summer reading since I have been reading it for sometime now, as documented here in my quest to read old books. I have slowly chipped away at the journey. I am now in the Purgatorio. Recently I read the following and remembered when I first encountered the poor souls in Limbo in Canto IV of the Inferno and I had thought of posting something then, but failed to, so here goes, Virgil speaking in both quotes:
"Not for the having - but not having - done,
I lost the sight that you desire, The Sun -
that high Sun I was late in recognizing.
There is a place below that only shadows -
not torments - have assigned to sadness; there,
lament is not an outcry, but a sigh."
Canto VII, Purgatorio
"Do you not ask who are these spirits whom you see before you?
I'd have you know, before you go ahead,
they did not sin; and yet, though they have merits,
that's not enough, because they lacked baptism,
the portal of the faith that you embrace.
And if they lived before Christianity,
they did not worship God in fitting ways;
and of such spirits I myself am one.
For these defects, and for no other evil,
we now are lost and punished just with this:
we have no hope and yet we live in longing."
Canto IV, Inferno
Originally I thought of countering with some thoughts from Lewis concerning the possibility of salvation for those who did not respond to the message of the Gospel in faith, or never heard the message due to place or time. But re-reading the ending lines from the Cantos above I think of Lewis and Hope in Mere Christianity, the end of book 3, chapter 10:
"If I find in myself a desire which no experience in this world can satisfy, the most probable explanation is that I was made for another world."
And, "I must keep alive in myself the desire for my true country, which I shall not find till after death; I must never let it get snowed under or turned aside: I must make it the main object of life to press on to the other country and to help others to do the same."
This seems to me very relevant today as the Christian message has lost it's place of cultural prominence (in my opinion this is not something that recently happened, but the fruits of it our more manifest today). We as humans always live with longing unless we squash it ourselves. Having this longing with no hope of a lasting fulfillment is very disheartening, and in the end, like those in Limbo in the Divine Comedy, "lament is not an outcry, but a sigh."
Wednesday, June 22, 2016
One of Lewis's greatest talents as a writer was his ability to relate Christian truths through figures of speech. Metaphors, analogies, similes, word pictures. The other night I almost embodied one from The Screwtape Letters. Driving home from work I came to a halt at a bridge near my home. I had forgotten that the bridge was to go out of service that day. The speed limit is 25 mph, so the risk of a bad end was minimal, yet I could have driven straight through if I had not been paying attention (really not paying attention, but still a possibility). As I turned around to take another route home I counted four signs in a mile stretch of road to warn me of the danger. I ignored the signposts and might have slowly driven to my destruction. The quote below does contradict my story in that Lewis says there will be no signposts, but I think Screwtape is overstating the case. In the context Lewis is right, one does not have to be a "bad man" to go Hell. Yes, the gradual road to destruction will not have sudden moments that show us we are obviously headed in the wrong direction, yet when one turns around and looks back the signs are obvious. Heading to destruction we simply do not have eyes willing to see.
"Indeed the safest road to Hell is the gradual one – the gentle slope, soft underfoot, without sudden turnings, without milestones, without signposts”
From the end of Letter 12, The Screwtape Letters
Thursday, June 16, 2016
|Photo Credit by marcolm|