Be the Salt of the Earth
For my internship year during seminary, I was placed at Trinity Church, Sigourny Street, in Hartford. Some of you may note a familiar ring. This is where our previous Director of Ministry, Dante was placed last year and continues to work for as their social media specialist. In the mid eighties the west end of Hartford was a very different place than it is today. Despite Aetna’s home office just across the street. Prostitutes and drug dealers plied their trades on entrance steps to the church most nights. The congregation was a wonderful mix of well to do insurance executives, doctors and lawyers who purposely drove in from the surrounding suburbs because they wanted to worship along side the people of the neighborhood, the homeless who would often join us for respite from the cold, families who lived in the local public and section eight housing who found Trinity a place where they were greeted warmly and respected by the members of the congregation as a whole. After his first visitation, Bishop Rowthorne noted with some glee, that Trinity was the only church where the names of the confirmands ranged from William, Mathew and Mary to Angel, Jose and Shakara.Trinity was and still is a wonderful tapestry of humanity.
While there, part of my work within the congregation was to lead the youth ministry. Just because Trinity was a diverse congregation, did not mean it was without its problems. The youth group I inherited reflected the diversity of the parish. We had an equal number of young people from the suburbs and youths of color from within the city. They came each week because, for some reason, they liked Maureen and me, and because they enjoyed the activities we conjured up for them. But truth be told, they didn’t really like each other. If we sat down at table, or circled up the suburban kids sat on one side and the city kids on the other. Whenever I tried to get them to talk about why this was, the conversation quickly became heated as each side accused the other of being the cause of the problem.
When Maureen and I, along with the volunteers discussed the issues we faced with this group, we knew if we were ever to bring this group together, we would have to move the kids beyond the suburban/inner-city divide. The solution was to have a lock-in on Maundy Thursday and invite the kids to keep watch with the reserved sacrament through the night in the side chapel. The rules for the night were simple. We would keep watch through the night until we celebrated the Good Friday liturgy at seven the next morning. The kids would keep half hour shifts in the chapel. They were encouraged to pray for as long as possible, but if they could not keep silence, they could talk to each other. But under no circumstances could they leave the chapel. The kids were okay with this until the leaders announced that we had paired them. The groans were deafening as they realized the time they spent in the chapel would not be with one of their friends but with a person from the other side of the great divide.
Being stuck in a dark and quiet chapel is a unique experience. As each pair entered the chapel their prayers lasted at best five minutes, followed by another few minutes of staring at each other until finally neither could stand the silence any longer and conversation began. This is what I had hoped for. In the midst of their conversations, each pair discovered even though on the surface their lives were very different. Deep down they weren’t that different at all, they shared similar frustrations and fears of what the future would bring, they worried about test grades and the sense of isolation most teens experience at some point in those early years of life.
When it was time for the group to gather to debrief the following morning, they all gathered on the large tufted sofa as they always had, only this time was different. No longer was the great divide in evidence as they spontaneously and happily sat with the person they had prayed with and shared what they had discovered about each other in the course of the night and the new bonds they had made. This morning, St. Paul asks the Corinthians, “For what human being knows what is truly human except the human spirit that is within?” In this statement Paul both challenges the Corinthians, and offers wisdom in a way that is akin to the Native America value of not judging a person until you have walked a mile in their shoes.
In today’s contentious and polarized world, we have lost the ability actually talk to each other beyond sound bites, memes on social media, and protests. Instead of trying to understand each other we are quick to judge as we seek to convert each other while digging in our heals ready to defend our position with jingoism and insults.If our world is ever to become the Kingdom we seek, we as a people of God, need to heed Paul’s challenge and wisdom by not being satisfied with the merely human but with seeking the deeper reality of the spirit within.In recent weeks I have struggled with how to preach the Gospel within the context of this divided world. And I know I am not alone, countless colleagues have shared articles and blog posts on this vary issue. We are all asking how do we preach the biblical command to seek justice and mercy when feeding the poor, welcoming the stranger, and loving our enemies have all become so politicized that we seek shelter and hide to avoid conflict.
As I have prayed with the words of Christ this week to be the salt of the earth, to be the light on the stand or the city on the hill, I have come to realize we need to redefine our role as the church. Yes, we will still advocate for the poor and the marginalized in what ever way God calls us to do. However, at the same time, in the same way Vince Lambardi reintroduced the football to the Packers when he took over as head coach, we, the church need to reintroduce ourselves to the art of listening and understanding without judgement. This is in keeping with how and why Jesus and the Church grew in the early years. Our message was not about judgement but acceptance.
The young people of Trinity learned during that wonderful Maundy Thursday night, when they stopped judging based what they thought they knew about each other and took the time to listen and learn about each other, that which divided was easily crossed on common ground. When we seek to understand our enemy, or one who has hurt us, understanding may not lead us to agreement or to condone behavior, but it can lead to a place of forgiveness. When I first began working for the Department of Children and Families, I was assigned an abuse case. I can still remember how angry I was with the mother for what she had done to her child before I knew anything about her. Luckily, before I went out to meet this mother, my Program Supervisor sat me down, looked me straight in the eye, acknowledge the anger I felt and then said. “I know you don’t understand why this woman did what she did, you are a young parent, you have a good marriage and a support system to help, but trust me, when you have been stuck home alone all day with no resources, no one to reach out to and your child, the one person in the world who you have made so someone would love you, is colicky and has kept you up for nights on end, I can understand why she did what she did. I have been on the brink with my own children, the only thing that has stopped me from hurting them is because like you I had a good spouse and the resources with which to walk away when I needed to.” Maria’s talk did not serve to condone what the mother had done, instead, it helped me let go of my judgement and to begin the process of helping a sister in Christ who was as broken as I am..
My brothers and sisters in Christ, we live in a world where it has become easy to condemn those who are less fortunate than we are, to judge those who’s positions are different than ours, where discussions about receiving refugees into our homeland and feeding the poor lead to discord instead of harmony. We live in a world where loving our enemy may be perceived as an act of treason. This week I ask each of you, instead of approaching each other with judgement, choose to be the peace makers and the bridge builders, seek the spirit within each other by listening to understand. If we can seek to do just that then our salt will not loose its flavor, our light will not be hidden under bushel, but will shine as if a city on a hill.
