Is hell really boring? Rowan Williams & Jesse Armstrong, Dante & William Blake

An audio version of this talk is at my podcast, Dante’s Divine Comedy, available via podcast feeds.

Rowan Williams and Jesse Armstrong talked at The Idler festival, partly around the idea, caught in the expression, “boring as hell”. But is that right, they asked, when a drama like Succession so clearly appeals to us?

The question is fundamental, for an age inclined to regard hell as appealing or intriguing, is one on the way to being lost.

Drawing on Dante and William Blake, two great diagnostic writers about different states of mind, this talk explores how the passions of the soul, to use Williams’s expression, can hinder and help us on our way.

I then think about how various facets of life change when known from within hellish, purgatorial and paradisal perspectives – movement, words, love, time, memory, possessing, faces, wonder. Hell is boring, not from its own perspective, which knows nothing else, but from that of purgatory and paradise.

A time that thinks hell is the most interesting place to be is in hell; one that can still say “boring as hell” has at least a flicker of hope.

See Dante’s Divine Comedy: A Guide for the Spiritual Journey.