In Search of Virgil

I’ve been thinking about the first lines of Dante’s “Inferno” lately. The first thing that comes to mind is how lucky we are that, in this day and age 40 is closer to being considered “midway on our life’s journey” than 35, which is what it was back in Dante’s time.

The SECOND thing, though, is that we all get lost sometimes. And sometimes we don’t have our Virgil with us – or, maybe more accurately, we’re so lost because we don’t know how to find our Virgil.

That’s the dark woods I’m in right now - I’m 40, I lost my job last week, and I’m a new father who’s still smarting and struggling from the loss of his own dad. And my dad was my Virgil. My guiding light of reason that I looked to for direction, for a quick nudge or a gentle chiding, for accompaniment through the bowels of Inferno and up the slopes of Purgatory.

In short, my dad is exactly the person I’d have called when I lost my job. Or when I felt so much love for my son that I had no idea what to do with all that feeling. Or when I felt, due to a piling on of random circumstances suddenly falling into unexpected place that they can’t NOT mean something more, lost in a dark woods, fumbling but knowing – somehow understanding but not yet seeing – that this woods is a metaphor for something more. Something I’m supposed to uncover, learn or otherwise ascertain before I can find my way out of them.

I need you right now, Virgil. And maybe a journey is just what’s needed to find you and, ultimately, find my way out of these woods.

Midway on our life’s journey, I found myself In dark woods, the right road lost. To tell About those woods is hard–so tangled and rough And savage that thinking of it now, I feel The old fear stirring: death is hardly more bitter. And yet, to treat the good I found there as well

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