Thisby Thestoop and the Black Mountain

It’s fair to say that I read a good number of books children’s books. Having kids of my own, I like to pilfer their shelves from time to time. In our house, we like to stock “the classics” as a sort of quality guarantee. Since children’s books became a genre there have been writers who have tried to cash in on the children’s market as a way to make a quick buck with little effort. Reading “the classics” means that you get the best books from every era without having to wade through the formulaic twaddle, most of which has mercifully been forgotten over the years.
It’s a different story with modern children’s books. Picking up a new children’s book means taking a chance on wasting your time, and the modern children’s book publishing machine loves tried and true formulas. After the success of Harry Potter we got books about schools for magical/mythological/specially talented kids who are sorted into groups based on their personalities. After The Hunger Games took off, we’ve have had m…

Reality TV - (Inferno Meditation 7)

In circle seven of Hell, in the bolgia of the falsifiers, Dante sees two sinners having a rousing argument with one another, and he stops to hear:

“I was all agog and listening eagerly,
When the master said: “Yes, feast thine eyes; go on;
A little more, and I shall quarrel with thee.”
Inferno, Canto XXX, Lines 130-132

Dante is sucked in by the spectacle presented by sinful people behaving sinfully. He eagerly wants to see more and to hear more. However, Virgil cuts him short with what appears to our modern perspective to be an unusually harsh rebuke. Why does Virgil come down so hard on Dante for wanting to hear a bit more of this conversation? After all, don’t we eagerly want to see what the denizens of Jersey Shore are going to do next? Don’t we watch every reality show to see people being double-crossed, used spitefully, and voted off? Don’t we eagerly scan the supermarket magazines to see who’s cheating on whom, who’s in the midst of a divorce, or who’s been arrested? Aren’t the Kardashians celebrities? Our culture thrives on the spectacle of bad people behaving badly. Dante’s society is no less sucked in by the same temptation. However, Virgil wants to make sure that Dante understands the nature of sin. Sin is not entertaining; it is destructive and ugly. Dante’s trip through Hell is not a pleasure tour; it’s a journey of repentance.

When Dante realizes what he is doing and reacts by beating himself up over his shortcoming, Virgil responds:

“‘Less shame would wash away a greater crime
Than thine hast been’; so said my gentle guide;
‘Think no more of it; but another time,

Imagine I’m still standing at thy side
Whenever fortune, in thy wayfaring,
Brings thee where people wrangle thus and chide;

It’s vulgar to enjoy that kind of thing.”
Inferno, Canto XXX, Lines 142-148

The lesson to take away from this is that in our Christian lives, we must not be fascinated by sin. Can you think of anyone who has become a Christian after leading a rebellious life, and they get a thrill from telling stories about the days before they were Christians? Often it seems that they found their former state a lot more exciting than their current. “Yeah, haha, we got into a lot of trouble back in those days. *sigh*” This attitude is contrary to true repentance. We must see a life of sin for what it is, a living Hell, and we must repent of it. We need to climb out of the pit and begin to lead a life of repentance through the power of the Holy Spirit.

“By that hid way my guide and I withal,
back to the lit world from the darkened dens
Toiled upward, caring for no rest at all,

He first, I following; till my straining sense
Glimpsed through the bright burden of the heavenly cars
Through a round hole; by this we climbed and thence

Came forth, to look once more upon the stars.”
Inferno, Canto XXXIV, Lines 133-139

Dante descended into Hell on Good Friday, and climbed out on the other side on Easter Sunday. He died to his sins in Christ and rose with Christ to walk in newness of life. He learned that sin is not titillating or exciting, but rather an devastating force that destroys lives and wrecks civilizations. Now being saved from death and Hell by God’s grace, he is ready to begin the life of a Christian; he is ready to take up the struggle; he is ready for Purgatory.

It seems appropriate that on this Easter Sunday I should make my last post on Inferno . The long penitential season of Lent is now over, and we are ready for new life in Christ. Once I finish Purgatory, I’ll start blogging my way through it as well, and hopefully by Pentecost, we’ll be ready for Paradise.


Rose said…
This makes me wonder...these past few weeks I've been thinking a lot of Lewis' 'further up and further in', about always going deeper into the simple things and into true knowledge of and obedience to God. A pursuit, almost, and how much that's really not here in our culture.

The line about Christians looking fondly back on 'those wild days' made me wonder why we do that so often, and I do think that, as part of our simplistic pride, it's because of not enough 'further up and further in'. When we're pursuing and going 'further up and further in' to our own selfish stuffs and stupidliness (however far we really can go), we're at least really, really pursuing. Humans are meant to pursue something--God, obviously--but when we're pursuing God it, obviously again, gets so flipping hard. And then as Christians we loll about and don't do much and it's just a lazy mess.

But still, even when that happens, that want to pursue something is still very, very much there, so we look back on those days when we were pursuing but pursuing the wrong thing.

As a side note, I wonder if the 'watching sin' isn't more degrading than the actual sin's a lack of active pursuit AND focusing on wrong. Lol it reminds me of the Capitol in the Hunger Games. Anyways. I'm rambling. I'm being quiet now. Everyone clap.
Wayne Brown said…
*claps* =D But no, really, interesting parallel there, with the Hunger Games... quite true!
Erica said…
On a not deep, completely unrelated note, why do some of your blog posts keep magically disappearing yet Blogger insists they exist?

Blogger LIES.