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.

Thanksgiving and the Nine Circles of Travel Hell

thanksgiving-and-the-nine-circles-of-travel-hell-2020“Poll air travelers this Thanksgiving weekend and they will single out the Transportation Security Agency (TSA) for particular animus. They will blame the TSA for long lines and inefficiency in order to support a process that has as much to do with theater as it does true security. But, as a frequent traveler and a bit of a curmudgeon before my time—1.5 million miles on United can do that to a person—I would argue that the TSA deserves to occupy only one circle of hell, and a relatively mild one at that. True eternal damnation should be reserved for my fellow passengers. So, in the opposite of the spirit of Thanksgiving and with all due respect to Dante, below are those who occupy my nine circles of travel hell:” [. . .]    –Michael Rubin, AEIdeas, November 22, 2016.

“Beauty Awakens the Soul to Act” by Angelica Hopes

“We visited the house of Dante Alighieri. It’s rebuilt to celebrate the place of Dante Alighieri’s birth and its location is based on old documents reported from 13th century of the houses of the Alighieri family. [. . .]

“On the first floor, documents of the 13th century Florence and the younger days of Dante, his baptism in the Baptistery of Santa Maria del Fiore, his public life, his election in the office of prior of the town and his participation in political/military struggles, there are plastic model of the Battle of Campaldino and interesting weapons of that time.

“Going to the 2nd floor, shows the documents in connection with his painful exile in 1301, year of condemnation. In the 3rd floor, there’s the collection of documents on the fortune of Dante through the centuries, iconography. While sitting inside, admiring the historical artefacts and rich information on the influences of Florentine history to Dante Alighieri’s work, I was speechless and absorbed the moment with gratitude reflecting from my English term paper project in fourth year high school on the Divine Comedy, twenty three years later here I am and I got a copy of La Divina Commedia in its original language.” [. . .]     –Angelica Hopes, Landscapes of a Heart, October 27, 2012.

Dante’s 10th Circle of Hell Is Yoga Sculpt

“I don’t like horror movies. I think it’s because I don’t find violence or death to be that entertaining. I’m not trying to be holier-than-thou – I just really, really dislike being scared.

“It’s probably because I’m scared all the time, anyway (it’s a byproduct of my anxiety. Basically, any time I’m alone and anything happens, I freak out). So when I see people paying for the privilege of being scared out of their minds, I am incredibly confused, and also start wondering if people would pay for the VR-experience of being Geraldine. I once had a panic attack because of a Boston Terrier. A Boston Terrier. IT’S BASICALLY THE YODA OF THE DOG WORLD AND I WAS SO SCARED I COULDN’T BREATHE. There has to be money in that, right?” […]    –Geraldine DeRuiter, The Everywhereist, January 16, 2016

How I Discovered The 10th Circle of Hell: The Bolivian Bureaucracy

“According to Dante’s Inferno, there were supposedly only 9 circles of hell: Limbo, Lust, Gluttony, Greed, Anger, Heresy, Violence, Fraud, and Treachery.  After what I’ve been through in the last week trying to procure a visa in Bolivia, I am officially recognizing the 10th circle of hell: the Bolivian Bureaucracy.

“I think the real reason Dante only described 9 circles of hell is because the 10th circle, the Bolivian Bureaucracy, apparently has a way out:  money.” […]    –Jojo Bobo, Corporate Monkey CPA, June 28, 2017

The Nine Circles of a Frequent Traveler’s Hell

“As St Francis and Kurt Vonnegut reminded us, we must accept the things that we cannot change, change the things we can, and have the wisdom to know the difference between the two.

“When things are ‘off’ from my regular routine, I get a bit anxious. I’d like to say I get cranky as well, but my form of cranky usually involves me harrumphing into a ball and blasting my Spotify playlists while devouring a new book on Kindle.

“That’s my particular manifestation of ‘wisdom to know the difference between the two,’ because books are good and public meltdowns are not.

“We’re all in this travel situation together, for whatever amount of time is left to unfold. How we treat each other and apply our wisdom to know the difference between controllable and uncontrollable change is what makes traveling with others a delight and also a burden.

“As I spent my thousandth train ride on the Amtrak Acela from Boston to New York City this past week with a seat back in my lap, I considered the various predicaments that traveling with other humans can create.

“Which, of course, brought me to Dante’s Inferno, and the nine circles of hell that a person can be sent to for their various sins in the living world.

“Obviously, your previous slights and misjudgments do not necessarily earn you the circle of traveling hell you may find yourself in. But if you travel frequently enough, you will at some point accidentally find yourself in each one.” [. . .]    –Elisa Doucette, Forbes, October 12, 2015.

Read Doucette’s full list of traveler’s hell here.

The Tenth Circle: Istanbul Traffic

On this list put together by Canim Istanbul, the author, a local of the city, gives prospective tourists five tips for a good time while in Istanbul. The first tip?

“1. Avoid  the Tenth Circle of Hell, AKA Istanbul’s infamous traffic.

“The city’s traffic is a tempestuous creature that flares whenever and wherever it pleases, blocking streets and bridges for hours and hours on end. There are horror stories of people driving for four hours when they could have reached their destination in 30 minutes. Locals will advise you to avoid taxis, buses, or cars whenever possible and make use of the lovely modes of speedy transportation like the ferry, Metrobus, and the metro.”  [. . .]    —Canim Istanbul, June 5, 2016.

Check out the rest of Canim’s list here for four other handy tips about travelling in Istanbul.

Kim Addonizio, “Blues for Dante Alighieri”

Kim Addonizio‘s blues poem first appeared in the December 2002 issue of Poetry magazine, and was later included in the collection What is This Thing Called Love (2004):Kim-Addonizio-Blues-for-Dante-Alighieri

Listen to Addonizio read and discuss the poem here.

Contributed by Jessica Beasley (Florida State University ’18)

Preserving Mont Saint-Michel

 

mont-saint-michel-smithsonian-image-divine-comedyIn some ways, the trip to the top offers a modern version of the medieval journey through life—a kind of Divine Comedy. The way up is demanding: One must pass through the tourist hell of the town below and make one’s way up the increasingly steep ascent to the abbey, where many must pause to catch their breath after one or other of a seemingly infinite set of stairs. As one ascends, the crowd thins, discouraged by the demanding climb, the lack of shops and cafés, or simply held in thrall by the distractions below. Suddenly, as one approaches the top, the views open up—the horizon widens; one can see the immense and gorgeous bay; the sand and water glisten in the sun. There is quiet other than the occasional cries of seabirds.”   –Alexander Stille, “The Massive and Controversial Attempt to Preserve One of the World’s Most Iconic Islands,” Smithsonian Magazine, May 20, 2014

Italian Commuting

italian-comuting-tim-parks   tim-parks-italian-ways

“Mr. Parks lives in Milan, where he runs a postgraduate translation program at Istituto Universitario di Lingue Moderne. Living here saves him from the hellish predawn 100-mile commute from Verona, a Dante-esque daily journey that he writes about at the outset of Italian Ways.”    –Rachel Donadio, The New York Times, June 7, 2013

See Tim Parks’ book, Italian Ways: On and Off the Rails from Milan to Palermo (NY: W. W. Norton, 2013)