Dante Alighieri’s epic poem, The Divine Comedy, is an allegory of the journey of the soul towards God. It tells the story of Dante’s descent into and journey through Hell, followed by Purgatory, then ascent to Paradise. In the first part, Inferno, Dante finds himself lost in a dark wood. He is assailed by three beasts – a lion, a leopard, and a wolf – which represent the sins of self-indulgence, violence, and maliciousness. He cannot evade them nor find the way to salvation, and is aware that he is on the point of ruin and at the very gates of Hell. The first lines of the poem are “Midway upon the journey of our life I found myself within a forest dark, for the straightforward pathway had been lost.”
Poignant words, and not necessarily just for those of us who might consider ourselves “midway on the journey of our life.” Being of a certain age is most definitely not a prerequisite for the experiencing of this crippling malady. Dante himself, the narrator, was thirty five when he wrote it, which was half the Biblical life expectancy of seventy. I am myself somewhat older, and belong therefore to that pampered, pompous, and precious class of man that is commonly beset by that curious affliction known commonly as a “mid-life crisis.”
Why this clichéd and convenient euphemism is primarily apportioned to men, and if it is true primarily only for men, I do not know. I suspect that it hides all manner of ills and defects.