Sunday, May 24, 2009


Two tomatoes going strong.
Two fuscias also chugging along though one was near dead when i bought it, it's doing much better.
Gladiolus and oregeno doing well
Peas all viney, though no peas yet
Cukes and beans just planted

Sunday, May 3, 2009

The Lesson is Love : When A Broken-Hearted Pagan Reads Dante

Every religion is true one way or another. It is true when understood metaphorically. But when it gets stuck in its own metaphors, interpreting them as facts, then you are in trouble. – Joseph Campbell

Just as Catholic Dante was guided by a pagan, I am guided by two Catholics, one living, one dead. That Dante and Deacon Anderson are guiding me -- showing me the way through this dark wood, by revealing allegory and encouraging me to decipher my own-- is not surprising. For myself, being pagan, the concept of allegory is strong. Moreover, as Campbell says in the quote above Every religion is true one way or another. I believe this and I am very interested in the presence of a pagan as the guide in the Inferno. I feel there should not be a bitter disconnect between the faiths. The allegory of love, sacrifice, journey… these things transcend Dogmatism. This is Dante’s experience, and it is mine.

Forgetting this inner essence seems to be the path to sin.

in doing things to achieve purposes of outer value… we forget the inner value, the rapture that is associated with being alive—Joseph Campbell

Most of the sins represented in The Inferno are attached to the concept of a failure to read or seek the symbolic in some way. The poem suggests that one can see the world in base material form or one can seek for something deeper. In the levels of Hell there is little more than base material vision and obsession. The Hoarders and Wasters for example are described as having “labored to be blind”, I take this to mean that they had an inappropriate relationship to the physical because they labored to be blind to deeper meanings (VII. 53). The symbolic is the level at which the divine operates in Dante, and in my life. For me each moment, is layered with many meanings. The more significant moments are deeply woven with symbolic elements.

For me the most significant event in my life thus far has been my marriage. Every bit of that event is heavy with allegorical meaning, strange symbolisms.

When people get married because they think it's a long-time love affair, they'll be divorced very soon, because all love affairs end in disappointment. But marriage is a recognition of a spiritual identity. – Joseph Campbell

Years before I met my wife, I had 2 significant dreams. Dreams are so momentous in my life, powerful and allegoric, a moment of contact with the divine. One of these two significant dreams showed my wife Bird to me before I ever knew her, and another introduced me to two figures who have followed me in my mind wherever I go. This second dream occurred in 2003. “The Old Women Dream” in which two very old women were helping me fix a problem. Several days ago I held a door open for an old woman. As she entered she stopped and looked at me and I realized that she resembled one of the dream “old women”. She then spoke to me in Spanish and English. I was especially amazed by this because Bird and I both have a strong affinity in dreams and in reality to Spanish, yet I don’t look Spanish at all, so why would this woman speak to me in Spanish, it was quite moving. She said “You make the world a better place. My name is Gloria. I thank you from the bottom of my heart.” Before the old woman appeared I had been standing outside of Gilke thinking about my wife. When Gloria left I looked up and saw a small office window with a statue of an eagle in flight. This seemed very significant since an eagle showed Bird and I where we were married. The day before our ritual, we walked the banks of the Columbia looking for the place that felt right. Suddenly, an immature bald eagle flew out of the low branch of a tree very close to us. That is how we knew the place.
Perhaps it is a symptom of my current mental state, but the central idea of Dante’s poem seems to be love. Love, as the guiding force that redeems and gives meaning to life and death. Love as an extension of creation, which is present in all living things. Dante is redeemed in a way through love. His recognition of the divine in Beatrice is a pathway to connection with deeper meaning.

I am very moved by this concept.

Midway in our lives journey, I went astray
from the straight road and woke to find myself
alone in a dark wood. How shall I say
what wood that was! I never saw so drear,
so rank, soarduous a wilderness!
It’s very memory gives a shape to fear (Inferno I. 1-6)

These lines were like the narration of my last few months. Still alive after a long and horrible straying. I too came to find myself in a dark wood which gave shape to fear. When things in my marriage fell apart, or were smashed but ill spent emotions and language I could not have described it better than Dante has here. In the first moments of reading The Inferno I could not help but think and feel that Dante and I are not so unlike. Too similar really at that moment. For I had gone astray from love, from mystic and spiritual connection. As Joseph Campbell describes, I had been “doing things … of outer value” and “forget the inner value”. That was the first step in all of our problems.

Now, my Bird gone far away, my entire life profoundly altered I spend long hours pondering. Introspective by nature, I wonder over and over considering my deep want to honor her and our commitment. A deep want to heal and protect that love. A love that brought us together, allowed me a new access to and understanding of the world, and the spirit. I wonder is this Prideful or honorable? To pride oneself on loving, healing protecting someone and then to breach that by a personal flaw or failing is a crushing blow. An immense humbling, but is it prideful to want to heal that damage, to renew the bond which is sacred?

Putting faith in the gods, guides and ancestors and working hard to improve myself and show her my earnestness… this is how I proceed. Faith and works.

Forces will have been set in motion beyond the reckoning of the senses… miracles and coincidence will bring the inevitable to pass – Joseph Campbell

It is no coincidence that I met Gloria and saw the eagle statue. It is no coincidence that I am reading this text at this moment. The hand of the creator is at work in this moment. The lesson seems to be love.

Does my love beseech the higher love to help me through this dark place? Is she like a living Beatrice? I cannot say. In all of this, my mind thinks of “Beata Beatrix” by Dante Gabrielle Rossetti. A painting I have long loved though I did not know the story it told. Thinking of this painting what strikes me most is the red bird, Bird, my beloved’s name. Allegory upon allegory. This is how my mind reads my life, this is how I read Dante, and my coming to Dante.