Bhagavad-Gita And Dante’s Inferno: A Religious Comparative
Some say that Bhagavad-Gita and Dante’s Inferno are among the most popular scripts supporting a detailed account of the Hindu way of life. Others argue that Dante’s Inferno is characterized by ideas of Catholicism, a likely illustration of Dante’s Italian background. Most debatable are the concepts of Dharma (world maintenance), Karma (“what comes around goes around”), and Samsara (rebirth) as found in Bhagavad-Gita in comparison to the strict Catholic beliefs of Dante’s upbringing. Both beliefs deal with critical ideas of the afterlife, hell, and more importantly, the concepts of sin, justice, and divine retribution. The pair has striking parallels as well as differences in their portrayal of the afterlife.
The concepts of Dharma, Karma, and Samsara are significantly important for understanding Bhagavad-Gita and how the Hindus are expected to live, including their predetermined fate. For example, Dharma contains three paths to salvation; one of these paths is known as the “path of duties,” or simply put, the inescapable social obligation or duty that must be fulfilled before death (Basham). At the beginning of Bhagavad-Gita, in a fight for the land owned by Dhritarashtra (the king) and his people, Arjuna has to kill Duryodhana, despite being cousins. Family members and friends are on both sides of the battlefield, and Arjuna realizes he is not ready to kill his family members. Krishna quickly reminds him that he must fulfill his obligation by destroying his enemy, Dhritarashtra (Arnold). Here, we can see that Arjuna’s “duty” is to kill the King – a predestined fate. According to Krishna, it would be dishonorable to disrespect Dharma. Plus, killing, in this case, is not a sin, since both the murdered and the murderer will live better lives after death; the death of the enemy would restore the power of good.
Dante is undergoing similar struggles to the extent that he is willing to forfeit the bigger divine mission. Dante is lost, confused, and suffering in a “dark woods,” a personification of his fears, nonetheless. His journey, however, is meant to be the same path every human being takes to understand his or her sins and find peace with God. It’s important to note, too, that to gain an understanding of the afterlife, the duo (Arjuna and Dante) experience guardianship. Virgil and Beatrice both lead Dante through his several encounters while Krishna acts the role of a guide in Bhagavad-Gita. In Bhagavad-Gita, it is explained that people are reborn according to one’s actions and the lives they lived. Throughout Dante’s Inferno, there are similar views of rebirth and events that prove there is life after death. After all, Dante places people in different levels of Hell according to the severity of the sins they committed; the punishments fits the crime, nonetheless. For example, those that have committed suicide are sent to the Woods of Suicides where they exist as trees; since they took their life into their own hands on Earth, they have absolutely no control over their body in Hell (Alighieri).
Though this epitomizes the Hindu belief of Karma, it also exemplifies the Catholic religion, where committing suicide is equally as sinful as killing another person; similarly, Catholicism helped dictate what sins qualified someone to spend eternity in Hell and what sins were worse than others. In fact, the sins represented in this written Hell parallel the ‘Seven Deadly Sins,’ which is commonly taught in Christian teaching to define sins that typically lead to other immoralities. For example, Dante chose five of the seven sins, the worst according to Catholic faith, to be represented in his version of Hell: level two represents lust, level three represents gluttony, level four represents greed, and level five represents wrath and sloth. Dante also chose other sins that exemplified his Catholic faith, or at least those surrounding him. For example, the souls in Limbo were all upstanding citizens in life, but they did not believe in God; that means they were not saved and would, therefore, end up in Hell.
The Catholic faith also views going against the Lord in any form is a serious sin. Thus, he had special punishment for those that openly spoke out against the Christian religion in the deeper levels of Hell. The traitors against the Lord were punished in the lowest level of Hell, level nine. Bhagavad-Gita and Dante’s Inferno both address, in detail, the consequences of human actions – good and bad that must be faced in the afterlife and somehow envisioned heaven and hell in a way that was similar in almost all aspects of their conceptual framework.
Both texts, despite being so far apart in time and space makes these coincidences all the more remarkable. Though both stories detail the Hindu way of life, Dante’s religious upbringings seem to contribute to the tale. In fact, the vast majority of people found in Dante’s Inferno committed a sin in contrast to the views of the Catholic Church. Nevertheless, the two scripts reveal the most debatable mysteries about predestination and life after death. As evident from the description of the text, the two articles differ theoretically more specifically on the concepts of Dharma, Karma, and Samsara as found in Bhagavad-Gita. Still, the articles share similarities that prove there is a life after death, which is determined by the way we live our life. Even after this analysis, it is debatable whether Dante’s Inferno embodies the three Hindu concepts or is based solely on the Catholic belief of the author’s upbringing. This explains why the scriptures will continue being most sought by future generations.
Dante’s Interpretation Of Hell In The Divine Comedy
Religion is and has always been a prominent portion of individuals lives. The bible and other religious text guide follower’s on how to avoid the suffering of Hell. In The Divine Comedy by Dante Alighieri, produces a physical interpretation of Hell and the result of each sinner would receive because of their sins. Dante the main character endures the horrid, twisted, and grotesque, depths of Hell. Unlike any other allegory of Hell, Dante’s Inferno portrays a vivid view to the reader of an in depth journey into hell itself; Along with this insightful literary work, brings historical context where Alighieri brings an introspective outlook to personal life, thoughts and opinions, and people, from Alighieri’s life into this poem. Alighieri’s common themes that occur throughout the story is that the punishment fits the crime. Virgil shows Dante through their journey, unveils the consequences for each of the sinners that are in Hell. Dante learns the value of personal development, to continuously learn from past mistakes in order to correct his current life to enhance his future.
