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“In the middle of the journey of our life, I came to myself in a dark wood where the straight way was lost. Ah! How hard a thing is it to tell what a wild, and rough, and stubborn wood this was, which in my thought renews the fear! So bitter is it that scarcely more is death: but to treat of the good that I there found, I will relate the other things that I discerned.” ~ Dante Alighieri

It’s quite amazing how time and age can make such a difference in the way one appreciates good literature. Just a few days ago, I thought of revisiting a classic masterpiece I had to read back in grade school – Dante Alighieri’s Divine Comedy. I still remember how all the kids hated it, and how we all thought the teacher was crazy for being so passionate about it. Only now, twenty five years later, do I fully realize that the teacher’s enthusiasm was absolutely warranted. Like her, I too am falling head-over-heels in love with this thought-provoking tale of human drama and ascension.

And how can anyone escape being charmed, when so much is said in just the paragraph I quoted? Although the entire story is laden with powerful messages, raw truth bleeds through the first few sentences – facing our demons is a fearful feat, but the benefits of taking such a daring step far outweigh the temporary discomfort and anxiety one feels at the thought of unearthing buried subconscious triggers.

It’s mind boggling to think that different layers of consciousness exist within us at the same time, and although we are often only aware of whatever happens on the surface layer, a full spectrum of subconscious responses draws the blueprint of our conscious behaviors. But, even if the inner foreman directs the work, we rarely agree to consciously listen to what it has to say, and prefer to drown its voice with external noiseand excessive activity; anything that will divert our attention from within to without.

Unfortunately, the foreman is not going to be held back forever; when the time comes to assess the life we’ve lived so far – and are not happy with the results we find – we have no choice but to finally pay attention. When Dante wrote the Inferno, he was approximately thirty-five years of age, a prime time for mid-life depression. When he finally realized that his emotional well-being depended on ascending and finding his true self through a deep self-examination, Dante knew his demons had to be faced before rising above the human drama toward inner peace. Like Dante, many face the same challenges in our time; desperate to turn away from the path of darkness ahead, they indulge numbing substances such as drug and alcohol, to momentarily put off the impending need of self-cleansing; sadly, their approach is no different than using a band-aid to cover a bullet wound.

Facing our inner demons requires a tremendous amount of courage and a determination of steel, as very few people are willing to stir the waters of the subconscious unless they are forced to do so. Most people think they are doing just fine and resist the uncovering of hidden factors that can potentially turn their well-planned lives upside down. Just to give an example, my goldfish tank appears clean, but that’s only because all the nasty stuff gets trapped in the gravel and remains low; at first look, the water is very clean, but if one takes the time to vacuum the gravel – and thus making the tank truly clean – the water appears murky for a short while, until the filter is able to trap the particles that were released when the tiny stones were disturbed. Yet, once the remaining particles have filtered through, the water is truly clean, not simply an illusion.

Someone told me long ago that one must cross the darkness to find the light. Dante would have agreed.

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