Open-Mic Night at Ohio University’s Baker Center — 23 September 2022

Rhanda Cross

Rhanda Cross
Bruce Dalzell, emcee (left) and Michaela Meershaert

Michaela Meershaert

Rylee Bapst

Rylee Bapst

Riley James

Riley James

Dee (?) from Malaysia

Dee (?) from Malaysia
Aiden Travis

Aiden Travis

Bruce Dalzell, Emcee

Rylee Bapst.

Edge of Desire- John Mayer with harmonica solo

The Joker- Steve Miller Band with guitar solo

Neon live performance- Rylee Bapst (John Mayer cover)

“O Holy Night” sang by 13 year old Rhanda Cross

Bruce Dalzell | Patriarch of Athens Music

The Artist’s Ego (Brucie’s Three Steps to Creative Happiness) 

Bruce Dalzell: “The Parade”

Chapter 11: Virgil Teaches Dante

Dante and Virgil arrived at a steep bank from which they could look down into the dark, deep pit of Hell. They did not stay there long, for the stench arising from the lower Circles was too rank for them to bear. They moved back from the edge of the pit onto a tomb. On the tomb was written a name and a sin. The name was that of Pope Anastasius II, and his sin was to be a heretical follower of Photinus, who denied the divinity of Christ, believing instead that both of His parents were mortal human beings.

Virgil said to Dante, “We cannot continue on our journey yet. We will stay here a while so that we can become accustomed to the stench arising from the lower Circles of Hell. Once we have become used to the stench, we will continue our journey.”

Dante replied, “That’s fine, but I don’t want to waste time while we wait. Do you have any ideas?”

Well done, Virgil thought. You don’t want to waste time, and indeed time is not a thing to be wasted, especially now, when you are on a journey to save your soul.

“Yes,” Virgil replied. “As we wait here, I will be able to tell you how Hell is organized. That way, you will be better prepared for what is to come.

“First, let’s have a review. Even before entering Hell Proper, you saw the Vestibule of Hell, where those who did not choose between good and evil are punished. These souls are not worthy of Heaven, and Hell does not want them. These souls did nothing memorable — good or bad — with their lives.

“After passing through the gate above which are words written by God, we crossed the River Acheron and you saw my residence in Limbo, the first Circle of Hell. In that place the virtuous pagans and the unbaptized reside. It is a place of sighs, not screams.

“Then you saw the first of the three great divisions of Hell according to the pagan idea of sin: incontinence, violence, and fraud. The sins of incontinence are less evil than the sins of violence and of fraud because the sins of incontinence are those of a lack of self-control, not of malice aforethought.

“Circles 2 through 5 are devoted to the sins of incontinence. In Circle 2 are punished those who could not control their lust. In Circle 3 are punished those who could not control their desire for food and drink. In Circle 4 are punished the prodigal and the miserly: those who could not control their desire either for money or for the things that money can buy. In Circle 5 are punished those who could not control their anger.

“In Circle 6 are those who committed heresy. Because heresy is an essentially Christian sin, it is outside the pagan classification of sins.

“Below are the final three Circles of Hell. These Circles are devoted to punishing those who are guilty of malice, which is committed through violence or fraud. Fraud is something that is committed only by human beings — animals are violent but do not commit fraud — and so God hates fraud more than he hates violence.

“In Circle 7 are punished those who have committed violence. There are three kinds of violence:

“One, a sinner can be violent against neighbors. A sinner can do this by harming the person or by harming the person’s property.

“Two, a sinner can be violent against self by committing suicide. A sinner can also be violent against self by so violently wasting his wealth that he courts death.

“Three, a sinner can be violent against God by blaspheming Him. A sinner can also be violent against God by opposing Nature, which God created; for example, the Sodomites oppose Nature by engaging in sex that is incapable of resulting in children.

“In Circles 8 and 9 are punished those who are guilty of committing fraud. Fraud is depriving another person of a right through the use of willful misrepresentation.

“The two major kinds of fraud are simple and complex. Simple fraud is punished in Circle 8. Simple fraud does not involve the betrayal of a special trust. Ten kinds of sinners engage in simple fraud:

“One, Seducers and Panders,

“Two, Flatterers,

“Three, Simonists,

“Four, Fortune-Tellers and Sorcerers,

“Five, Grafters — those who give or accept bribes,

“Six, Hypocrites,

“Seven, Thieves,

“Eight, Evil Deceivers/Those Who Misuse Great Gifts,

“Nine, Schismatics; that is, those who caused divisions (in families and in religion), and

“Ten, Falsifiers; that is, Alchemists, Evil Impersonators, Counterfeiters, and Liars.

