“Midway upon the journey of our life, I found myself within a forest dark, for the straightforward pathway had been lost.”
— Dante Alighieri, “The Divine Comedy”
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In order to survive in today's world, you have to get REALLY good at suffering. There's a way, actually many ways, to become tougher. And I can teach them to you. You can thank me later.
I take notes on everything I read, with my notes organized by book and by year.
My most important notes from each book get added to one single “master” document and I sell these notes in order to raise money for Doctors Without Borders, the international human rights and disaster relief organization.
I also write about self-discipline, fitness, and other topics related to self-development.
If you don’t have time to read 100+ books every year like I do, then I HIGHLY recommend that you check out Blinkist. Thousands of high-quality non-fiction book summaries all in one place; you really can’t go wrong. Check them out.
If you think about something all day every day, then you just have to write about it. That’s how I feel about books and literature, so here are some of my best notes and meditations on the book, “How Dante Can Save Your Life”, by Rod Dreher. Enjoy!
FROM GOODREADS: The opening lines of The Divine Comedy by Dante Alighieri launched Rod Dreher on a journey that rescued him from exile and saved his life. Dreher found that the medieval poem offered him a surprisingly practical way of solving modern problems.
I always host an internal debate just before I start to read a book about another book that I haven’t read. I’ve never begun “The Divine Comedy” by Dante Alighieri, although I would love to at some point, but I did receive “How Dante Can Save Your Life” by Rod Dreher as a Christmas present last year from my mother.
Dreher’s book is about his own person experience with the Commedia, and it’s one that he’s read many times. In fact, he’s even read various translations in order to find the best ones that suit his own reading purposes. I don’t think I’ve EVER done that, although Rod has definitely proven himself a hardcore reader of Dante.
Anyone like that is someone who can probably help you with SOMETHING.
What that thing is will vary with every person reading Dante, and with every person reading Dreher. But one note that stuck out for me, and that I had to write down, was the idea that there comes a time when you have to stop talking about wanting to become better, and actually take action.
This dovetails with everything that I teach here at Godlike Discipline and it’s usually the single step that most will refuse to take. Some people get more out of complaining than they think they will by taking action and risking failure and/or humiliation.
They’re right, of course; the world will probably beat them down. At first. But that’s just the beginning.
Many times, we resist believing something because that means that we will have to change our lives in some way. Such is true when considering sweeping personal change, sometimes for the very first time. Even if we know it’s what we need to do. Telling the truth about yourself is extremely difficult.
In fact, none of the ‘sinners’ in Inferno can be trusted to tell the truth about themselves. They either think they don’t deserve to be there, that they were just doing what they had to do, etc. They haven’t taken responsibility for why they supposedly ended up in hell.
Sin is not, at its core, a violation of some sort of legalistic code, but rather a distortion of love. Loving the right things in the wrong way, or flat-out loving the wrong things. At least, that’s the Dreher/Dante interpretation. Not being a Christian, I don’t have a specific concept of sin that’s been handed down to me by someone else. But I like what Dreher has to say about it.
Few of us lose our soul in a single moment though, and it’s not like one single action or inaction will doom us to any particular fate. Rather, it’s a slow, downward progression into sloth, indolence, aggression, and malevolence that we can choose to stop at any time. We can interrupt our own patterns, and we can do so with just a little conscious effort.
Or a lot of conscious effort, as in Dreher’s case.
“There would be time, I had thought, once I got this project out of the way, or once I finished this other thing. And then there was no more time.”
— Rod Dreher, “How Dante Can Save Your Life”
He used books, in this case his various Dante translations, not as an escape from his real life, but as an escape INTO his real life. In fact, books ARE real life.
Books helped save Rod Dreher and they helped him to notice that when we think about what others have, we’re not sufficiently grateful for all that we’ve been given. And sometimes, the workaholic can be the laziest man around if he is using work to avoid doing the things he really needs to be doing. The workaholic completely lacks self-discipline.
Reading is excellent practice in self-discipline, and fortunately, you must have discipline in order to have fun. Discipline lets you structure your life around what will be best for you in the long run, once the “pain period” is over.
Of all the disciplines you can develop, the habit of intense, daily reading is probably among the best. Just like we don’t lose our soul in a single moment, saving ourselves often takes an entire lifetime as well.
All the best,
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Matt Karamazov is a human rights activist, nightclub bouncer, and hardcore reader. He writes about books, self-discipline, and human rights at Godlike Discipline, and you can get his free ebook on how to radically improve your own levels of self-discipline. Between workouts, Matt is trying to read 1,000 books before he turns 30, and start a non-profit that allows volunteers to earn money just by tracking the hours they already spend volunteering. He would be straight-up honored if you would support the life-saving work of Doctors Without Borders, and Human Rights Watch. Here he is on a horse.