How many times in your life have you heard the words, “Dante’s Inferno”? How many times “Dante’s Paradiso”? I’m guessing the ratio leans heavily toward Inferno.
How familiar with those two works are you? This isn’t a Literature test. I’m just guessing that if you’re familiar with either, it’s probably the Nine Circles of Hell. And I’m willing to bet the Nine Circles of Heaven are a complete mystery.
It’s not just you, Inferno has been the subject of plays, movies, even a video game. By comparison, Paradiso is shunned.
And it’s not just Dante. William Blake said of Paradise Lost and Paradise Regained, “The reason Milton wrote in fetters when he wrote of angels and God and at liberty when of Devils and Hell is because he was a true poet and of the Devil’s party without knowing it.”
It doesn’t take a poet to realize that writing about hell is easy, “at liberty,” and writing about heaven is difficult, “in fetters.”
I believe there’s a key to human nature and human history in that dichotomy. Our race’s origins are in savagery, “nature red in tooth and claw.” Civilization is something we build despite it. Nobility is something we strive for. We work to be better individuals, we labor at it, because selfishness, fear, and hatred are so easy. We strive to transcend our animal nature.
I’m vegan. I’m not asking you to be. But I’m weary of hearing the line, “It’s only natural for humans to eat meat.” Of course. I know as well as you that for our race, killing and eating other animals is natural. No argument there.
But is it necessary?