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December 22 , 2008

Dante's "Paradise": A Retelling in Prose


Chapter 1: Beatrice and Dante Rise from Eden

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Dante the Poet thought, God both created all things and keeps all things in existence as long as they exist. In each moment, God is engaged in the act of creation. If God were to stop His act of creation, all of the universe, including space and time, would go out of existence. God’s glory is seen in the entire universe. In some places His glory can be seen more clearly. In some places His glory can be seen less clearly. Merit determines whether God’s glory is seen more clearly or less clearly in human beings.

I have traveled through the depths of the Inferno, I have climbed the Mountain of Purgatory, and I have risen from the Forest of Eden up through the cosmos and past it to the Mystic Empyrean, aka Paradise, the dwelling place of God. I have seen things that no person, once returned to Earth from Paradise, can tell about. Our goal is God, but after one experiences God and then returns to the mundane world, memory is powerless. Very little of the experience of God can be remembered and recounted. In Paradise, saved souls and Angels experience God continually.

What I can remember of my experience, I will recount in this, my work of art, my Paradise.

To do so, I need help. Apollo, ancient god of prophecy, please give me gifts enough to create a work of art that is worthy of a laurel crown. Previously, I have asked the Muses for their aid. I do so again, now, but I need your help as well because of the enormity and the difficulty of my task. Parnassus, the mountain of creative endeavor, has two peaks. One is dedicated to the nine Muses; the other is dedicated to you, Apollo. I ask for help in creation from all nine Muses and from you, Apollo.
Apollo, inspire me with the talent and the genius that you used to defeat Marsyas, the satyr who discovered a flute that played well by itself, without the help of living beings. Minerva had owned the flute, but she disliked the way her face contorted when she played it, and so she had discarded it. Marsyas found the flute, discovered the beauty of the sounds it made, and challenged you to a contest to see who made the best music. You defeated Marsyas. Please give me the use of the artistic gifts with which you defeated Marsyas.

Allow me to at least write the shadow of my experience of Paradise. If I can do even that, I will deserve the laurel crown that is given to persons who do great things. My lofty theme and your artistic inspiration will make me deserving of the laurel crown. Seldom are laurel leaves plucked to form a crown for politicians or for creators of works of art. Some forms of ambition are worthwhile, but are little pursued. When someone works hard to pursue such a crown, you, Apollo, should rejoice. Even if I fail in my pursuit, perhaps I may blaze the way for one who will succeed.

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