Dante's Divine Comedy was originally named the Commedia. I loved this epic poem in high school and in college studied the art work of Florence supporting the visions of Dante. And then, I forgot all about Dante until two years ago when I went to Rome and from the corner of my eye in Trestevere saw a plaque that said Casi di Dante on the side of a tower which housed many lectures dedicated to his work and then I forgot about him all over again.
That following Spring I went to Upaya in Santa Fe, New Mexico and was introduced to the work of Roshi Joan Halifax. In her book, The Fruitful Darkness she talks about her journey and what I call the process of 'soul' initiation. "The process of initiation can likened to a "sacred catastrophe," a holy failure that actually extinguishes our alienation, our loneliness, and reveals our true nature, our love. That is why we seek initiation: to heal old wounds by reentering them in order to transform our suffering into compassion."
I went searching for what was real for me and learning that luxury was no longer found in my precious LV, Gucci, Ferragamo combinations, it was to be found in the soul. Luxury. For the Soul.
Three phases of initiation come up all which are done as a rite of passage in ancient times and in indigenous cultures but not in the here and in our now. We don't have time. Easier to just pop some Wellbutrin, Adderal, Lexapro downed with the appropriate swill of a nice Barolo. And if we have the time we don't really want to see what's behind the mask because if we do, we'd have to make some serious changes. We may even leave our lives that we know behind and walk the gang plank. Hop, hop, hop...overboard and that's scary. It's heart wrenching and then it becomes laughable. Really? Yes, really it does. Once all the layers are peeled off and we're left with ourself, in the flesh. We can see it's a divine comedy, a commedia (pun intended.)
The three phases of initiation are according to the Dutch cultural historian Arnold Von Gennep described as separation (down the rabbit hole we go), transition (the Mad Hatter's Tea Party - the unbirthday party, the Mushroom screaming "Who are you?"), and incorporation (deciding what to do when the Queen of Hearts screams off with your head!): The Severance, the Threshold, and the Return.
Dante returns to my life in reading The Heart Aroused and I was reminded of Dante's three cantos: The Inferno, Purgatorio, Paradiso - sound familiar.
Dante's Canto I The Inferno (Longfellow translation) begins:
"MIDWAY upon the journey of our life
I found myself within a forest dark,
For the straightforward pathway had been lost.
Ah me! how hard a thing it is to say
What was this forest savage, rough, and stern,
Which in the very thought renews the fear."
We can stay in our slumber or we can take the step and down the rabbit hole we go...Welcome to Wonderland, your Commedia. xo, j