Through the entire comedy Dante shows signs a personal growth and development conquering fears that he would not have been able to face before. Dante found himself alone in the woods and he became scared for his life “I had become so sleepy at the moment when I first strayed, leaving the path of truth; but when I found myself at the foot of a hill, at the edge of the wood’s beginning, down in the valley, where I first felt my heart plunged deep in fear”. Dante through the Comedy faints often because of his fear’s which is his weakness. Some of Dante’s character traits change as his mind matures, he recognizes the justice carried out by God, from the beginning until the end Canto, but his fear does not subside. “One ought to be afraid of nothing other than things possessed of power to do us harm, but things innocuous need not be feared”. Dante brings to life pain and suffering in Hell, “pains are physical; suffering is emotional”. Alcorn explains that in The Divine Comedy the pain and suffering that the damned souls experience are both physical and emotional. “In Hell Every pain is less than maximal because the damned souls lack their worldly bodies (vehicles for physical pain) and take the aerial for of virtual bodies. An implication is that pain in Hell is less saturated than is suffering. However, this state is temporary; in the fullness of time, at the Last Judgment, souls will regain their real bodies and thereby perfect their pain”. Alcorn also shows that the virtual bodies feel less physical pain then alive human bodies. “Emotional suffering is partly about pain; for example, sinners dread the Last Judgment and the maximal pain that they will then forever experience as re-embodied souls”. The constant dread is the physiological torment used on the damned souls that even though it’s bad now and they will never rise up and be accepted by God; already at a lowest low, that it can become even worse than where they are now.
In Hell, some of the most serious crimes are those of betrayal. “In the levels they have already passed through, the sins or crimes are mostly those of passion or weakness; in the second circle, for example, they encountered the adulterers Paolo and Francesca, who had been overcome by passion”(Paul). Paul explains that some crimes have different weight in terms of where the sinner ends up in Hell. Weakness plays a part in this whole story where Dante finds himself weakened by seeing some of these punishments and faints quite often. It is odd to think that crimes of violence are not as far down as other crimes like betrayal. Paul explains, “Crimes of betrayal were the most serious not only because they required the most deliberate exercise of free will, but also because they did the most damage to the ethical net of obligations in society; conversely, violence seemed neither much out of the ordinary nor extraordinarily to be condemned”(Paul).
Through the story, Dante writes about Hell he produces prolific detail of punishments of the sinners, and vividly describes events to portray the true consequences of the convicted. “Before me nothing but eternal things were made, and I shall last eternally. Abandon every hope, all you who enter”. The first thing that Dante reads before he enters Hell, showing that true first step and how serious this is becoming. According to Dante, there are a various levels in hell The first level in Hell is called Limbo. All of the people who die before being baptized those who do not accept any form of Christianity into their life, are condemned for the rest of eternity in limbo. This levels purpose are for the philosophers who do not associate themselves with any religion are going to this limbo for eternity.
Poetic Justice in Boccaccio’s “Decameron” and References to Dante’s “Inferno”
Poetic Justice, with her lifted scale,
Where in nice balance, truth with gold she weighs,
And solid pudding against empty praise.
In the Seventh Story of the Eighth Day in Boccaccio’s Decameron, the storyteller states “Many of the stories already narrated have caused us to laugh a great deal over tricks that people have played on each other, but in no case have we seen the victim avenging himself”. The poetic justice of Boccaccio’s version of hell lies in the fact that the tortured becomes the torturer and vice-versa. The poetic justice is enhanced by the fact that throughout the story the characters of Rinieri and Elena switch from God-like to Satan-like roles. This essay will also highlight some points in the story which are very similar to ideas in Dante’s Inferno.
Boccaccio immediately sets up a comparison between Elena and Lucifer with his portrayal of her as “dressed (as our widows usually are) in black” and his description of Rinieri’s immediate infatuation with her at precisely the moment when he was “in need of a little diversion” (i.e. idle hands do the devils work). It should also be noted that Rinieri found Elena, like sin, very tempting and intriguing: “[She] seemed to him the loveliest and most fascinating woman he had ever seen.” Rinieri’s perception of Elena as beautiful in the beginning of the story is sharply contrasted by Boccaccio’s image of her charred bloody body later on in the story, when Elena is described to be “the ugliest thing in the world”. This transformation of Elena, from Rinieri’s point of view, from a beautiful goddess to an ugly devil is symbolic of mankind’s tendency to find certain sinful deeds beautiful and tempting at first, and later to be repulsed by the ugliness of the same actions. Boccaccio further shows the error in Rinieri’s lust after Elena by writing that Rinieri thought that if he could hold Elena “naked in his arms” he would truly be able to claim “he was in Paradise”, when actually his pursuit of this devilish woman leads him to a hellish night. The comparison of Elena to the devil continues when Boccaccio describes her as not “keeping her eyes fixed upon the ground…[she] swiftly singled out those men who were showing an interest in her.” This passage calls to the readers mind the image of the devil in hell looking upward to the earth, constantly looking for prospective sinners.
In contrast, Rinieri is portrayed as an honest, somewhat faithful figure at the beginning of the story. Boccaccio’s use of Christmastide as the time of Rinieri’s hellful night and his reference of the scholar as “the happiest man in Christendom” are subtle clues that the scholar is an innocent, almost God-like figure whom is about to be tricked by the antichrist, or Lucifer. But Boccaccio lets the reader know that God (as represented by the scholar) will certainly prevail in the end when he writes in reference to Elena “Ah, what a poor, misguided wretch she must have been, dear ladies, to suppose that she could get the better of a scholar!” This passage also implies that God favors the intelligent, and that evil is inherent in the ignorant, as represented by the unintelligent, devilish Elena.
On the other hand, it is possible to think of Elena as the God-like figure at the beginning of the story; her lover addresses her in a very Augustine-like fashion as “the true source of my well-being, my repose and my delight, and the haven of all my desires”. When she observes her lover dancing in a ridiculous fashion to ward off the cold Elena remarks “Don’t you think it clever of me to make men dance without the aid of trumpets or bagpipes?” This is similar to the way in which God punishes the sinners in Dante’s Inferno; they are freezing to death, and they are suffering in hell without the use of fire. Elena also questions her lover in this style that Dante questions the sinners in hell while her companion (in Dante’s case, Virgil) keeps watch: “You keep quiet while I talk to him, and we’ll hear what he has to say. Perhaps it will be just as funny as it is to stand here and watch him.”
