As many readers know, Rod Dreher has recently written about the life-changing experience of reading Dante's Divine Comedy. On his blog at The American Conservative, Dreher has continued to reflect on its lessons for the modern seeker. Dreher's ruminations are a delight to read and always leave me with a helpful thought or three. Sooner rather than later, I'll have to return to the masterpiece itself and reappropriate, with a new perspective, the wisdom of the poem.
Yesterday, Dreher's starting point was his Sunday Orthodox church service, specifically the sermon his priest gave on the healing of the paralyzed man at the pool of Bethesda. Dreher writes:
The entire Commedia is a pilgrimage toward healing, toward wholeness. When he was in the dark wood in the first canto of the Inferno, lost and terrified, Virgil appeared to him like Christ at the pool of Bethesda. Virgil asked Dante why he stayed there in all that wretchedness. Dante said he wanted to leave, but couldn’t find his way out. Virgil said, essentially, “You’d better come with me if you want to live.” And so Dante did. The first steps of our own journeys toward healing, toward being made whole, must be made from a deep desire to be delivered from our misery, a desire so strong that we’ll walk into the fearful unknown for the sake of saving our souls.
A walk into the fearful unknown. It reminds me of what Fr. Richard Rohr once said: "Faith is a journey into not-knowing." For educators, what a paradox: enlightenment begins in darkness; wisdom, in mystery. What a challenge for today. How do we communicate this to young men and women? How do we help them appreciate that the highest truths are elusive, not things we can completely wrap our minds around? That everything we call knowledge is only the visible portion of a reality we will never comprehend? How do we communicate that even what we call enlightenment is actually a special kind of darkness?