“America in the Eighth Circle”

crisis-magazine-america-in-the-eighth-circle-2020“Such a world, naturally, produced every manner of sin imaginable, and all these sins are carefully chronicled in Dante’s descent into the Inferno. The nine circles of the infernal city are, as Dorothy Sayers reminds us, Dante’s picture of human society in decay; the further Dante and Virgil descend, the more radically corrupt and degraded the society becomes. The pilgrims pass relatively quickly through first seven circles of hell. All the sins of appetite and violence are contained in the first half of the cantica. Then the travelers reach the Great Barrier, and here the poem slows down. Dante and Virgil plunge into the abyss of the eighth circle, which houses the fraudulent. Alas, the various sins punished here read like a cross-section of our ruling classes in Washington, New York, and Hollywood: we meet pimps and seducers, flatterers, hypocrites, and thieves, bribe-taking officials, false counsellors, and sowers of discord. They come at long last to the tenth and final ditch of the eighth circle. Here we find the liars—those who perpetrate the purest form of fraud, the one that unites all the others. Their stench is overwhelming.” [. . .]    –Ben Reinhard, Crisis Magazine, September 21, 2020.

“Keeping Cool”

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“The thing is … I love air conditioning. And I hate, haaaaaaaaaaaate being hot. ‘Oh, thank you Jesus,’ were my first words upon entering our 68-degree oasis with a carload of groceries on a 90-plus degree, muggy summer day where the outside feels like a shvitz or the third ring of Dante’s Inferno. Central air conditioning is grace for me. But what if my blessing is a curse for someone else? Like, say, the rest of the planet? Air conditioning hurts the environment, quaffs energy, and hastens global warming. But is my air conditioner evil? What would Jesus do? For one thing, Jesus recognized the Jewish kosher laws. A fairly new movement in Judaism today called eco-kashrut (aka ‘eco-kosher’) expands on the ancient dietary laws to look at what’s kosher in terms of ethical living, fair trade, the ecological concerns involved in food production, consumerism, and lifestyle, including whether to air condition or not.” [. . .]    –Cathleen Falsani, SOJOURNER, October, 2009.

“Into the Dark Woods”

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“This year I was drawn to Mark’s ‘certain young man’—the one who flees naked from the violence in the Garden of Gethsemane on the Mount of Olives (14:51-52), leaving behind his linen cloth. Scholars vehemently disagree about who this young man was. Many deduce that it’s the writer of Mark’s gospel inserting himself into the story. Others say he is reminiscent of King David fleeing from Absalom on the the Mount of Olives. Or that he foreshadows the ‘young man’ in a white robe who will meet the women at Jesus’ tomb. Whoever he was, in the midst of an encounter with violence, this “certain young man” lost what thin protection he had and fled into the night, into the selva oscura, as Dante calls it, those ‘dark woods.’ Toward what, we do not know. As the human soul matures, we are confronted with moments that force us to let go of yet another thin veil of self-delusion. The “right road,” the moral high ground, sinks into a thicket of gray.” [. . .]    –Rose Marie Berger, SOJOURNERS, May, 2012.

Louis Armstrong

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“Jazz critic Gary Giddins chortles as he recounts the tale, pointing out that if these American Brahmins had simply deigned to take a train south from Boston to New York City, and stepped into the Roseland Ballroom on a Thursday night, they would have experienced the American Bach, Dante, and Shakespeare all rolled into one: Louis Armstrong.

“Born to a 15-year-old who sometimes worked as a prostitute, raised in a New Orleans neighborhood so violent it was known as ‘the Battlefield,’ sent to a juvenile detention facility at 11 for firing a gun into the street—his early years would surely put him on the pipeline to prison today.

“Had that occurred, the distinctly American music that Louis Armstrong created might never have happened. The American songbook, as we know it today, simply would not exist.” [. . .]    –Eboo Patel, SOJOURNERS, July, 2016.

Carlos Malavé, “American Individualism is Destroying the Soul”

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“I am very mindful of Dante’s words: ‘The darkest places in hell are reserved for those who maintain their neutrality in times of moral crisis.’

“Coming together from all streams of American Christianity to speak in opposition to cuts on the safety-net programs is no minor achievement. We have a widespread consensus on the priority of providing essential life saving support to poor people in our country. We also agree in that the ultimate goal is to create a just society in which everyone live an abundant life that includes meaningful work with fair salaries, affordable health care and education, and time for leisure and recreation.

