Dante’s Inferno – Finding Our Way

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I was thinking several months ago when I first drafted this blog about an incredible passage from Dante Alighieri’sInferno.  It sounded like this (pardoning the misspellings and grammar):  “Nel’ Medso Del Camin’ Di Nostra Vita, Mi Recevai in una Selva Oscura Dove La Via Era Smarrita.”

I translate it loosely as:  “In the middle of the walk of my life, I found myself in shadowy woods where the way going forward was somewhat murky.”

So, as I have been blogging about issues political and economic, I thought it appropriate to take a short reprieve and comment just a wee bit, if it’s OK, on thoughts personal and introspective.

It’s often been said and it certainly is a cliche among Americans that hindsight is 20/20 and, to some extent, it really is. It’s 20/20 when a decision is binary, since there are only two decisions to be made.  And it’s especially true when we then find out that the one decision we made was the wrong one.

However, because we don’t live in binary realities, we are not necessarily sure what would have happened if we had taken the other choice. If it’s binary, we may be able to guess somewhat and if the decision we made turned out to be pretty bad, it seems to be somewhat probable that the other of the two decisions would have been better. That’s not true in itself, of course, but it appears somewhat logical, or at least regressive.

On the other hand, if in fact we had more than two choices (which is really the way it is in life since we rarely only have two choices) and we chose one which turned out to be bad, we really have no idea what would have happened if we had made countless other decisions. In fact, another one of those decisions might have been a shut out, and yet another might have been a home run (hopefully without taxing the metaphor).

Nonetheless, hindsight does tend to be, in general terms, 20/20.

In the moment, that’s not the case at all, of course.

In the moment, we make decisions looking forward and we make decisions based upon the best information we have at our disposal at that particular point in time. Sometimes we make good ones and other times we don’t.

I was listening when I initially dictated this blog to former President George Bush’s interview with Oprah Winfrey and I was truly in awe at the peacefulness of the ex-President’s posture on decisions which he had made, based upon the information available to him at that time. He freely admitted that some of them were absolutely wrong and others were dead on correct.  Regardless, he made them with the information at his disposal.  If subsequent events turned out not to be accurate, so be it. But those were the decisions he made and that was the information he had at the time.

It’s that peacefulness that got me thinking about Dante and where we find ourselves at different times in our lives . . .where I find myself at this time in my life.

I can personally say that, with a law practice as my 1.0 and Dynetech as my 2.0, I’m working through what 3.0 might look like. The via is, as Dante declares, somewhat “Smarrita.”

But I can say that I’m walking that road searching carefully in the underbrush for where the path leads with eyes intent, and a saber perched to make sure I clear out anything ahead which might make discerning the path more difficult.

The process is a combination of discovering, uncovering, clearing, and creating . . . the future.  And whether it happens in the spring of youthfulness, now past for me, or “in the middle of the walk of my life”, the process is the same.

For Dante, it was his time to redefine himself.

And maybe, just maybe, that’s why Dante’s passage feels particularly relevant to me right now.


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