Nel mezzo del cammin di nostra vita – in the middle of our life’s path
This is the first line of the greatest poem of all time (imho) by Dante Alighieri. Those who know me well know my secret passion for Dante. Having studied the Divina Commedia at university I went on to pick it up again when I was studying for my MA in Durham, this time not as a linguist but as a theologian, hopefully proving to those who dare doubt it that even in the early 14th century Dante had transformational insights for both mission and ministry today (I’d be happy to share my dissertation with anyone who wants to know more!)
While spending several hours in a London bookshop over my birthday weekend, I treated myself to yet another copy of the Divine Comedy, this time told as a comic strip! It seemed an appropriate purchase as I reach the middle of my own life’s path.
The opening lines of the Commedia go on:
Nel mezzo del cammin di nostra vita/mi ritrovai per una selva oscura/che la diritta via era smarrita
… I found myself back in a dark wood where the right path was lost.
The word ‘diritta’ can mean ‘right’ as opposed to ‘wrong’. Or it can mean ‘straight’ like the Romans built their roads and walls. Was this Dante’s midlife crisis? Or had something terrible happened to trigger a bout of depression? Whatever it was, he was left feeling lost and in darkness, afraid and confused, the way ahead neither ‘right’ nor ‘straight’. If it weren’t for his guides – Virgil, Beatrice and the others – he might never have made it through Hell and Purgatory to the end of Paradise.
I remember feeling engulfed by something like a dark wood in 2013 when Dad and Andy died within 3 months of each other. Since then there have been times when I have felt I’d made some progress and times when I’ve caught myself going round in circles and just wanted to sit down and weep. Only now am I beginning to find my way out of that dark wood and get back on what I hope and trust is the ‘right’ track.
Like Dante, I believe the ‘diritta via’ is always there, whether I can see it or not, and that gives me hope. But again like Dante, sometimes I might need a guide to help me along the way and to accept that the journey I need to go on is longer than I’d like it to be.