The Divine Comedy: Week 29, Our Love is Not Depraved

So, we are born to love. But Dante pushes further in stating clearly that our natural inclinations to love are not twisted, bent, or depraved.

As Virgil shares in Canto XVIII of the Purgatorio:
So, man cannot know where his cognizance
of primal concepts comes from--or his bent
for those primary objects of desire;

these are a part of you, just like the zeal
of bees for making honey; the primal will
is neither laudable nor blamable.
The primal will is neither laudable nor blamable.

Again, I'm struck here by the generous anthropology. We're born to love, and that natural desire to love is neither good nor bad. After the journey through the Inferno you might have thought Dante a grim, pessimistic theologian when it comes to human nature. But Dante is no Calvinist. At least not in these lines. Primally, in our natural state, our love is neither laudable nor blamable. True, loves goes seriously wrong, more on that next week, but there's nothing inherently tainted or bent in our love. Dante compares us to the bees, who are naturally and instinctively drawn toward making honey. The bees don't choose this zeal, they discover they have it. In a similar way, we're born to love, we discover ourselves loving, through no choice of our own. Love is our natural, primal state and it begins its journey in a neutral state, as neither good nor bad. In other lines, Virgil compares our love to wax. Our love begins as a blank slate, a formless impressionable material upon which we will leave a mark.

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