“Complex fraud is punished in Circle 9. Complex fraud does involve the betrayal of a special trust. Complex fraud is fraud to which is added treachery toward those to whom we have a special obligation to be honest and forthright. Four kinds of sinners engage in complex fraud:

“One, Traitors against kin/family,

“Two, Traitors against government,

“Three, Traitors against guests or hosts, and

“Four, Traitors against God — the worst sin possible.”

Dante said to Virgil, “I don’t understand why the sinners in Circle 5, those who could not control their anger, are not punished in Circle 7 along with those who are violent. We saw the sinners in Circle 5 fighting each other. Isn’t that violence?”

“The two sins are different,” Virgil replied. “In Circle 5 are punished those who are guilty of one kind of intemperance — they did not control their anger. The violence they do is not out of malice but rather out of intemperance.

“In Circle 7 (and Circles 8 and 9) are punished those who are guilty of malice. Instead of being guilty of not controlling themselves, they are guilty of using their self-control to deliberately commit violence (or fraud).”

“I have one more question,” Dante said. “How is usury offensive to God?”

Virgil replied, “Human industry and Nature are related. Human beings are meant to work the way that Nature does. A farmer does good by growing plants. This is the sort of work that human beings are supposed to do. A craftsman also works with Nature by taking raw materials and turning them into useful products. A usurer lends money at interest and makes money that way. The usurer does not make anything; the usurer produces neither food nor useful items. God wants human beings to work with Nature and to be productive.

“Now we are ready to continue our journey. We have grown used to the stench, and you now have a better understanding of the organization of Hell.”

I think you have learned quite a lot, Virgil thought. You have learned the main point: The deeper you go into Hell, the worst the sins become. The sins of incontinence are the least evil. Lust is the least evil sin of all. The sins of incontinence are punished outside the walls of the city of Dis, which is the city of Lucifer. The sins of heresy, violence, and fraud are punished within the walls of the city of Dis.

The sins of fraud are the most evil. The sins of complex fraud are more evil than the sins of simple fraud. Being a traitor against God is the worst sin possible. As you would expect, Lucifer, the angel who led the rebellion against God, is the worst sinner of all time.


Chapter 12: The Minotaur and the River of Boiling Blood

As Dante and Virgil continued on their journey, they saw ruins. They also saw the Minotaur, one of the guards of Circle 7.

I know your story, Dante thought about the Minotaur. You are the half-human, half-bull offspring of Pasiphaë, the wife of King Minos of Crete, who is now the judge of the damned in the Inferno. Virgil and I saw him earlier. Pasiphaë fell in love with a bull, and in order to have sex with the bull, she crept inside a lifelike cow that she ordered the skilled inventor Daedalus to create. The result of their sexual union was the half-bull, half-man Minotaur, which was so violent that Daedalus created a labyrinth for the Minotaur to live in. The Minotaur feasted on the flesh of young Athenians who were given to the Cretans as tribute and put into the labyrinth with him. Eventually, Theseus, the King of Athens, was able to kill the Minotaur. He was afraid that he would get lost in the labyrinth, but Ariadne, Pasiphaë’s daughter, helped him by telling him to tie one end of a ball of string to the entrance, then enter the Labyrinth. He was able to find his way out of the Labyrinth by using the string.

The Minotaur saw Dante and Virgil. The sight so enraged the monster that it began to bite itself.

Virgil called to the Minotaur, “Do you think that you are seeing Theseus again — the man who killed you? You are mistaken, beast! The man who is with me is here to see your misery.”

The Minotaur then began to twist and turn with anger, the way that a bull does just before it dies.

Virgil said to Dante, “Run past the Minotaur while it is distracted by its anger.”

Virgil and Dante made it past the Minotaur, and they began to climb over the ruins they saw, the result of a great earthquake. As Dante climbed over the ruins, the rocks moved, unaccustomed as they were to the weight of a living man.