The scholar’s punishment for his lust for Elena is poetic justice as exemplified in Elena’s pitiless remark to him, “You always claim in your letters that you are burning all over because of your lust for me.” The scholar, like Dante, eventually emerges from hell with the coming of the dawn. At this point in Boccaccio’s story, the transformation begins between Elena’s role as a torturer, to her role as one who is tortured. Rinieri’s lust for revenge overpowers his lust for Elena, and like the souls in the Inferno with the frozen tears, he “turns inward” and thus “increases [his] agony” (33.96). From then on, Rinieri seeks out his revenge methodically, poetically and with a “devilish cunning”.
The punishment which Elena receives is poetic justice on several different levels. First of all, Rinieri promises her that her lover will come to her in tears “asking you to forgive and take pity on him” when the reader knows that it is Elena who will be doing the weeping and pleading. It is also poetic that the scholar, who was frozen for his lust, seeks revenge by burning Elena for her cold cruelty.
There is a clear invocation of Dante in the way that Rinieri is pitiless towards the suffering Elena. Like Dante, he taunts the “hapless woman” by reminding her of what her “brothers, kinsfolk, neighbors and Florentine people in general [will] have to say, when it is known that [she] was found in this spot completely naked”. Rinieri also reminds Elena that he could ruin her by the power of his pen and tells her “you yourself, to say nothing of others, would have been mortified by the things I had written that you would have put your eyes out rather than look upon yourself ever again”.
In the end, both Elena and Rinieri escape from their respective hells and learn something from the torment they have received. Boccaccio, like Dante, has used hell as a didactic tool; at the end of the story he writes that Elena “wisely refrained from playing any more tricks or falling deeply in love with anyone”. But it would be shallow to assume that the only moral of this story is that one should refrain from trickery. This story can be interpreted to give a countless number of lessons, and perhaps the true poetic justice for Boccaccio is that scholarly readers will spend hours trying to find them all.
“The Inferno” by Dante
There are several ideas that I can deduce from the poems The Inferno and The Plague. Thought a bit complex in structure and written with imagery and allegory, the texts are a rich source of expectations of a human life. The texts explain the purpose that the human life was made for, how the lives can acquire their meaning and how human beings can exploit their potential and finally explains the setbacks of achieving humanity in life. In the text, The Inferno by Dante, there is the purpose of life shown in attempts to avoid getting our bodies to hell after death by way of avoiding sins while on earth. This has been shown in the journey through hell made by Dante and Virgil where Virgil uses human reason and coming to know oneself as the core ways of discovering our purpose in life. It is also our purpose in life to give our lives a meaning.
There are several ways through which we can give our lives meaning according to Dante. This can be achieved through gaining consciousness, having reasons for life, taking responsibility for our actions and sins and knowing that true wealth lies in god. We can also give our lives meaning by exploiting our full potential in life and getting to know exactly who we are as individual human beings. According to The Inferno, there are several ways of meeting our full potential as human beings. The first step towards this is the recognition of our sins and showing our responsibility towards them. Virgil explains to Dante that the problem with people in hell is that that they are irresponsible of the sins committed by them. The other course towards realizing once the full potential is by way of knowing the truth. This can only be made possible by way of knowing God. The other way is through an examination of our lines. This is simply to say that we must know who we are and what we are capable of achieving in life and relating them to those were are not able to do.
There are however serious bottlenecks that hinder the achievement of our full potentials. According to Dante and Virgil, these were probably the rounds of experiences they had in hell. A round-up of everything was the lack of salvation. This has also been supported by the likes of Socrates who said that “to be without salvation is worse than death.” Salvation has been necessitated by the many since that we have committed. Sin has acted as the barrier for destinations toward exploitation of the full potential of human beings. The three beasts that acted as a barrier towards Odysseus going uphill as told at Gilgamesh symbolized sins at work to derail the human beings from exploiting their potential. Unless the sins are overcome through a show of responsibility for them, no much progress can be made towards a coveted destiny. “Three beasts stopped him as he went up the hill” (Sowell, 547)
The sins can be showcased through several means. First ways through which human beings are seen to sin is through cheating. It was told that Odysseus when to hell because he was a liar. However, Enkidu came to his rescue as the straight way to heaven for him had been lost. It was because of one of those kinds of sins that were seen to resemble the appetite that cannot be fulfilled. Another form of sin was that of anger and glumness. The other was the failure to control one’s passion and desire. This can be shown through the lust of the human flesh. The causes of this scene are diverse their control is normally difficult to achieve. Sins make us less human, therefore losing reason and our freedom. These sins include lust for food, sex, and money. In all these lusts, the soul is usually tarnished. An example of the lustful sins was shown in Francesca and Paulo. Francesca had an affair with Paulo’s brother and the two were killed.
There are also other ways by which people sinned as Dante explained. This included the practice of wasting and hoarding of money which involved the use of weights in the gold trade to create wealth. This was a sin because the people focused on material wealth instead of focusing on god for wealth. Virgil farther explained that fortune is usually random and human beings should not focus on the material wealth which is dependent on death. As Job said, “Never know what your fortune is going to be” (Sowell, 552)
According to Dante, of all the sins, fraud is more punishable by God. This because it is usually done by the man himself. This makes fraud accrue greater pain during the process of punishment. Fraud occurs in form of intellectual harm and is usually done by people. Dante explained two kinds of fraud which varied with the level of seriousness. These include the complex fraud and the simple fraud. Simple fraud is said to have happened when an individual tricks another, especially the older person for personal benefits. Complex fraud occurs when a person tricks another especially those who they have their trust. This can happen for example in treason. Other sins include violence, lack of truth in knowing God and failure take a stand between the good and the bad.
