Lawrence M. Ludlow, “Dante’s Divine Comedy and the Divine Origins of the Free Market”

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“We already are familiar with the Marxian social gospel that is so popular among many current theologians and their followers. In the verses I will cite, Dante himself voices an understanding of the marketplace that shares this erroneous communitarian view of economics. In particular, he describes his adherence to what is known among libertarians as the fallacy of zero-sum economics. Those who hold the zero-sum view claim that in a free marketplace, the gains of one participant are exactly balanced by the losses of another. If the total of the gains and losses are added up, the sum will be zero. In other words, if the sum total of all wealth were embodied in a single chocolate cake, one person’s share of cake would be another’s loss. Furthermore, the addition of each new market participant requires the slicing of thinner and thinner pieces of this cake. We libertarians, of course, despise this theory. If it were correct, the seven billion inhabitants of planet Earth would now be sharing and dividing infinitesimally small pieces of the very same chocolate cake that was first made available in the mists of Mexican pre-history. If such were true, I frankly wonder if there would be so much as a single calorie available to any of us – and very stale calories at that. Furthermore, the current spectacle of American obesity appears to belie this interpretation without my assistance.

“But as soon as Dante expresses his zero-sum analysis of marketplace economics, Virgil – who acts as Dante’s divinely appointed guide throughout his journey down into the Inferno and during his wonderful ascent of the Purgatorio – immediately upbraids him and provides the correct alternative, an unabashed free-market perspective. In Dante’s poem, this perspective is a reflection of the divine perspective of God. Let’s now examine the text itself.” [. . .]    –Lawrence M. Ludlow, Strike The Root, May 14, 2013.

Lawrence M. Ludlow, “Libertarian Themes in the Seven Deadly Sins of Dante’s Divine Comedy

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“In this essay, I will flesh out that suggestion; I will show how Dante and aspects of the medieval Catholic theology that shaped his views had more in common with libertarian beliefs than the beliefs of many modern-day Christians, who have been infused with a puritanical—and even Manichaean—attitude about the natural world and its bounty and beauty. Indeed, the perceptions about the natural world shared by the theologian Thomas Aquinas and some of today’s libertarians may help explain why libertarianism resonates so deeply with Catholics, Jews, and other minorities—including Native Americans and members of the gay community. All of these groups instinctively understand that the inner state of a human being—one’s humanity and status as an individual—is more important than superficial differences that only appear to distinguish one person from another. In this sense, they mirror Dante’s understanding that the deeper, less visible ‘sins’ of humanity are far more destructive than outwardly observable behaviors and conditions. And while this may appear to gloss over instances where outward manifestations of ‘sinful’ behavior reflect an evil root within the inner man—it is nonetheless important to understand how inner states of being such as pride, envy, and wrath cause more harm than the outwardly visible manifestations of greed, gluttony, and lust.” [. . .]    –Lawrence M. Ludlow, The Future of Freedom Foundation, July 11, 2014.

Final line of C.S. Lewis’s A Grief Observed

“In the last chapter of A Grief Observed, Lewis admits that grief is, ‘like a long valley, a winding valley where any bend may reveal a totally new landscape.’ If you’ve grieved over someone’s death, you know the image Lewis is casting. Happiness almost feels a little haunted, but time evaporates the wetness from some of the tears, albeit gradual, ‘like the warming of a room or the coming of daylight,’ says Lewis.

[. . .]

The end is akin to the beginning of A Grief Observed, if only in the questions it doesn’t answer and the doubts that are still raised as a result of the horrible occurrences of this world. In the end, Lewis knows that God is more mystery than reason, and his reliance on Him, and the hope in the resurrection of the dead, is wrapped in a faith in a God who can be found.

‘Poi si torno all’ eternal fontana,’ ends the book. It is from Dante. Beatrice turns to the eternal fountain and keeps walking. Lewis doesn’t dismiss his grief, but he is more at peace with God at the end of his notes, and, like Joy’s last words to the chaplain, Lewis is at peace with God.”    –Zach Kincaid, cslewis.com, February 29, 2012

Contributed by Daniel Christian

Sante Matteo, “The Journey Home in Baseball: The Bible and the Divine Comedy” (2020)

“In the middle of of our industrialized cities, surrounded by concrete, metal, and plastic structures, baseball parks enclose a green field, a vestigial ‘paradise’ in the original Persian sense of the word.  Within that symbolic space a ritual is routinely performed.  Throngs of worshippers (spectators, fans) participate vicariously while members of a revered priestly class (players, coaches, and umpires) re-enact the story of humanity’s exile from Eden and the perennial longing to return there: to make it all the way around back to home base.

“Circling the bases—itself an expression redolent of another perennial quixotic human quest: that of squaring the circle; or inversely in this case, circling the square: the bases forming a square, or diamond, that the base runner circles–and reaching home constitutes a journey analogous to the one that Dante undertakes in his Divine Comedy.  Finding himself lost in a dark wood, Dante sets off–with Virgil and then Beatrice as his first- and third-base ‘coaches’–on a voyage that will take him first through the circles of Hell (first base),  then the slopes of Purgatory (second base), and then the planetary and starry spheres of Paradise (third base), all the way to the Empyrean (home plate), where the souls that have achieved salvation dwell in the presence of God.” [. . .]  — Sante Matteo, “The Journey Home in Baseball: The Bible and the Divine Comedy,” KAIROS Literary Magazine, May 1, 2020

Contributed by Sante Matteo (Miami University, OH)

“This Was a Hell Not Unlike Anything Dante Conjured”

“This week Herb Childress’s essay in The Chronicle Review, ‘This Is How You Kill a Profession,’ prompted many readers to think about their own tortuous relations with the academy. Childress wrote that the adjunct structure is filled with ‘fear despair, surrender, shame,’ and that rang true for many readers.

“So we asked readers to share their stories about their careers in academe. Here are a selection of responses to our questions about academic life.

“The responses have been edited for length and clarity.” […]    —The Chronicle, March 29, 2019