"Faced with that truth which seems a lie, a man
should always close his lips as long as he can –
to tell it shames him, even though he’s blameless;
But here I can’t be still; and by the lines
of this my Comedy, reader, I swear –
and may my verse find favor for long years –
that through the dense and darkened air I saw
a figure swimming, rising up, enough
to bring amazement to the firmest heart,
like one returning from the waves where he
went down to loose an anchor snagged upon
a reef or something else hid in the sea,
who stretches upward and draws in his feet."
Dante, The Divine Comedy (Inf. XVI, 124-136)
I’m intrigued by “a truth which seems a lie”. It’s true that Spring is here, but it feels outside my door like late summer - when the moisture is so wrung out of the air that you get thirsty just smelling flowers. But I think Dante had something more mundane in mind. He was talking about deceitful people, con artists, defrauders, liars.
Having avoiding looking at the balance in my tax-sheltered annuities these past few months, I have no idea what the greed of others has cost me in terms of money. I’m pretty comfortable with my material goods inventory, so I don’t worry about losing my home, my health, or my life’s work. But others do, and that sucks.
Dante says he can’t be silent in the face of such lies. He then promptly swears on the very poem we’re reading that he saw what he saw. Sounds a bit like my financial adviser telling me late last autumn to look at the market as a long term investment, and not worry about short-term losses and gains. I’m now feeling like I’m stuck on a reef in a stormy sea, stretching up and drawing in my feet to avoid being lost in the deluge. Greedy sons of bitches, those financial people. And like Dante, it shames me that I believed them. Not only was I naive, I was greedy in wanting something for nothing.