Prayer in a godless world facing environmental disaster

July 7th, 2010

Dante says somewhere, I think it’s in the Paradiso, that the purpose of writing his Commedia is to help create new and better ways to pray.  Not the Miltonic explaining of god’s ways to man, or the expounding of doctrine, or the description of the world with the rewarding of the just and the punishing of sinners and the placing of everyone in his place – just prayer.  I love that.  I don’t believe in god, but I do believe in prayer.

Since I’m neither a theologian nor a philosopher, I can’t define precisely what I mean by the word, but it has something to do with using language as an instrument to place oneself in proper relation to the world.  Our art has pretty much abandoned prayer, even in this sense.  Our poetry is as impoverished as the rest, mostly empty bullshit: I’m cool!  I’m observant!  I’m sensitive!  I’m fluent!  I’m clever!  I’m damaged!  Here’s what I think!

So another reason why a Vermont author would rewrite Dante, 689 years after his death, is to learn how to pray.  He’s not going to learn from contemporaries for the most part, except a few, like W.S. Merwin and Gary Snyder.  With BP now having rendered over 1/3 of the Gulf of Mexico unfishable (!) and the Greenland ice caps melting (!!) and people taking Republicans seriously (!!!), we need to learn to pray with greater efficacy than ever before.

This entry was posted on Wednesday, July 7th, 2010 at 8:09 pm and is filed under Why Dante's Inferno. You can follow any responses to this entry through the RSS 2.0 feed. You can leave a response, or trackback from your own site.