One thing that has remained fairly consistent throughout my blog postings is my quoting and referencing of pop-culture and examples from my own life in my attempts to process Dante through my own experiences and my own culture. I have quoted Billy Joel, Peter Parker’s Uncle Ben, an old Girl Scout song; referenced Deepak Chopra, Maslow’s Triangle: Hierarchy of Needs, capitalist and socialist ideas, Robert F. Kennedy, jr. and U.S. policies; talked about memorial services I’ve attended, and my personal understandings of religion and faith. Because what good is reading an ancient text unless it can be applied to our own lives? Being old does not automatically make something good…being able to transcend time and strike a chord in a soul hundreds of years after it was originally written, however, is a mark of greatness. There, I said it: Dante’s great.
I sit in class and get my mind blown almost every day. A lot of the things you say are things I’ve never thought of before, or at least not in the way you present them. And most of the time it’s exactly not what I was expecting to come out of the mouth of a Catholic deacon! Reading the bible allegorically?!? Who would have thought? The “going through the motions” of Catholic mass an experience in faith possibly closer to God than the somewhat-intellectual preachings of Protestants? Confession not what I had thought, going through another human to ask forgiveness from God, but rather an act of community, a community activity done in faith and support?
My blog posts usually represent a combination of my thoughts from the in-class free writes, my reactions and processing of what you have said in class, and my own experiences as filtered through Dante, (except for my fifth blog post about Bobby Kennedy, jr. … I was so excited about him, and a little burnt out from the Paradiso, that I couldn’t help but go on a tangent, even though it was pretty far-fetched). My in-class writings were strong. I was always off and running, my thoughts a sentence or two ahead of what I was writing. I was almost never at a loss for something to get down on paper and process. My hand always hurt afterwards. Sometimes I would sit in class either writing or listening to the lecture and ideas from others in the class and I just couldn’t wait to get home and through all the other things I had to do that week to write my next blog post.
Was there progress? Well, the title of my last post was: “The answer is: I have no idea.” I feel like I started the class with a lot of questions and wonderings…what are the Purgatorio and Paradiso going to be like? What is the Purgatorio, exactly? If Dante has such a clear picture of the Inferno, who is he going to put in Heaven, and why? Instead of ending up with all the answers at the end of the term, I feel completely comfortable saying that the answer is: it’s a mystery. If we could explain it, (God, religion, spirituality, Heaven), it wouldn’t be worth all the time, effort, and devotion people put into it.
As for me, I feel justified. I had become disenchanted with religion, or rather, every religious figure I’ve ever known having the attitude that they’ve got it all figured out, that their way is the absolute correct way, no exceptions, and that it’s okay to be intolerant of others if they don’t believe exactly as you do. This course has been refreshing for me. It’s good to know not everyone’s like that.