“The last time I climbed down here to this Circle, there were no ruins,” Virgil said. “I remember that an earthquake struck just before the Mighty Warrior took from Limbo the souls of those who were destined for Heaven. You know that event as the Harrowing of Hell. That earthquake caused the ruins you see here.

“But now look into the valley. There you will see a river of boiling blood in which are punished those who were physically violent against others.”

Dante looked, and in addition to the river of boiling blood he saw Centaurs — beings with the body of a horse but the torso, arms, and head of a man. They were the guards here, and they were armed with bows and arrows.

Have you noticed that so many guards in the Inferno are half-man, half-beast? Virgil thought. There is a reason for that. Sin can be bestial in nature. Certainly, the sins of violence are bestial in nature; after all, many animals are red in tooth and claw because they kill other animals in order to eat them. Human beings at their finest are not like animals; human beings at their worst are very much like carnivorous animals.

The Centaurs saw Dante and Virgil, and one shouted at them, “Who are you, and for what Circle of Hell are you destined? Speak, or I will draw my bow!”

Virgil shouted at the Centaur, “I will answer your questions when we reach you and can talk to Chiron. You are as rash as ever, so I won’t answer you now.”

Virgil then said to Dante, “Not all of the Centaurs are violent — Chiron, the leader of the Centaurs, was the noted tutor of Hercules, the ancient physician Aesculapius, and Achilles — but enough Centaurs are violent that they are appropriate guards of the violent who physically harmed others.

“The Centaur who challenged us is Nessus, who is violent. He seized Hercules’ wife, Dejanira, and tried to rape her. Hercules killed Nessus, but before Nessus died, he told Dejanira to soak a shirt with his blood, and if she ever doubted Hercules’ fidelity to her, to have him wear that shirt. When Dejanira later gave Hercules the shirt to wear, the blood of the Centaur burned his skin so painfully that he committed suicide.

“Many of the Centaurs are as violent as Nessus. In Thessaly, the Centaurs were invited to a wedding, but grew drunk and tried to rape the women guests. Pholus, the Centaur who stands beside Chiron and Nessus, tried to rape the bride.

“As you can see, the Centaurs are the guards here. Being immersed in the river of boiling blood punishes these sinners who were physically violent against other people. These violent people caused the blood of other people to flow; now they are immersed in blood. Each sinner is appointed a certain level to be immersed in the river; the more blood the sinner caused to flow on earth, the more deeply they are immersed in the river. Centaurs shoot arrows at sinners who try to rise above their appointed level in the river.”

When Virgil and Dante reached the group of three Centaurs, Chiron, their leader, said to the other Centaurs, “Have you noticed how this one moves the stones he steps on? He is alive! The souls of dead people can’t do what he does!”

“This man is indeed alive,” Virgil said to Chiron. “My divine duty is to take him through Hell — a journey that he makes out of necessity. A soul from Heaven gave me this task. This living man is not a sinner trying to escape from Hell, and I am acting in accordance with the will of the Heavenly lady who came to me.

“Please give us a guide to escort us across the river of boiling blood at the ford. This living man needs to be carried over.”

Chiron ordered Nessus, “You be their guide and escort. Make sure that no one interferes with them.”

Obviously, Chiron is intelligent, Virgil thought. He realized that Dante is a living man, and he immediately made up his mind to help us.

As they moved along the river of boiling blood, Nessus pointed out some of the sinners being punished. Among the sinners up to their eyelids in boiling blood are cruel tyrants such as Alexander the Great. According to the Christian historian Orosius, Alexander the Great was cruel and violent. Attila the Hun, another noted warrior, is also immersed in boiling blood here. Being immersed in boiling blood up to his eyelids punishes Ezzelino, who burned 11,000 people at the stake on one occasion, here. Other violent sinners are up to their chests, waists, knees, or feet in blood.

As Nessus, Dante, and Virgil moved along the river, it got shallower and shallower until they reached the ford, and Nessus carried Dante and Virgil across it. Dante and Virgil dismounted, and Nessus crossed the river and returned to Chiron.

Dante did not speak to anyone here, nor did he need to, Virgil thought. Although Dante has sinned, violence is not one of his sins.


Chapter 13: The Suicides

Not yet had Nessus reached the other bank of the river of boiling blood than Dante and Virgil were walking in a forest that did not have a path. No green leaves could be seen, but only black leaves. No smooth branches could be seen, but only entangled and crooked branches. No fruit could be seen, but only poisonous thorns. No grubby wood such as this exists anywhere in the Land of the Living.

