Friday, February 26, 2016

Review: How Dante Can Save Your Life

I want to say this is an exceptional book, in part affirmed by my many underlines in the text.  Most books I judge exceptional, however, have a point, a message which I can summarize, but I find myself unable to briefly express all the messages this book delivers to me.  Through Rod Dreher’s review of Dante’s Divine Comedy (done within this book) he explains how Dante, and then he himself, could live life to the fullest, as God intended for them --- but not as either had planned, wished, or expected.  Through reflection, introspection and prayer, both found “life-changing wisdom.”  And I think that is what most readers of this book will also find.

I think the words in Dreher’s Introduction briefly describe the reason for the book’s title:

·         Dante helped me understand … that I had the power to change, and revealed to me how to do so.

·         In Dante, sinners are those who love the wrong things

·         Many people lost in their own dark wood may convince themselves that the dark wood is all there is.  Some people, though, know in their hearts that staying put is to surrender to slavery.  The Commedia invites you to stand up, get moving, and become the hero of your own life.  Go into the deep, find out who you are, discover who you can be, and return to your everyday life changed --- maybe even saved.  It happened to me.  It can happen to you too.

In 27 chapters, this book follows Dreher’s and Dante’s life, as expressed through The Divine Comedy.  At the end of each chapter are a few “lessons learned” paragraphs; you will find that you need to read them over and over again, especially if you are not an underlining person like me.  But here are just a few of Dreher’s well-written words, which I did underline:

·         How much happier would young people be if they began their careers thinking not of the fame, fortune, and glory they will receive from professional accomplishment, but rather of the good they can do for others.

·         All the sinners in hell convinced themselves in the mortal life that the evil that they did was good.

·         Thinking that the solution to our problems can be found through using reason and logic alone --- the default position of bookish people like me --- may prevent us from seeing the true nature of our struggles.  Do not expect reason and logic to comprehend matters of faith and will.

·         Modern people like me want the benefits of community, but without giving up individuality and mobility.  We want the benefits of religion, but without having to submit to its disciplines.  We want traditions, but only the ones we like.  This doesn’t work.

·         Suffering comes to everyone.  What you do with that suffering determines whether or not you remain an earthbound caterpillar or metamorphose into a butterfly.  … The key to our transformation is the heart, not the reasoning mind.

·         Self-knowledge begins with the realization that the things you refuse to accept in others are often aspects of your own character, from which you must repent.

·         The workaholic can be the laziest man around if he is using his work to avoid doing the things he is supposed to be doing.

·         The heart’s quest for happiness and fulfillment comes from an ancestral memory of a primal utopia, a sense of oneness with God and the cosmos.  Stop searching; it doesn’t exist this side of heaven.  … Any hope of creating heaven on earth will end in tears.

I usually make note of my favorite books and give them as Christmas gifts.  I read this book in January, and I find that I cannot wait.  I’ve given away 15 copies thus far.  If you find yourself dissatisfied with your life --- or perhaps even more tellingly, with the lives of those around you --- you may not wish to wait either.   

No comments:

Post a Comment