Through My Own Divine Comedy

Claudio Alejandro Garcia Rojas Avendano
Moral Choices in Literature, Ethics, 345-BXH-DW

Part I: The Long Dream

As I have found my way out of my own confusion, I choose to tell the tale of how it happened in the form of a story just like Dante Alighieri did.

Finding myself in a dark time of my life, I had let my dreams take upon my sadness to suppress my sense of time. Just like the classic poem says, “I woke to find myself in a dark wood, where the right road was wholly lost and gone” (Inferno I. 2-3) Only this time I was going to have to sleep and immerse myself in my own subconscious mind to find the light hidden in my own dark forest.

Another day came, where I chose to let my dreams invade my reality to find an escape route. As I laid myself down and tried to disappear, I was greeted by a different sensation that did not let me rest. It was only a moment that I closed my eyes, but when I opened them again to find the cause of this discomfort, I found I was somewhere else. A pitch-black space where my eye could not see further than three meters away. Fear and panic started to take over my senses as I could not see where to walk or if there even was any floor to walk on. Then suddenly, I felt a tap on my left shoulder and when I turned around, I saw a tall and thin figure dressed in a space suit, bending his body towards me.

I took a step back and asked with a trembling voice, “Who are you and how did you get here?”

He did not bother in answering and just walked past me. He had light coming out of him, like an aura of purity that was cleansing the darkness around us, and on his back, a backpack as big as his own torso. I had nowhere else to go so I decided to follow him. I walked in silence next to him for several minutes and did not know if he knew where we were going or if he was lost like me, but my options were not too many in the given situation. Finally, after a long walk we saw something. A floating transparent sphere, the size of a baby elephant if I must compare it to something. I did not recognize the material, but it looked like a ball of water or a bubble, although I could not see my reflection or notice any flow happening. It was completely petrified. As if it was waiting for something, or someone.

I saw my companion looking at the sphere, when suddenly he turned to me.

“Why are we here” I asked him.

“To show you the way upward,” he answered, with a static voice because of his helmet.

Next, he walked towards me and proceeded to take off his helmet, and there he was. The legend himself. The man who revolutionized the comic-book industry and one of my role models in the field I have always wanted to be involved in, comic-book artist Stan Lee.

I could not understand why he was there. I could barely understand why and how I was there, but his presence gave me an instant sense of comfort and guidance. I felt safe and saw a spark of hope. So, as I was about to ask him more questions, he stopped me and said,

“I was sent here by him to help you find your own way to success. To guide you through a world of your creation but of which you have no knowledge. I will guide the way, I will show you the path, but it is your responsibility in this journey to understand and find the means to save yourself. Think of me as a GPS that highlights the right way to go.”

He stopped talking, pointed at the sphere and then sat down with a smile on his face. Minutes went by, and he waited patiently still smiling, as if he knew what my final decision was going to be. I decided to take a stand and approached the sphere. Being in front of it was not easy. It felt like a vacuum that could suck an entire planet in a second. Gathering all of my bravery, I lifted my arm, closed my eyes and touched the sphere. I felt like if a strong wind was both pushing and pulling me into the void. When I opened my eyes, I was still in a dark space, but I knew this was not the same place. The air was dry, the oxygen was hard to breathe, and there was a strong smell of stagnant water that made me feel like if I was drowning every time I inhaled.

“This is our first stop. Consider this journey as your own personal Divine Comedy. Now let’s go, walk with me,” my guide said to me.

“Take this, it will help you breathe,” he added while he reached into his backpack and pulled something out.

He handed me a device like a mask to be put only on my nose and mouth, and suddenly I could breathe normally again. He was also wearing one. He looked prepared for the journey. As we walked through this new place, I started to see in the distance several floating lights that were extending around the place without any arrangement whatsoever.

“Pay attention to what you see here, young man. Try to understand the symbolism this place possesses and the feeling it evokes in you,” my guide said.

Under those floating lights were big vibrant red drapes, and wrapped in those drapes I could see people. Lost souls in grief, weeping and crying out loud incomprehensible words. Both the souls and the drapes were floating, as if gravity did not exist in the spot where they were lying. Their tears were the only thing dripping down and under them were giant puddles created by their own tears. Here was where the strong smell of stagnant water was coming from. The lack of oxygen was caused by all the souls inhaling high amounts of air to weep non-stop.

“What is the law of contrapasso in this place?” I asked my guide.