“In order to achieve this, our political leaders must renounce rigid political ideologies. These ideologies are destroying the fabric of our nation and the hopes of our people. As disciples of Jesus, we will continually call our elected leaders to reject all allegiances to groups or corporations that do not advocate and serve the majority of Americans.” [. . .]    –Carlos Malavé, SOJOURNERS, June 28, 2017.

In his essay, Malavé uses a citation that is frequently misattributed to Dante, but much in keeping with his contempt for neutrality. See other posts filed under the tag “Hottest Places.”

The Five Quintets (poetry)

the-five-quintets-poetry-2019-sojourners“In The Five Quintets, a poetic tour de force by Micheal O’Siadhail, Kavanagh’s quip is flavorfully borne out. Quintets offers a sustained reflection on Western modernity (and its yet unnamed aftermath) in the vein of The Divine Comedy, Dante’s sustained reflection on medieval Europe (and its aftermath, the Renaissance).

“O’Siadhail (pronounced O’Sheel) inspects 400 years of Anglo-Atlantic culture—artistic creativity, economics, politics, science, and ‘the search for meaning’—with the skillful hand of a citizen-poet, refracted through an Irish Catholic soul. Dublin born and educated, now poet in residence at Union Theological Seminary in New York, O’Siadhail embodies the vatic tradition of the Hibernian Gael—poet, prophet, priest, and, at times, jester.” [. . .]    –Rose Marie Berger, SOJOURNERS, April, 2019.

Divine Comedy of Our Time

the-divine-comedy-for-our-time-2017“This summer, in Mississippi, I sat by my father’s bed for three weeks and watched him die. After that, I drove one of my kids from Kentucky to New England for a college visit. Along the way, we climbed a mountain and spent the night in a rest area when we couldn’t find a motel room. Then, with five-sixths of my family and three weeks’ worth of camping gear packed into (and onto) an aging minivan, we drove to Banff National Park in Alberta, Canada. Along the way, in British Columbia, we went through an active wildfire and saw a tree explode into flames about 50 feet from our van. At Banff we saw a moose, two grizzly bears, and the vast acres of gravel left behind by the rapidly receding Columbia Icefield.

“On every step of this long, strange trip, I carried with me a big, fat, well-worn paperback book, its margins filled with my youngest son’s class notes. So, what did I do this summer? I read The Divine Comedy by Dante Alighieri. Every night—well, most nights—I spent 15 or 20 minutes accompanying the poet of the early 1300s down into the depths of Hell, up the winding mountain trails of Purgatory, and on to the beatific vision of Paradise.” [. . .]    –Danny Duncan Collum, SOJOURNERS, December, 2017.

Dante Alighieri: A Suite Of Thirty-Four Lithographs

“The enduring power of Dante’s imagination in his masterpiece The Divine Comedy has inspired artists from the Middle Ages to the present. On reading this literary epic, the artist Liam Ó Broin began three years ago the daunting challenge to create 34 coloured lithographs in response to each canto of Inferno. Although faithful to Dante’s text, Ó Broin through his powerful imagery brings his personal perspective to bear on the central themes and contemporises Dante’s voyeuristic passage through the realms of Hell by portraying the Inferno of our time.  As Ó Broin states  ‘the one which can be created by ourselves and for others, in the here and now.’ These lithographs not only deepen our appreciation of the richness of the epic’s poetic language, but also seek to examine the multi-layered meanings of the text – universal themes of life after death, divine justice and punishment, man’s immoral actions and crimes to mankind.” [. . .]    —Liam Ó Broin

The Inferno lithographs were exhibited at Graphic Studio (Dublin) in 2012.

Selected prints from Liam Ó Broin’s Inferno series, including a limited edition box set (now sold out), were available for purchase here.

“Naples Celebrates Dante With Giant Easter Egg”

naples-celebrates-easter-with-giant-easter-egg-2021“Naples continues to celebrate the 700th anniversary of Dante Alighieri, the Father of the Italian language, in its own unique way. After creating Dante figurines for Christmas cribs, the southern Italian city is now devoting an out-sized Easter tradition to the Supreme Poet, reports Italian newspaper La Repubblica. Master chocolatiers at the historic Gay-Odin factory in Naples have created a two-metre high Easter egg decorated with a portrait of Dante along with some verses from The Divine Comedy. The mediaeval poet and philosopher is portrayed on the enormous egg – which boasts 300 kilos of chocolate – in his traditional red robes and laurel wreath, based on the fresco in the Duomo in Florence.” [. . .]    —WantedInRome, March 21, 2021.

“Baby Owl Stole That From Dante” Meme

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“Through me you go into a city of weeping; through me you go into eternal pain; through me you go amongst the lost people.”    —QuickMeme.