Here were the Harpies, who are half-human and half-bestial. Part of them is female and human, and part of them is a bird. With their human faces, they shriek, and with their wings, they fly.

“Remember where you are,” Virgil told Dante. “We have left the river of boiling blood, and soon we will be in a desert of burning sand. Right now, we are in the second of the three areas that punish those sinners who are guilty of violence. This wood is more remarkable than you think right now. Look carefully around you. I will not tell you what you are seeing because you would not believe my words.”

Dante looked, and he listened. All he saw were grubby shrubs, but he could hear the sounds of lament coming from somewhere — he knew not where — in addition to the shrieks of the Harpies. Puzzled by the sounds of lament, he stopped.

One of Virgil’s powers was being able to read Dante’s mind. He knew why Dante was puzzled, and so he said, “Break off one of the branches you see in this forest, and your puzzlement will vanish.”

Dante broke off a branch, and the place where the branch had been attached to the shrub oozed with blood. The blood bubbled, and a voice complained, “Why do you injure me by tearing off one of my branches? Why don’t you pity the pain I am suffering? All of us shrubs were human beings once, but even if we had been snakes you should show us more pity.”

Dante dropped the branch he had broken off.

Virgil said to the sinner whose branch had been broken off, “I knew that my companion would never believe with words alone what he is now seeing, so I urged him to break your branch. Unfortunately, even though I wrote about a similar event in my Aeneid, I knew that my companion would not believe unless he had direct experience.”

That is true, Virgil thought. In my Aeneid, Aeneas broke a branch and then the shrub began to bleed and to speak to him. It turned out that Polydorus, a Prince of Troy, was buried there. The prince was murdered with spears so the murderers could take his wealth. The body fell to the ground, and the spears took root and grew.

“Please, tell my companion who you were. He can keep your name alive in the Land of the Living. You need not be forgotten. My companion is still alive, and he will return to the Land of the Living.”

“Your words please me very much,” the shrub said. “I want to be remembered. My name is Pier delle Vigne — Peter of the Vines. I served the Holy Roman Emperor Frederick II.”

Pay attention, Dante, Virgil thought. Remember who Frederick II is. Frederick II fought the Pope for control of Italy. He died in 1250, and we know that Frederick II ended up in the Inferno in a tomb with Farinata, so we know that he died an unrepentant sinner.

“I was the Chief of Staff to Frederick II,” Pier delle Vigne continued. “I controlled who got access to the Holy Roman Emperor. I also advised Frederick II — I advised him on whether something was good or bad. I served him so faithfully that I lost sleep through overwork as well as losing my life. Envy turned up in the court of Frederick II, who was my Caesar. Envy made all the others my enemies, and my enemies turned Frederick II — my Augustus — against me. False accusations were made about me, and they were believed. Even though I was loyal and just to Frederick II, I behaved unjustly against myself. When you return to the Land of the Living, tell everyone that I was loyal to my emperor. Tell everyone that I am here because of the blow that Envy gave me.”

Be careful, Dante, Virgil thought. Like other sinners in the Inferno, Pier delle Vigne has told his story in a very self-serving way. He is blaming Envy for his problems. Envy turned everyone against him. Envious people convinced Frederick II that Pier was disloyal to him, so he put Pier in prison. While in prison, Pier committed suicide. Of course, we know that Pier — not Envy — was the person who committed suicide. In addition, Pier delle Vigne overvalued Frederick II, whom he calls “Caesar” and “Augustus.” And because Pier is in the Inferno, we know that he undervalued God. Of course, although Pier delle Vigne was loyal to Frederick II during Pier’s life, he was disloyal to God when he committed suicide.

Virgil then said to Dante, “If you wish to know anything more, ask your questions now.”

“You may ask him questions,” Dante replied. “I am so overcome with pity for him that I cannot say anything more to him.”

Why are you overcome with pity? Virgil thought. Do you pity him because of the false accusations that envious people made against him? That kind of pity is acceptable. Or do you pity him because he committed suicide? That kind of pity is unacceptable. I hope that you are learning not to allow yourself to be scammed by these sinners who, after all, are exactly where they ought to be. I hope that you have learned something since you spoke with Francesca da Rimini.

