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A Divine Comedy

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2014-06-10-Portrait_de_Dante.jpg

Dante famously began The Divine Comedy with these words, "Midway upon the pathway of our life/Ifound myself within a forest dark/For the straightforward pathway had been lost." Sounds a little like The Confessions of St. Augustine, no? Dante's journey comprises hell, purgatory and paradise and is filled with illustrious saints and sinners. But what is the modern equivalent? What is our hell, our purgatory? What is the paradise to which we aspire? Hell Sartre says is other people ("L'enfer, c'est les autres") and he has a point, but maybe not in the sense that he meant it when No Exit was written in 1944. Today hell is depersonalization of the kind that Thoreau foreshadowed when he stated "the mass of men lead lives of quiet desperation." Let's say you're on Medicare and you're one of those people whose occupation in life is travelling from doctor to doctor. The assembly line of impersonal health providers, with their cant salutations, which are like worn out clothes, is one version of the modern hell that most human beings attain when they reach a certain age. Purgatory is a no brainer. It's just life. Youth is wasted on the young and when we weren't peddling our bodies to caregivers, we could have been accomplishing great things, if we hadn't been so concerned with greatness. "Nudge nudge, wink, wink, say no more," Mony Python wisely injures. And Paradise, what is the modern equivalent of Dante's Paradise. Cialis commercials warn, "if you get an erection lasting more than four hours seek immediate medical help to avoid long term injury." But pharmaceutical manufacturers are always trying to protect themselves. How many Cialis takers have faced the prospect of penile gangrene due to priapism? If you have an erection lasting more than 4 hours, call all your friends and you'll be in paradise.

portrait of Dante by Botticelli

{This was originally posted to The Screaming Pope, Francis Levy's blog of rants and reactions to contemporary politics, art and culture}