The plague of the rats symbolized our conscience as human beings. There is the purpose of life as life is seen as the absurd and lacks significance yet we must make the life significant for us. The old woman talks about how the life she has lived has been such a burden to her yet she has always remained resilient to the state of affair. The two from which Dr. Rieux hails in the 40’s is such a boring and monotonous people. All that people do is to walk, love and die. However, the key interest of the people is basically to work and get rich. This is the main purpose for life here.
Truth and justice were some of the areas in which the meaning life was explained in such an environment where life was useless. This is explained in Dr. Rieux encounter with Raymond. Tareua also got the meaning of life by gaining her consciousness. This was after the rats’ menace had become out of control and therefore started to examine why such had been happening. The dead rats only symbolized level of consciousness in human beings.
There are those things that must be done to ensure that we meet their purpose in life. The people of Oran had to have their existence in mind no matter how meaningless their life had become. They had to forego sleep to ensure that they remain conscious. “Something scary was bound to happen if they had to realize this form of consciousness” (Camus, 78). Stepping on the dead rat, by Dr. Rieux for example, acted as a wakeup call for the people of the town. It was something that was horrifying that ensured that an individual like Dr. Rieux was alienated from the routine and boring life. The encounter with the dead rat was the symbolism of a life that was unexamined. Raymond Rambert and Dr. Rieux used two dimensions of examining life which was conflicting with each other. Dr. Rieux, however, did not want to speak to Raymond since he valued truth and justice. Raymond remained persistent to help Dr. Rieux even though he has remained helpless because he was after giving him reason and purpose of life.
Gaining our conscience about the state of affair and acting upon our problems can help us to achieve our potential and enable us to know who we really are. Rieux was able to examine his situation and act accordingly. He decided to get out of the messed town and move to Paris where his wife lived. The novel explains that all we need to do is to fulfill our potential is to take the right attitude about our meaninglessness. The major drawback towards realizing the full potential in human beings is lack of consciousness of the reason and purpose of life.
In conclusion, human beings have the purpose to make their lives fulfilled by explaining the meaning of life and exploiting their potential. This is evident in the “The Inferno” by Dante and in Albert’s “The Plague.” While in “The Plague’ we must learn to make life significant, we have the purpose to avoid getting to hell in “The Inferno.” However, the common setback in fulfilling the potential of life is usually the lack of truth and conscience.
A Theme Of Following Natural Instincts In Dante Alighieri’S Inferno And The Movie Get Out
Everyone has had that inner voice that gives somebody an “I have a bad feeling” moment, but whether we listen to it or not is at our discretion. When people are in a potentially dangerous situation, they usually have this feeling that something is wrong. Most people can not explain why they feel that something is wrong, but they know to listen to that inner voice. What happens when someone disregards their inner voice? For most people, ignoring one’s instinct gives them the bad outcome, it lands one in the “sunken place” or even one of Dante Alighieri’s nine circles of hell. What if their inner voice is telling them two different things, either save oneself (self-interest) or risk oneself to save others (compassion)? Instinct can be a powerful tool to avoid adverse outcomes because intuition gives us immediate insight. In director Jordan Peele’s Get Out, the “sunken place” is portrayed as a state of trivial control in one’s actions. Get Out’s “sunken place” is a modern day revision of Dante Alighieri’s purgatory. Both versions depict a version or a part of hell where one is neither punished or rewarded, simply one is helpless and voiceless. In Peele’s version, the “sunken place” is a state one’s mind goes into, rather than a place. Instinct is defined by the American Psychological Association as, “an innate, species-specific biological force that impels an organism to do something, particularly to perform a certain act or respond in a certain manner to specific stimuli” (APA Dictionary of Psychology).
Basically, instinct is a deeply rooted behavioral mechanism that prompts specific species to behave in certain manners. For example, Instinct can be observed when we see someone in need of assistance then we offer to help. This is an example of the compassionate instinct, or the instinct that prompts us to alleviate those in pain or suffering. The compassionate instinct is one of two basic human instincts that affect survival, and is the direct opposite of self-interest. In contrast to the previous example, is the bystander effect, the declining need to assist someone in the presence of other people. One’s inclination to genuinely help diminish someone’s suffering is altered when others are present. For example, a student bystander watches as a bully publicly ridicules another student into submission in front of a crowd. The student bystander is less inclined to help with the crowd there and more likely to if it was just the three of them. As I mentioned before, there are two main basic instincts that affect survival and the prevention of bad outcomes which are the compassion instinct and survival instinct. At face value, compassion instinct may not seem like it will lead to the “sunken place” or hell, but it is our connection to other people that will either punish us by sending us to a hell or reward us by sending us to heaven. Hell is referred to either figuratively or literally, so heaven must also be considered as such.
“Compassion is defined as the emotional response when perceiving suffering and involves an authentic desire to help”). This means one’s want and need to help somebody without the expectancy of a reward is as, “Dacher Keltner at the University of California, Berkeley coin[ed] a ‘compassionate instinct’”. There are two main parts to compassion: empathy and altruism. Both connected to social ties with other people. Empathy is the emotional mirroring of another person. Towards the end of the movie Get Out, a police car approaches a bloody Chris, the main protagonist, and I felt the irony of the situation as he most likely did. Chris fought his way out of the Armitage’s grasp only to be caught as he is in the middle of taking his revenge on his girlfriend, Rose. I felt the betrayal that Chris felt towards Rose, as I’ve experienced betrayal in my own life. My experiences helped me empathize with what Chris was feeling, and therefore I wanted him to overcome his obstacles. Altruism is the actions taken in concern of others, regardless of what happens to the benefactor. Altruism can occur in small situations, like helping an elderly cross the street. A more severe example of altruism is running in a burning building to save people. As I’ve previously mentioned, in an example where a bully subjugates and shames another student, a perfect example of altruism is helping the student escape the bully’s harassment. To help the bullied student, one must either feel altruistic or empathy towards the suffering of the student. The stimulus provokes an emotional or simply the unselfish concern for the student’s health.
