Monday, February 14, 2011

Book Review - "The Purpose of Passion"

TITLE: The Purpose of Passion - Dante's Epic Vision of Romantic Love
AUTHORS: Kurt Bruner & Jim Ware
PUBLISHED: Carol Stream, IL: Saltriver-Tyndale House, 2010.

The Purpose of Passion: Dante's Epic Vision of Romantic LoveIn a world flooded with superficial proclamations of love, where societies intoxicate themselves with fantasies of self-centered romance, this book is a necessary corrective. Journeying through Dante's famous The Divine Comedy, the authors builds a strong case for the need to recover the true meaning of passion and love. With the pursuit of love and passion as the main goal, Bruner and Ware guides the reader through the three stages of the odyssey of love, namely Hell (Inferno), Purgatory, and Paradise. Spirituality and biblical themes are brilliantly integrated with Dante's metaphor of love's journey. While the world sees romantic love as 'self-satisfaction,' Dante's vision reveals true love as 'self-sacrifice.' The world's vision of love tries to be effective but is largely 'defective.' God's vision of love is pro-active and progressive. This books brings both together in one compelling purpose of passion, through a journey powered by love.

The Three-Stage Journey of Love
Bruner and Ware begins with how true love gets warped. They point out that the Italian word 'amore' suggests 'potentiality' rather than an eventuality. In other words, love is more a journey rather than a destination. This is why true romantic love cultivates and not manipulate. Our destination is God, not love. Love is the process.

The authors use Dante's vision of a beautiful woman Beatrice to lead him through the journey. Beatrice is his spiritual guide, who helps him to realize how repulsive self-love is, and how attractive and liberating true love is. In the first stage, Dante is given a taste of the evils of self-love. He goes through seven circles of false love (Limbo, Self-Indulgence, Gluttons, Misers/Spendthrifts, Wrathful, Heretics, Eternal Violence). All these are perversions of love, which mars the world.

The second stage (purgatory) is essentially purging all of theses false loves, painful but necessary in order to prepare for the third stage. The final stage is the pursuit of true love (paradise), again with Beatrice as his spiritual guide. The central message of the book is this:
"Genuine love is something of which we can never have too much. As long as it is pure, as long as its trajectory remains straight and true, love must eventually lead us aright. If it is clean, wholesome, appropriate, and selfless, then a passion for something or someone other than ourselves inevitably carries about it a certain aura of holiness." (129)

My Comments
I am blown away by this book for its sheer depth of insight and the clear application in real life. Like Beatrice guiding Dante's journey through the ups and downs of love, the authors guide the reader through clear markers making this book not only a delight to read but a pleasure to follow. Each chapter begins with a quote from Dante's epic literature, and ends with a reflection. Each part starts with a brief explanation of Dante's contexts, and concludes with a personal challenge to 'get personal.' I appreciate the clear biblical linkages and the weaving of Dante's medieval message with contemporary applications. With skill and formidable understanding of Dante's theology and philosophy, this book gives the modern reader a great compass to carry with regards to the understanding of true romance and authentic love. There are so many things to learn from, with lessons for the married and the unmarried; loved and the unloved. Push aside those romantic novels out there in the market that focuses more on self-satisfaction and self-gratification. Do not read any other love or romance books until you have read this book. If you find this book hard to read and understand, re-read it. It is worth it.

Ratings: 5 stars of 5.


Disclosure: To comply with regulations introduced by the Federal Trade Commission, Tyndale House Publishers has provided me with a complimentary copy of this book for review purposes only. I am not required to write a positive review, and the opinions expressed are freely mine.

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