“Up there in life beneath the quiet stars I lost my way,” I answered, “in a valley before I’d reached the fullness of age. I turned my shoulders on it yesterday: this soul appeared as I was falling back, and by the road through Hell he leads me home.”
Almost half way through the Inferno, Dante comes upon an old friend Brunetto Latini. Brunetto was the man who showed Dante how to be a man of letters and become one to take political action, as Esolen reminds us in his commentary.
Dante recounts his being lost midway through his life to one of his great friends in life. Who but our trusted and great friends will we confide in? Admitting who we really are. Without hiding behind masks and deceit. A discerning friend would see through masks and lies anyway. Who better to confide in than a trusted friend. A true friend cares wholeheartedly for his or her friend. A true friend will admonish, encourage, build up that friend. A friend who tears down and does not see who you are and lets you move toward self-destruction is no friend. But of course, no one can or should control another person. After all, we have free will. But a concerned and caring friend will call you out on things that are harmful to you and to others. Reminding one to own your own “stuff.” A good, nay great friend of mine has done this many times. This strengthens friendship; never destroys friendship unless you are rather immature.
Brunetto Latini is a man whom Dante highly respects and reveres. But Latini gives him the worst advice. “Follow your star and you will never fail/ to find your glorious port…” Remember this is someone who is in Hell speaking this. Professor Matthew Moser reminded me that this sounds appealing. What Latini says appeals to our hearts, to our culture because we are obsessed with our dreams no matter the cost. If our happiness is to fulfill a dream of selfishness without regard to morality and God’s will, then it will be a road paved with pain. Even if the person who follows their dream without regard to God’s will is “successful” in this world, someone got hurt along the way. Now I am speculating, but we see it all the time. The rise to fame, wealth, “success” is wrought with sin, pain, harm toward others. We have seen it over and over.
If someone were to take this quote of Latini’s and put it on a bumper sticker (M Moser), many would agree to what is said. But if one knows the context, they may rethink what it says. It’s like taking the sculpture The Kiss and The Thinker out of context. Both images inspired from the Inferno.
When lost in the dark wood, we usually prefer to follow our own star instead of God’s will. Or we will not think of God’s will whatsoever. It takes courage, fortitude to follow Christ, to follow God’s will. To follow your own star looks exciting and lovely and beautiful, but the road is wrought with pain, self-destruction, loss of self, a lot of hurt.