Altruism, being the practice of selfless acts, is a practice and many times does not require much thought or if any. The altruistic half of compassion is the quickest form of instant insight or instinct. Empathy requires a few moments for one to recognize another’s feelings and reflect them in the same way, and then act upon those feelings. Although it may not seem like it, compassion is a significant instinct in avoiding the “sunken place” and hell. In the movie Get Out, Rod Williams realizes that his friend Chris Washington is in trouble and attempts to persuade the police to help investigate. Throughout the movie, whenever the audience sees Rod, he is constantly providing advice and warnings throughout the film. Rod is consistently depended on by Chris. This is shown when he takes care of Chris’s dog, and shows responsibility in feeding Chris’s dog only dog food. When Rod realizes the potential danger Chris may be in, he selflessly acts on his deduction that the Armitage family is turning black people into sex slaves. Comedically he is wrong, or possibly not, but either way Rod drives to the Armitage estate to presumably break his friend out of whatever trouble he was in regardless of any potential danger he could be in. Rod’s character was the epitome of compassionate instinct. According to Dacher Keltner, compassion relays the message that one’s trustworthiness is worthy of forming a long-lasting connection with. Compassionate instincts helps everyone survive by the way of connections. Survival instinct is the self-centered act of preserving one’s life and legacy. Survival instinct is the most basic instinct in all animals. It’s ineffective if one prioritizes others survival against their own. The fact is there is always the chance that somebody fails at their task of saving others, and in those instances two people instead of one is lost. The priority of one’s own survival is more important than just human instinct alone. It’s actually the foundation of evolution, and of all biological things. If plants evolved in a way that was beneficial for other species, that species would eventually perish. Even plants have to prioritize their own adaptability, so it can fend off against anything that threatens its existence. Jim Taylor Ph. D, states, “The human instinct to survive is our most powerful drive. ” Our survival instincts are not coincidentally our fastest defense mechanism. Deeply encoded in our dna, as well as the dna of all living things, is the rule to live. Instinct is a powerful survival mechanism that can warn us about dangers that potentially can happen to us and the ones we care about.
Both Inferno and Get Out had examples of people ignoring their instincts and going to a “sunken place, ” or Dante’s version of hell. Both of the protagonists had instinct, although made the choice to ignore their instincts which led them to a psychical and mental hell. Both also shared an important companion that was compassionate towards them. In Dante Alighieri’s Inferno, we follow a medieval poet by the name of Dante. In the beginning of the story, Dante is lost in the woods and does not remember how he lost his way. His beloved Beatrice sends help in the form of Virgil to guide him through hell and to heaven. Virgil guides Dante through the nine rings of hell. Each circle’s punishment symbolically represents the sin those souls have committed. For example, the Second Circle, also known as the circle of lust, is home to sinners who could not control their sexual desire, and are therefore blown away uncontrollably by violent winds. Instinct is the instantaneous intuition one’s mind tells themself in order to avoid dangerous ordeals. To ensure maximum survivability, one must always prioritize themselves before others, in the case of failure. Strong bonds created from helping each other strengthen one’s survivability. Generally, most people have better or safer outcomes after following their instinct.
Dante’s Ideas of Good & Evil
Opinions about Justice
Dante believed that justice was capital and proportionate to the injustice. He believed that the nature of the crime also affected the nature of the punishment. Along with this he alluded to crimes against God being more severe than crimes against others. This is evidenced when looking at the souls in circle six verses people in circle three. When he interacts with Ciacco in circle two whose sin was gluttony, Ciacco was surrounded by raining garbage and had worms decomposing it around his feet. While the people in circle six, whose sin was heresy were locked in burning tombs.
Views on Christianity and its Hell
Dante and his character seem to have two different viewpoints on whether Christianity is just or not. Dante the author tends to write as if he not only agrees this view, but supports it. He demonstrates the layers of hell as just. He may have disagreed with the idea that all sinners go to the same equally terrible hell as was the common belief, but he agrees with the narrative he is writing. The character however seems to be struggling with the idea and hasn’t made up his mind. On one hand he believes that people must be punished, but on the other he seems to pity the sufferers and wants them to have a way of escape. Both do seem to have a little bit of reservation that may be from their own fear of ending up in this place, no matter what level.
Views on Reasons for Entering Hell
The author strongly supports the idea that choices lead to fate. He shows that all punishments are equal to the sins committed and that the choices are what lead them there. Ex. people that were gluttons chose to be gluttons and are therefore in a place in which their sins are paid for.
Equality or Inequality of Good and Evil
Dante demonstrates the idea that justice is the most powerful force in existence, but with the way that he writes he implies that Good has the upper hand in the influence of justice which leads the reader to believe that he saw Good as the stronger force. This is not the case. Evil was a force that was done for a short time in the lives of the souls in hell, but the punishment to justify that was eternal.
This showed that Evil had to be eternally punished, and good was eternally rewarded, but if one did not devote themselves to God, Evil would be the stronger of the two forces. While if one did devote themselves to God, Good would be. One might say that Evil was the stronger force, but if you look deeply into the context of the writing, they were equal. Evil took more souls and showed it’s power there, but Good was strong enough to steal away some souls from the grasp of Evil as evidenced when souls from the first circle were raised to heaven. This shows that the powers are different, but equal.
Ovid and Dante’s Potrayal of the Past, Present and Future
In Metamorphoses, Ovid attempts the great task of recounting the history of the world, from its creation to the death of Julius Caesar. However, Ovid’s work is not solely an encyclopaedia of mythology; it is also the source of much standard figurative language. Similarly, Dante Alighieri attempts to achieve the great task of assembling a visionary narrative. The Inferno is a highly structured vision of the future that not only highlights the Christian religion, but also integrates many mythological figures of the past. But the genius of Dante lies not in the grand vision he has dreamed of, but in the way that he has presented it. Through his poem, Dante aims to inspire fear in his readers; he hopes to create a future that is more real than the present so that his readers will repent. To achieve this goal, Dante employs highly concrete imagery. Ovid strives towards an opposite purpose; in his portrayal of specific myths, Ovid aims to evoke a past that is identical to the present. He aims to convince readers that the glorious warriors and fantastical gods of the past are very much like themselves, and thus aims to disenchant his readers. Much like Dante, Ovid also exploits imagery to achieve his goal. However, the ways that these two poets use imagery are different because their purposes are so radically different.
