Wednesday, January 03, 2007

Canto 10: Worms and Butterflies

O superbi cristian, miseri lassi,
Che, de la vista de la mente infermi,
Fidanza avete ne’ retrosi passi,

Non v’accogete voi che noi siam vermi
Nati a formar l’angelica farfalla,
Che vola a la giustizia sanza schermi?


O Christians, arrogant, exhausted, wretched,
whose intellects are sick and cannot see
who place your faith in backward steps,

do you not know that we are worms and born
to form the angelic butterfly that soars,
without defenses, to confront His judgment?
(Purgatorio X. 121-26)

The paradoxical consciousness of the worm that "knows" it has another destiny, a destiny in which it is radically an other. What weight should we give to the difference between worms that become butterflies, as occurs in nature, and worms "born to form" an angelic butterfly?

Moral dilemma: If the worm forgets it is a worm, it inflates into a false consciousness of its true destiny: Pride. But if the worm forgets its ultimate and truest being, it commits to remaining a worm, demoralized and despairing.

This creature does not know how it goes from worm to butterfly. Does it require divine aid? Something beyond its -- our -- own nature?

What is suggested by the fact that this angelic butterfly flies up to Justice "without defenses"?

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