To Hell and Back

I’ve been to hell and back three times. In three English classes, Dante’s Inferno was required reading. My first introduction happened in high school. Read it, powerful stuff, learned that Dante also wrote about purgatory and heaven. The collection of all three were called The Divine Comedy. Well, Dante’s hell ended up quite horrible and none too comic.

Then two separate college English classes put the Inferno on the reading list. Why didn’t any teacher want to study purgatory? And not one bit of interest even in heaven? Maybe William Blake was right when he said that the devil and not Jesus was the real hero in Milton’s Paradise Lost. Hell hath more drama, off-the-wall characters; more Dynasty, less Waltons. The devil is active, Jesus is passive. Aren’t we just drawn to gawk at evil as much as rush hour traffic is drawn to gawk at a tragic car accident?

I own a copy of Dante’s Paradiso, it’s been sitting on my bookshelf collecting dust for over five years.  I rescued the copy from a used bookstore sale.  It was one of the leftovers that were destined for the dumpster.  I also began to scout out the used bookstore for a copy of Purgatorio but with no luck.  I haven’t even bothered to look for a copy at any other bookstores in order to fill in the gaps in my Divine Comedy education.  So far only hell has been my motivation.

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