Ovid’s imagery tends to focus on emotions and abstract concepts, rather than physical details. This is particularly true in the case of the myth of Medea. Often described as a vindictive witch, Medea is presented as a sympathetic character by Ovid. Instead of focusing on the shocking acts that Medea commits, Ovid spotlights her great affection for Jason. As when a spark that has been hidden under a crust of ash is nourished by a breeze and comes to life again as it’s stirred up, regaining all the vigor it once had; just so her smoldering love, which you’d have thought was almost out, came blazing up anew (226)
By illustrating Medea’s love as fire, Ovid helps the reader to imagine Medea’s emotions. Like a fire, Medea’s love is wild, spontaneous, and dangerous. Her infatuation is a spark that catches onto anything, and then spreads wildly. By using diction like “vigor”, “smoldering”, and “blazing”, Ovid reinforces the notion that her love is intense and strong. The image of an irrepressible flame is a powerful one; more importantly, it is realistic. In reality, emotions are uncontrollable, and this concept can be easily identified with. Any horrifying acts that Medea commits afterwards seem explainable in consideration of this dangerous love. Medea is no longer an ultimate mythical warning for infidelity, but an abandoned wife who has lost all hope. She is no longer the mother who murdered her own children, but one who has undeniable human emotions. Often, Ovid must work with characters who are often fantastical in all aspects, like Medea. The only things that connect these characters to readers are emotions and abstract concepts. By creating emotionally charged imagery, Ovid is able to convince the reader that these fantastical characters are actually not very different from the reader, and that the myths are much like reality.
Dante, like Ovid, aims to create vivid imagery in order to convince the reader that the world of Inferno is genuine. Unlike Ovid, Dante focuses on the physicals details. Dante attempts to create a world that his readers can easily imagine, a world that is concrete. After all, Dante’s purpose is to compel his readers to realize that the future is more important than the present. Dante does by creating lucid images of the physical appearance of hell.
There is in Hell a vast and sloping ground called Malebolge, a lost place of stone as black as the great cliff that seals it round. Precisely in the center of that place there yawns a well extremely wide and deep.I shall discuss it in its proper place. (158)
At each new site that the journey passes, Dante takes time to describe where everything is and how everything looks physically. He does so in order to create a definite and substantial image for the reader. Naturally, the reader knows exactly what the ground is like – “sloping…[yawning] a well”, what colour the stone is – “black”, how it is spatially – “wide and deep.” Dante describes each new creature, each new situation in the same way as well. Although Dante does describe abstract ideas such as emotion, they are absent from the imagery. Through the use of physical imagery, Dante is able to mould his extraordinary world into something tangible and compelling for the reader.
Also in pursuit of the creation of a concrete world, Ovid faces different challenges. The stories that he writes are often exotic relative to everyday life. Consequently, Ovid inserts details into the imagery to inspire a sense of familiarity in the reader. Ovid concentrates detail on ordinary things, as opposed to focusing on dramatic things, such as death. Many myths in Metamorphoses convey a depressing vision of life. Ovid tries to neutralize this potentially bleak aspect of his narrative by creating detailed imagery of the beauty, of the people. In treating the myth of Daphne, Ovid is particularly successful. Instead of highlighting the fact that Daphne dies by transforming into a tree, Ovid concentrates on the splendour of Daphne herself.
Her prayer was scarcely finished when she feels a torpor take possession of her limbs – her supple trunk is girdled with a thin layer of fine bark over her smooth skin; her hair turns into foliage, her arms grow into branches, sluggish roots adhere to feet that were so recently so swift, her head becomes the summit of a tree; all that remains of her is a warm glow. (37)
Daphne is stripped of her freedom and human form; this is not a pleasant situation. The attention of the reader, however, diverges from her death as a human being, and is instead caught up with the erotic beauty of the girl. The imagery greatly lessens the brutality of the situation. Ovid pays special attention to the details of each minute transformation to make this beauty seem more real. The reader can easily picture every feature, whether that is the “thin layer of fine bark”, or the “sluggish roots”. In addition, details such as the “supple trunk” and “smooth skin” help enhance the cozy and sultry tone. Overall, the imagery creates a sensual story as opposed to a brutal one. Thus, the story of Daphne becomes less mythical and more relatable.
Dante, on the other hand, does not try to distract us from the suffering. Instead, according to the purpose of his composition, he uses details to enhance the brutality of the situation. The reader is treated to cringe-worthy, detailed description of physical torture.
From every mouth a sinner’s leg stuck out as far as the calf. The soles were all ablaze and the joints of the leg quivered and writhed about. Withes and tethers would have snapped in their throes. As oiled things blaze upon the surface only, so did they burn from the heels to the points of their toes.
In this passage, the tactile imagery is very specific. The reader knows precisely what the torture feels like. The burning sensation is strictly identical to “oiled things [ablaze].” The pain is so intense that sinners “[quiver] and [writhe] about” so wildly that “withes and tethers would have snapped in their throes.” The details that are described allow readers are able to feel as if they are standing there on the ground of hell with the characters. Readers are able to imagine that they have truly witnessed the various punishments. Nothing is vague. No feature is unimagined. The gravity of each punishment, the terrible conditions of the environment affect the reader much more because they seem so authentic. Thus, Dante easily achieves his goal of inspiring fear in his readers. This future that he has projected – this frightening experience of hell – becomes even more concrete than the present through the use of detailed physical imagery.
Both Ovid and Dante use imagery to achieve their ideological goals in Metamorphoses and Inferno. Ovid uses emotionally charged imagery to create sympathetic characters, and generate details with positive diction to prevent a focus on cruelty. Through these two techniques, Ovid effectively inserts small slices of reality into his encyclopedia of mythology, making his creation a very honest portrayal of present life. Dante, in contrast, utilizes physical imagery to sculpt a world that he thinks is more important than the present. Dante also creates details, as Ovid does, but instead of preventing a focus on suffering, Dante concentrates his detail on suffering. The conditions of this extraordinary world that Dante creates become more concrete through the detailed physical imagery. By using imagery, both Ovid and Dante are able to convince the reader of opposing ideas: one being that the past was no larger than the present, and the other being that the future is more important than the present.
