Canto 18 Purgatory: beauty and the good

“The soul which is created quick to love, once readiness is wakened into act, will move toward anything that pleases it.”

Anthony Esolen’s commentary on this Canto is excellent. Human beings have a natural inclination toward the beautiful and the good. “The soul’s natural attraction toward the beauty of the human body is natural and holy; adultery is not. The soul’s hunger for philosophical knowledge is natural and holy; its failure to recognize the claims of faith is not.”

What pleases us, what makes us happy we want to move toward, maybe possess for ourselves. Some things are good. Some are tendencies toward evil toward sin, toward sin against God, nature, other persons.

This Canto is the sound argument that loves and will have an order. “A man may will to be one with God, and may will to enjoy the beauty of his neighbor’s wife, without necessarily ordering the second will by the first. Reason–before one assents to any particular action–is supposed to advise us on the proper ordering. In that rational, willing ordering of our desires lies our freedom and thus our merit or blameworthiness for good or wicked deeds.”

We have the freedom to choose. What we choose is either toward the good or toward a twisting of good. In this Canto are found the slothful. As Esolen reminds us, the “lukewarm in love.” They have no fervor to love or hate. They are apathetic and indifferent. Acedia or sloth causes the soul to become dull. The natural drawing toward beauty and love and good becomes a chore and not really wanted. The will becomes slow to act and doesn’t care about the good any longer.

This spiritual apathy usually leads one down the path of vice. The fervor for holiness lessens or ceases to exist. To lose fervor of love is a very dangerous place to be. The desire for beauty and the good will lead one to put out of right order one’s will. One’s thoughts of wickedness will become enacted more easily. Seeking joy in forbidden actions. I wonder if adultery, affairs happen because of acedia. (A possibility.)

It takes work and action and training the will to love the good. To be fervent for the good. Like Mary who hastened to Elizabeth, we also must be quick to obey or acedia will overtake us leading us to love out of order.

terminal

Would it be better to have a terminal disease,

wasting the body

asking for God’s mercy? Grace to carry on.

Knowing the end was coming soon.

To come to an end in peace. An embrace of cold death into warm life.

Than to have a mental defect, torture of the mind

never seeing the feasible end. Always lost in darkness

blind, unknowing.

Stomach in knots. Mind in turmoil.

Someone who wants to live, wants to live no matter the struggle.

One who wants to die only talks like this.

A ghost lost among the shades.

Walking through the shadow of the valley of death. Carrying on, only a vapor

self lost, body only a memory. Distant, elusive.

Fear the affection keeping one motivated. Wasting away, paper thin,

see through.

Shades are not lost to the sight of God. But the wraith,

ghost of the self feels that the gaze of God has abandoned him. Hope gone.

Only fear and despair push him down to float just above the surface of the ground.

Green grass, fields of undulating wheat distant in the memory. Parched in the desert

water drips in some distant sound. But cannot be found.

The one who has put all hope in another person; lost in the desert. A dead idol cannot save, but only sit silently tormenting its worshipper.

The intellect dulled. Perceiving nothing clearly. Seen through mist and darkness.

Whether the mind or the body is terminal, give one courage to see aright. To ask for the light in sheer darkness.

 

Canto 18 Inferno: Kiss ass

In this Canto begins the journey through the area of the fraudulent. Here Dante sees the panderers, seducers, and flatterers. In vulgar terms they are kiss asses and bullshitters. Instigators and ones who lead astray with the honeyed tongue. (I use these crass words because Dante uses them. Well the excrement word. If you are offended, don’t be. It is the nature of such people in this circle of Hell).

Panderers are those who want to please others, not to help them but for an ulterior motive. A panderer kisses up to get something they want. A seducer is one who entices others into error or wrongdoing. One who takes advantage of another. Pandering can definitely be a part, a means of a seducer. Same with a flatterer. Dante literally has the flatterers face down in shit. In the detritus that they spew to suck up to another. Telling lies to get what they want, either praise or if they flatter another may attain a place of prominence beside the one they flatter. They are the yes-men. Parasites as Cicero calls them. As Cicero says, the yes-men are the antithesis of friendship. Part of friendship: to admonish and to be admonished for the good of the other. Not out of anger or to tear someone down.

Most have known one or all of these fraudulent types. Maybe has even been one at one point in their lives. To be trapped in the instigation of these types feels good at times, but when you realize what is going on, the lies hurt; questioning the motives of those people who have “built” you up.

The fraudulent, in Dante’s view, are the second worst; the worst being the traitors. Church Fathers have considered the sins of the mind being worse than the sins of the body. Pride being the worst, the root of all sin. The sin of Satan. To twist another with the intellect is far more damaging to the soul than killing the body or another temptation. Yet, with bodily sin, most of the time there is the sin of the intellect–the seducer and flatterer, even panderer will couple itself with lust. No sin is isolated within itself. Sin has multiple layers. We are the only creatures who will manipulate, lie, cheat, pride being the twister of reason and love. Our intellects twisting our motives and intentions. Manipulating is far more damaging to a person because it is long-term.

