My failure to write for several weeks could be blamed on the fact that I’ve been writing papers for Lent. (All right, that isn’t true. Though the papers certainly have forced me to be more disciplined.) Actually, I began reading Dante for Lent. Two cantos a day–that’s the goal. I haven’t been as faithful as I should be, but, with any luck, and with a lot of catching up, I’ll have gotten through the Inferno (which I just finished) and Purgatorio by Easter. Then I can spend the first part of the Easter season reading the Paradisio. Three parts. One Comedy. And a lot of random Italians.
A friend tells me some people have nightmares from the Inferno. I didn’t even feel that disturbed until I had nearly reached the end–it’s hard to feel disturbed when you’re spending your time trying to figure out who Dante is talking about. It’s also a little amusing when Dante spends half his time in hell hunting down all the Italians. (The frozen lake scene is definitely gruesome.)
My main takeaway from the Inferno? Some sins are more serious than others, but they’re not always the ones you expect. And–secondly–lying is extremely serious. The deceivers are put into one of the lowest parts of hell. The scary thing, thinking on my own experience, is that liars frequently do not realize they are lying. The ones who have a serious problem lying end up believing themselves.
Screwtape made a remark about the “particular clarity that hell affords.” In a very non-Screwtapean sense, Dante’s damned people see things clearly. But it hasn’t changed most of them. Some of them bicker with each other, and Virgil has to scold Dante for staring.
On to Purgatorio, then. Dante has more to learn–as do I.
*For anyone who may be wondering, yes, Rod Dreher did instigate my decision to read Dante for Lent. But I didn’t want to start with the Purgatorio. Beginning The Lord of the Rings in the middle was one such experience too many.