Advice from Strangers
This Week's Guest
14th-Century poet Dante Alighieri,
author of The
(Transcribed by Ishmael Alighieri)
I'm trying to impress this girl in my algebra class, but she doesn't seem to
know I exist. How can I get her to go out with me?
Timid in Toledo
First, Timid, realize that those who give in to their lust end up spending
all Eternity chained to the object of their desire, but blown round and
round by a heavy wind in the upper reaches of Hell, never able to stop for
even a second to enjoy the companionship of their beloved. Since I'm sure
you don't want to do that, I recommend you follow my example and focus your
attention on some lovely, utterly unattainable underage girl who is likely
to die young. That way, you'll not only save your immortal soul, but you
might just be able to produce a literary masterpiece out of your sorrow.
Happy to help,
I'm in trouble. Seems I've gotten rich by screwing my employees and
shareholders. Unfortunately, my energy-trading conglomerate has gone down in
flames. Now, I'm trying to hang onto my money and stay out of jail while
avoiding anybody I used to work with, because there's a whole bunch of them
who'd like to see me dead. You've been through Hell -- any advice?
Ken from Houston
You think you're screwed now? You don't know the half of it! Down in the
very bottom of Hell is the frozen lake of the Treacherous, where I'd bet ol'
Satan has a special little corner all ready for you, buddy. The lowest place
of all is for those who betray their benefactors -- you know, like the people
who helped you get rich. Stockholders. Employees. My memory, which does not
fail, recalls old Ruggieri the Archbishop, upon whose head Count Ugolino
still gnaws -- both frozen in the same spot for all time, for doing no more
evil than you. My advice: Sell all that you have, give the money to the
poor, then, unarmed, try to convert the Saracen Lord of the Moors to Christ,
because nothing beats a good solid martyrdom for wiping the slate clean. Or
you could dress warmly, for all the good that'll do you. Your choice.
I just can't decide: It seems unlikely that there is a God, and, even if
there were, He might not care a whit what a person like me does with his
life. What if I forgo all this heavy virtue stuff and just try to keep my
nose clean? You know, not too bad, not too good, kind of covering all the
bases. What do you think?
Ambivalent in Ann Arbor
Sure, you can try that, and end up like the vast legions of the Undecided,
who for all eternity chase ever-shifting banners across the plain before the
Gates of Hell, getting stung by hornets and feeding the worms with their
tears. Frankly -- and this is just one man's opinion -- if I were you, I'd go
ahead and get me some serious tail, and figure on getting blown around
inside the doors with the Lustful, rather than being sort of indifferent
and getting blown around outside with that loser Undecided crowd. The
blown-around part is a given -- it's all a matter of whether or not you get
any before you cash in your chips. But, hey, that's your call.
Hope that helps,