The Divine Comedy: Week 31, Even Our Sins Are Acts of Love

So, according to Dante we are born to love, but our loves become misdirected. And if that's the case, it leads to a pretty surprising conclusion.

Even our sins are acts of love.

Dante is quite clear on this point. As Virgil says in Canto XVIII:
So, you can understand how love must be
the seed of every virtue growing in you,
and every deed that merits punishment.
In the very next canto the Pilgrim, in asking a question, restates Virgil on this point:
So I beseech you, father, kind and dear,
define love for me, please, which is, you say
the source of very virtue, every vice.
According to Dante, love is the source of very virtue and every vice. Love is the source of goodness. But love is also the source of evil.

How's that possible?

Recall Dante's theory of "bad love" versus "good love" from last week. Bad love is misdirected love, loving a lesser good at the expense of the Eternal Good. That is how love becomes the source of vice, and even the source of evil.

Consider a love that has been getting a lot of attention lately: Love of your country. Is it wrong to love your country? No, it's not. But can you love your country too much? Well, yes, you can. And can you love your country so much that it leads to evil? Yes on that score as well.

Consider any other love we might have. Love of self. Love of security. Love of liberty. Love of your ethnic group or culture. Love of money. Love of success. Love of work. Love of our contented status quo.

It's not sinful to want, desire or love any of these things. It's not wrong to love yourself. It's not wrong to want security and freedom. It's not wrong to love work, along with some success and financial reward. Nor is it wrong to love the familiar, the same, the comfortable, and the traditional. And it's not wrong to love your kin, clan, or tribe. But love any of these things too much and, well, darkness soon follows.

According to Dante, we love a million different things in a million different ways. But some of these loves become misdirected and excessive, leading us into vice, sin, and evil.

Look into the darkness and what you'll find is a love gone terribly wrong.

This entry was posted by Richard Beck. Bookmark the permalink.

Leave a Reply