Monday, September 21, 2015

Reading Danté's Inferno 2015: Cantos X to XII

Canto X - Circle Six: Heresy

Heresy can be a bit prickly among modern day folk because they are far too intelligent to believe in god or a higher power. That is exactly what Danté was writing about in the early fourteenth century: pride leads to heresy.

What's even weirder today is the proliferation of ghost "reality" shows and people that believe in zombies and vampires.

Oh, but you don't believe in zombies or vampires, do you? You're way too smart for that.

There is heresy in every age and it involves what we, as a society, are forbidden to criticize. Can't think of anything? What is the worst epithet you can be labeled? How about racist or homophobic?

Like George Orwell once said, "The heresy of heresies was common sense. And what was terrifying was not that they would kill you for thinking otherwise, but that they might be right. "

Canto X takes us to Circle Six where we meet the shade of Farinata delgi Uberti, a Ghebelline (Danté is a Guelph) from Florence who pops up from his flaming tomb and questions Danté's ancestral lineage--Uberti isn't impressed. Danté and Uberti then engage in a tit-for-tat about the Guelph and Ghibelline conflict. The only thing Uberti regrets is that the Ghibillines didn't win, not that his family was banished, or that he landed in Hell.

During this conversation, up pops Cavalcante de Cavalcanti who is sharing the tomb with Uberti who asks Danté if his son, Guido is alive? Guido Cavalcanti is a contemporary of Danté's, a poet who may, or may not, have scorned Virgil. "I come not on my own, he who stands there waiting leads me through, perhaps to one Your Guido held in scorn." Danté does not answer and Cavalcanti disappears as suddenly as he appeared.

Meanwhile, Uberti is just standing there flaminingly mute. What's up with that? Guess what Cavalcanti is his in-law. Can you imagine spending all eternity in the same tomb as your in-law?

Uberti makes a prophecy that Danté will know exactly how it feels to be banished within 50 months and reveals that the heretics can only see the future and not the present. This is part of their punishment. "We see with faulty vision" in the way they looked at things (especially religion) in life. On judgement day their tombs will be forever sealed.

Canto XI - Leaving Circle Six: Heresy and Entering Circle Seven: Violence

Danté wants to rest because it's way too stinky and Virgil tells him to get over it. Virgil then reminds Danté and the readers about the organization of Hell and how they are entering the realm of fraud "Since the vice of fraud is man's alone, it more displeases God, and thus the fraudulent are lower down, assailed by greater pain."

The circle of the violent has three rings and the sinners are assigned according to their sin "Violence may be aimed at God, oneself, or at one's neighbor."

First ring, violence committed against a neighbor, including "pillage, arson, and violent theft."

Second ring, violence against self, including gamblers, suicides or "lamenting when he should rejoice." Suicide is a mortal sin - a violence against your creator.

Third ring, violence against God "when we deny and curse Him in our hearts, or when we scorn nature and her bounty."

Danté asks if these sinners are so bad, why aren't they "punished inside the fiery city." To which Virgil replies, don't be such an idiot, even Aristotle in his book Ethics knows "the three dispositions Heaven opposes, 'incontinence, malice, and mad brutishness', and how incontinence (lack of self control) offends God less and incurs a lesser blame."

Danté is still not getting it. What about usury (lending money at unreasonably high rates), how does it offend "God's goodness"? Usurers sin against nature because they don't earn practicing the rules of nature or through the sweat of their brow, they make unreasonable profits from another's toil.

Danté has basically taken a "time out" to explain how the Seventh Circle: Violence is organized before we get there.

Canto XII - Sliding into Circle Seven: Violence

Danté and Virgil slide down a broken hillside and come face-to-face with the Minotaur who is forced to let them pass by on their way to the River Phlegethon, a river of boiling blood "that scalds those who by violence do injury to others."

Guarding the River Phlegethon are three centaurs "shooting arrows at any souls that rise higher from the blood than guilt allows."

The centaurs recognize that Danté is not a shade because his feet dislodge scree as he comes down the slope. Virgil asks Nessus to give Danté a ride "for he is not a spirit that can fly through the air." The centaur complies.

Nessus points out some of the more infamous inhabitants of this realm: Alexander the Great, Dionysius, Ezzelino, Obizzo d'Este, infamous persons who violently killed many. They are in the river up to their brows and the lower a shade sinks into the river of blood, the worse their crime.

As Nessus and Danté approach the opposite shore the mere murderers reveal their whole chests and finally the river reveals those that "cooked nothing but their feet." As Danté looks towards the horizon, Nessa reveals that the "bottom falls away" and that is where one will find "Attila . . . Pyrrhus, and Sextus."

How does heresy affect the modern world? How does criticism of the powers that be affect us in the internet age? Are you careful about what you post on social media?

Do you think the punishment for those that sin against nature is appropriate? Where do we sin against nature in today's world?

Atilla the Hun and Alexander the Great died thousands of years ago, who in our modern age have taken their place? Do you think that we, as a global community, will end violence? How can that change be affected?

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