Conversion and repentance takes action by the person, but most of all the changing of one’s mind. To deny the natural impulse and follow what is right and good. Paul emphasized putting on the mind of Christ. We cannot do this on our own. It takes fellowship and community–the body of Christ. It is no easy road, probably why so many turn away. Yet crisis pulls people back because they cannot live in their own dysfunction for eternity. Or if you can, it is Hell.

 

Weight of sin

Weight, heaviness, the burden upon shoulders and soul.

The crushing weight of transgression. Debt. Harm to our soul.

The neutron star–everything near its orbit pulled in and crushed.

Obliterated.

Pulsar emitting light but its density destroys.

Guilt like gravity of the pulsar.

Envy crushing the soul. Sin ever-expanding the mass of the sinner.

Disobedience pulling the soul to the center of Jupiter with crushing weight.

Flattened like a coin crushed on the tracks.

Iniquity weighing like lead on the heart. Bowing the shoulders.

Wanting to disappear like a black hole only seen by the distortion of the light it warps.

Deeper into Inferno he travels. Light extinguished, devouring all in its path.

Love his only rescue. Descending into the weight of human suffering.

Gravity has no effect on Love. Love the keeper of the cosmos. The One who understands all things and remakes the one destroyed.

Like stars birthed in Orion’s belt. Lights full color. Light and true … purified in lights glory.

 

untitled

Asteroid careens through the cosmos.

Follows its path, sometimes pulled toward planet or other object

destroyed or destroys.

But it careens upon a path unthinking. Undeterred except by outside force.

A mountain flower grows atop a mountain rock.

Purple and bending in the cold, strong wind.

Alone absorbing the sun’s light.

Both objects being what they are.

The human being doesn’t know what to be.

Taught to do. Not to be.

Not remembering who he is, whose image he is made in.

Upon the mountain top bending in the wind,

man questions who he is in the light.

Not knowing.

The asteroid careening becomes a meteor,

then meteoroid.

Man sees it burning through the atmosphere

a fireball.

Certain doom inevitable.

Then will he know who he is?

Will he still feel alone?

 

Lights assault

Radiation of the sun assaults planet’s magnetic field.

Creating the aurora borealis.

Empty expanses of space between celestial objects.

Yet dark matter unseen fills the void.

A black hole tears the fabric of the universe.

Devouring all in its path. Nothing escapes. Light, matter, galaxies, stars.

Spewing light like exploding lightning bugs, like Paethon pulling the sun too close

causing a wreak of disaster of light–we call the Milky Way.

The blue planet alone in expanses of cold, empty space.

Alone. Revolving, rotating, year after year, ages and ages pass. Time.

Until Saturn deems time to meet its end.

Suns burn out. Supernovas. Black holes. Explosion. Implosion.

We observe with our time machines of tube and glass gathering light from millennia away. Observing what has already happened.

Does anyone care a sun lost, a galaxy devoured, collided with another galaxy? A meteor destroying an era on a planet. An atmosphere torn away, radiation scorching the surface. We observe with uncaring eye. Distance and time brings indifference.

We go on with certain doom hurling by our silent planet. A miracle every day the planet is not destroyed by some outside force.

From our finite observation, how could we see Love holding the universe together? It must be the perspective of the mind observing.

Does God look upon us with such a cold eye? Watching the universe destroy itself, yet new stars and planets forming from seeming destruction.

In this universe created as good in Love, by Love. We seek meaning out of the discoveries that remain mysteries to us.

If only a meteor would strike us, causing the end of time to begin eternity. But God delays. Delays to his purpose, not ours or mine.

The radiation, the light of the sun assaults the planet’s magnetic field

that it may create the aurora, causing wonder. Causing our finite being to seek something outside itself. To look up. To discover this God of love who has made all things and is the ground of all things. The Spirit in all but not contained in one thing. Assaulting the universe with Love that all may know the Creator.

Canto 17 Paradise: exile

Dante’s relative continues to talk to him. Dante tells him of his troubled heart about what Farinata told him–about his exile from Florence. He will leave everything he ever loved. Descending steps not his own a grief.

Anthony Esolen reminds us: “…were it not for the hard look at human evil that Dante was forced to take–we might not have the Comedy. But He who can bring good out of evil can bring good out of Florence.”

Historically, Dante was exiled unjustly. And exiled with awful people. His exile, a grief to Dante. But such good came from his exile–the Comedy.

As the Comedy shows and reminds, our sin hurts ourselves, others, never just an idolated incident. But there is a healing and redemption if we so choose, which can lead to Paradise. The Christian life is one of self examination and suffering and forgiveness and repentance. It is a life in motion toward good. It is not always a fun journey. Not always one with happiness. The solid foundation is God and our hope in Him and knowing who we are in Him. Even when we are in exile, we hope and know that God is our pillar of fire leading us in the night and the pillar of cloud leading in the day.

Look above. Look to God. Then you will know yourself. No matter where you find your life, in exile, alone, in turmoil, in Hell, on the mountain of suffering being transformed slowly–God is our hope and salvation leading us home–to Himself.