And, Dante, you have much to learn here. You will be under attack one day. You will lose your political position, and you will be exiled. Like Pier delle Vigne, you will be discouraged and you will wonder whether life is worth living.

The main thing you can learn here is to not act like Pier delle Vigne. Pier delle Vigne committed suicide, and he ended up in the Inferno. If you, Dante, commit suicide when you are discouraged, you can end up in the same place as Pier delle Vigne.

I know that you will be sent into exile, and I know that you will be discouraged, but if you wish to stay away from eternal punishment in the Inferno, you must respond to your discouragement differently from the way that Pier delle Vigne responded to his discouragement.

As human beings, we have free will, and we can choose how we respond to disaster. We can give in to discouragement and commit suicide, or we can respond in a more courageous way.

Virgil then said to Pier delle Vigne, “So that my companion may keep your name, please tell him how souls become shrubs here, and please tell him whether a soul will ever leave these shrubs.”

“Briefly,” Pier said, “after a person commits suicide, Minos judges his soul and sends it here in Circle 7. The soul drops in this wood the way a seed drops. The soul germinates like a seed and grows into a shrub. The Harpies then feast on it, breaking its branches and causing it pain. By breaking a shrub’s branches, the Harpies give it an outlet through which to express grief as the blood comes bubbling from the wound.

“Like the other souls in the Inferno, we will be given our bodies on Judgment Day, but our soul will not be reunited with our body. Instead, our body will hang from our branches. We rejected our body, and therefore it will not be reunited with our soul.”

Here we have another contrapasso, Virgil thought. The suicides are the grubby shrubs of this wood. The suicides cannot even determine when they will talk; they can communicate only when one of their twigs or branches is broken because they use the resulting hole as a mouth until the blood congeals — the blood oozes from the wound the way that sap oozes from a broken twig or branch.

The punishment of the suicides is appropriate because by killing themselves, the suicides gave up the privilege of self-determination. As shrubs, the suicides have no free will because plants have no free will. This is appropriate because in life the suicides rejected free will by committing suicide.

Because the suicides gave up their right of self-determination, they no longer have self-determination in the Inferno. Minos throws their souls into Circle 7, and the souls sprout wherever they fall. As grubby shrubs, the suicides cannot move around, and they cannot even speak unless someone breaks off a twig or branch.

The suicides have no free will because they rejected the chance to use free will to solve their problems. The suicides rejected their bodies, so they will not be reunited with their bodies.

In life, the suicides mutilated themselves. Now, as shrubs, they can no longer mutilate themselves.

Just then, Virgil and Dante heard the sound of a hunt when dogs chase their prey. Two naked souls came running, crashing amidst the shrubs and breaking many branches, causing the souls who were the shrubs to cry out in pain.

One of the naked souls said, “I wish that death would come quickly.”

The other naked soul replied, “Lano, you did not run so quickly when you were in battle.”

I know who these sinners are, Virgil thought. They are Lano of the wealthy Maconi family and Giacomo da Sant’ Andrea. They are Profligates who violently wasted their wealth so they are here in the Circle that punishes the violent. Giacomo da Sant’ Andrea once deliberately set on fire several houses that he owned just because he wanted to. Lano of Siena violently wasted his wealth, and then he deliberately sought death in a 1287 battle; he could have escaped by retreating, but stayed to fight so that he would die. That is a kind of suicide.

The spendthrifts who are punished in Circle 4 merely wasted their wealth, while the profligates here in Circle 7 violently wasted their wealth and then courted death.

Tired, Giacomo da Sant’ Andrea hid himself among the shrubs, while Lano continued running. The black dogs that had been pursuing the two profligates found Giacomo da Sant’ Andrea and tore him to pieces, and then they carried away the pieces in their mouths.

While tearing apart Giacomo da Sant’ Andrea, the black dogs also broke many branches of the shrub, and Virgil brought Dante close so that he could hear the shrub complain: “Giacomo da Sant’ Andrea, why did you hide in me? You have brought me much pain because you brought to me the black dogs that tore my branches and took my leaves from me.”

Virgil asked the shrub, “Who are you?”

The shrub answered, “I am a Florentine who committed suicide by hanging myself in my home. The first patron of Florence was Mars, the Roman god of war. But Florence exchanged this patron for John the Baptist, whose image is stamped on the gold coins of Florence. Because of this, Mars swears that endless sorrow will come to Florence.”

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