Jubilant Haste

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					                                the last Word



                                Jubilant Haste
                                Deborah Smith Douglas



                                A
                                           few years ago, I began mixing
                                           up my walking regimen with
                                           intervals of running, working
                                           my slow way up to running
                                a mile at a time, and then—eventu-
                                ally—to four. And now I’m hooked.
                                    I’ve experienced all the benefits that runners have long ex-         Fowlie, our Dante professor at Duke, to someday read the rest of
                                tolled—I sleep better, I have more energy, my heart and bones            the Divine Comedy.
                                are healthier. (To say nothing of the boost in serum levels of com-         Imagine my surprise when, on cornice after cornice of the
                                placency, which has been significant.) The real surprise, though,        Mountain of Purgatory, I encountered the souls of the penitent
                                has been the way running has taken me to a whole new place in            running up the steep paths. And the more they are purified of their
                                prayer—given me a deeper understanding of the promise of the             sins, the faster and more joyfully they run. Not because something
                                Christian journey.                                                       awful is chasing them (there are no demons in Purgatory) but
                                    Now when I read St. Paul’s exclamation that he has “finished         just because they are so eager to be ever closer to Paradise. The
                                the race”—or the prophet’s promise that we shall “run and not            penitents not only “run with perseverance” but with a jubilant
                                be weary”—I feel the power of the images in the depths of my             haste that Dante initially finds undignified.
                                tendons. Which is odd, since I habitually cringe whenever I hear            Maybe if we—like the penitent, jubilant souls in the Purgato-
                                sports analogies in homilies. I have never warmed to anything            rio—run with perseverance when that is the best we can do, and
                                remotely muscular in Christianity.                                       for as long as we must, we too may discover wings on our heels.
                                    Partly this is due, no doubt, to my pre–Title IX youth, throughout   Perseverance itself might burst into joy, as Aaron’s rod burst into
                                which only boys were athletes, ladies didn’t sweat, and mothers          bloom.
                                never ran anything but the PTA. But mostly I blame Dante.                   In Dante’s Paradiso, the souls of the blessed no longer merely run
                                    When I was an undergraduate, I took a class on Dante’s Inferno,      for joy (as th
				
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Description: Partly this is due, no doubt, to my pre- Title IX youth, throughout which only boys were athletes, ladies didn't sweat, and mothers never ran anything but the PTA. Imagine my surprise when, on cornice after cornice of the Mountain of Purgatory, I encountered the souls of the penitent running up the steep paths. [...] the more they are purified of their sins, the faster and more joyfully they run.
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