The Monstrosity of Sin in the Divine Comedy
Encountering Three Beasts
As Dante awakes from the night of absolute terror that he’s passed in the dark wood, he looks up at the first rays of the rising sun appearing at the top of a hill in front of him. A glimmer of hope awakens in his heart as he sees that sun rising, and he resolves that he’ll climb that mountain to try to get a perspective, to get above the trees of the forest so as to find his way. But as he does so, as he climbs the mountain, he encounters three beasts — a leopard, a lion, a wolf.
Our Sins Are Monsters
Now, the traditional interpretation of the appearance of these animals is that they represent human sinfulness in its three most basic types. The leopard, the sins of incontinence or lust, excessive desire. The lion, the sins of overweening pride and violence. The wolf, the sins of avarice, of fraud, and of betrayal. This tradition of interpretation is well-grounded. It occurs first in scripture, which Dante was probably referring to.
In the book of Jeremiah 5:6, we read the following, ‘Therefore a lion from the forest will attack them, a wolf from the desert will ravage them, a leopard will lie in wait near their towns to tear to pieces any who venture out, for their rebellion is great and their backslidings many.’ Jeremiah is voicing here what I think we can appropriately call the monstrosity of human sinfulness, that deep conflict that is the result of the sin of Adam and Eve in the garden by which human beings are put at enmity with that part of themself which attaches them to nature, to the earth, their animal-rootedness in the world.
Breaking the Bond with the Animals
Recall that, in the book of Genesis, Adam and Eve were invited by God to name the animals. In some sense, this is a fundamental parental prerogative. The animals were their children. They shared a deep bond of communication between them.
But with their sin, Adam and Eve, not only broke their bond with God, they broke their bond with the animal world. A deep enmity arose that separated them, alienated them, made them strangers to the animals and the animals to them. This rift that opened up is one of the consequences of sin, and that consequence goes on having its effect throughout the ages.
The Beast In Us
What’s behind that notion of enmity between the animal and the human? These are not just three animals that Dante encounters in the forest. They are monstrous. They are monsters.
The very notion of monstrosity has haunted the human imagination since the beginning of time. The idea that there could occur a freak of nature, a mistake, an atrocity, a monstrosity in which something within us becomes real outside of us and takes on a vitality that threatens our very existence as human beings, threatens to destroy us. But not simply to kill us but to consume us, to ravage us, to tear us to pieces. This is the idea that Dante is working with– that there’s something about sin that’s genuinely monstrous.
The leopard, the lion, the wolf could well be thought of as figures that are familiar to us throughout the fairytale history of the human memory– the fables of Little Red Riding Hood, the stories of human beings who turn into animals, are consumed by animals, who consume other human beings, the vampires, the werewolves, Frankenstein’s monster. All of this is contained in these three images– that deep sense that something went wrong in humanity in its deep primordial past and that what went wrong lingers as a possibility for a nightmare, an encounter with something which is us and yet is horribly different than us, at war with us.
This possibility of the monster within emerging and becoming real in the world, this is the terror that haunts Dante as he begins to climb the mountain. It’s a terror that what we hope for will not occur, cannot occur because of something within us ourselves.
The Differences in Perception of Sin
The Sins in The Divine Comedy
In Dante Alighieri’s Inferno, he recalls his path through hell in order to escape the grasp of sin. In the Dark Wood of Error, Dante meets Virgil, his guide, after realizing he cannot reach heaven due to the many obstacles of sin. Virgil tells him he must venture all the way through hell in order to finally reach heaven, and Dante decides the dangerous trek will be worth it in the long run. The pair venture down through the Vestibule, where the uncommitted reside, then the second circle, where the lustful are blown about, and finally the seventh ring, where Satan himself lives. Throughout this journey Dante is startled, and he even faints due to shock. Alighieri organized this hell in rings, often symbolized with circles or coils throughout the epic, each with increasingly horrifying sins.
The Possible Shifts
These sins in this poem relate to the times when it was written. Many of the sins still exist, although they may have shifted in level of horror throughout the many years. For example, in the story, simoniacs are a part of the eighth circle of hell. Simony, or the practice of exchanging money for something spiritual, was clearly an important issue in the early fourteenth century, but after all this time, most of this act has ceased. This action is still completely immoral, but since this is not such a big issue anymore, other actions may take its place in the eighth ring of hell. This is just one of the many examples that could occur as time shifts. Since people change and technology changes, many new problems could arise that were not an issue in the early fourteenth century.
Social Media and Sins
The sins on my poster include many that are more prominent in today’s culture and that were not as much of an issue in the fourteenth century. For example, in those times, there was no social media. Social media seems to have spiraled from a great way to communicate with friends that you do not see every day to a tactic that can create many new sins. For example, sins like cockiness and self-centeredness have really grown since social media took off. On a web page, many people’s number of followers and the amount of likes they get can lead to an increased ‘I’m better than you” attitude. When in fact, these numbers are just numbers. Also, it seems social media can also lead to higher levels of dissatisfaction as well. When everyone posts pictures where they are looking their best with their new outfit, it often makes others feel as though they should look that good all the time and this leads to jealousy. All the sins on my poster are current sins, many of which have spiraled from social media. These sins were not prominent in the fourteenth century, and this has led to them growing into what they are today, in the twenty-first century.
The Similarities and Differences
There are many differences between the fourteenth and twenty-first centuries that have drastically changed our outlook on many sins over the last seven thousand years. These distinctions in sins make us realize how much of a different world it was back then. Also, it is interesting to see how some of the sins overlap and this shows a similarity between the world then and the world now. For example, disloyalty and treachery are on both versions of hell. This is because this sin has remained important over this very long-time period. Loyalty and morals have continued to be critical throughout the growth of technology and society. However, there is always one thing that is certain. As society develops, so does its standards for behavior.