Dante: The Divine Comedy

“In the middle of the journey of our life I came to myself within a dark wood where the straight way was lost.”

The Divine Comedy

Well.  As you can imagine, I was quite startled.  Imagine meeting yourself in a dark forest when you’ve lost the road?  Or found it, depending on your perspective.  The two of you, literally, standing there.  Both in shock.  Mouths open, staring.  The one a hunter and the other a gatherer.  Would there be nervous laughter.  Both of us are me so I imagine there would be.  With a divine comedy, laughter is essential. 

Talk about a midlife crisis.  Two of me.  The adventurer and the homebody.  The urban dweller meets the hermit who lives in a large tree trunk.  Both me, neither me.  We need to integrate.

Photo by Niels Dewulf on Unsplash

Or do we?   Can’t there be two?  The introvert and the extravert?  Yin and yang.  Ego and Id.  One for desire, one for need.

Should life be a straight Roman road?  Sunlit and laid out before you?  Or a winding country path verdant in dappled shadows hiding and seeking. 

Is it a conundrum or a dream?  Sacred or profane?

Questions. Which of me will ask the most questions.  I imagine the hermit mostly silent, observing and taking it all in.  The traveler babbling trying to make sense of the few details I’ve noted.  Like two of me.  In a forest.  Lost. 

Is the hermit lost?  Probably not.  She knows the forest like the back of her hand, like the crinkles in the corners of her eyes, like the long remembered curve of her infant son’s cheek.  The adventurer, the fool as depicted on the tarot – stepping off the cliff oblivious.

But here we are.  The two of us.  What shall we talk about.  Will we talk?  Or sit in companionable silence?  Or stilted, awkward moments of frustration.  Neither understanding the other. 

Perhaps we’ll eat.  The journeyer opens the knapsack and pulls out bread and cheese, signs of settled civilization at odds with her character.  The hermit, apples and nuts, foraged while traversing the forest.  Who is the journeyer and who is the hermit?

Me.  Both  are me.  Trying to wrap our brains around that.  Staring.  The one me incredulous.  The other wondering.

Perhaps we’ll sit on an old fallen tree trunk.  Covered in lichen and moss.  Woodland creatures emerging to bear witness to this momentous meeting.  There should be swelling background music that settles into a soothing cello.  Yo Yo Ma. 

Sound effects, yes.  How else will we know what is happening.  Or are we to just figure it out ourselves.  Ourselves?  The two of us? 

We join hands and look for the north star.  A guide.  A portent.  A candle flame in the darkness.

In the middle of the journey of our life I came to myself within a dark wood.

I came to myself.

Perhaps I am home.

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