And my guide to me: “The law of contrapasso does not exist here. These souls’ punishment does not reflect their actions in life. They are all guilty of committing different sins and were all sent here by him. Once you are done processing what you are seeing, choose one soul to talk with.”

After I kept walking and observing my surroundings, I realized the scenery the souls were portraying was very similar to the chiaroscuro painting style used during the Baroque period. Paintings depicted in that style were usually dramatic or violent moments set in a dark space, and it was only the characters and a red drape as a background that was touched by light.

I noticed one soul who did not look lost. Not even crying, he looked at peace and there was no puddle under him. As I came closer, I recognized him. It was the artist who revolutionized 20th century art with the cubist movement, Pablo Picasso. So, I approached him, and with my best manners I asked him:

“Master Picasso, if I may ask you, sir. What is a respected artist and legend like you doing in a place like this? Please speak to me and maybe with your counsel I can reflect about my own life.”

He stopped floating and came down to the floor. He turned, and looking at me with his pair of piercing, black eyes, he spoke.

“When I was a child, my mother said to me, that whatever I did in life, I was destined to achieve greatness with it. I did not only grow up to become an artist, I grew up to become Pablo Picasso. But why am I in this place, you ask? It may be my strong self-confidence that turned into conceit or maybe my several affairs that included lies and lustful actions. That, however, is a question that you need to ask yourself.

And I to him: “Why, sir, are you not in grief and overtaken by despair? Why are you not wrapped around these drapes that seem to be tangled and strangling those other souls?”

And he to me: “These drapes symbolize our preoccupations, our failures, and our mistakes. The more you fight against who you are and what you’ve done, the more these thoughts are going to hunt you and become personal demons who suffocate you to the point where you do not even know who you are anymore”

I turned and looked at my guide. He looked at me, and with a big smile, said.

“I see you understand the meaning of the few elements found this place, my friend. Once you overcome your inner demons and accept you are a unique individual with both virtues and flaws, you will let go of the drapes and control everything around you.

I thanked Pablo Picasso for sharing his wisdom with me and left with my guide to where he said was our next destination.


Part II: Time

“There is our exit. It will take us to the next level,” said my guide.

I could not see anything. Only a pitch-black landscape.

“Excelsior!” My guide yelled, while lifting his left arm.

Suddenly a slide appeared. So long you could not see the top as it vanished in the darkness of the distance. My guide told me to hop on. I was confused as of how a slide was going to take us to the next level if the end of it was in front of us. Nonetheless, I did not question him, and I did as he said. Not even a second went by when my body started to move upwards. It was like riding a slide but moving backwards on it. The speed and the inertia were stronger than a roller coaster going down; I could not keep my eyes open. It felt like riding a sports car at its maximum speed in the middle of an earthquake. Suddenly I felt a breeze on my face. I took a deep breath to enjoy once more clean, fresh air and then noticed light hitting my closed eyelids. As I opened my eyes, I got blinded after spending all that time in the darkness. What I saw next was a completely different scene.

A desert landscape that seemed as endless as time itself, a sky covered with grey clouds and clocks melting everywhere around us. This surrealistic scenery was unmistakable. I was standing in Salvador Dali’s most famous work, The Persistence of Memory, made in 1931.


My guide reached into his backpack once more and handed to me an old camera. Without giving me directions as to how or why to use it, he proceeded to start talking.

“This is the next object that is going to help us cross this next world. I trust your instincts will help you know how to use it. Now look around. Not a single soul in sight. We came to this place to meet with a specific person who can teach you a thing or two. I trust you know who that person is, so go on, find him.” My guide finished talking. Always with a big smile on his face, and then he turned around and started taking pictures with his own camera. I would later understand why.

I started walking while looking at all the clocks around me. There were several clocks. All different sizes and types just melting around me. They were moving and dripping as if they were liquid, but strangely never dropped a piece or stretched enough to touch the ground. They were endlessly melting away. I walked observing them for what it seemed like almost an hour, and while walking I kept thinking about what Master Picasso had said to me and what it meant. My life memories. What I should keep and what I should let go, when suddenly I snapped out of my thoughts. I noticed my surroundings were the same. I thought since this was a desert, I could not notice where I was anymore and maybe I got lost. So I turned around, only to find I was not lost at all. My guide was still right behind me just like I left him.

“What happened? Have I been walking in circles this entire time? It has been at least an hour,” said I in a surprised tone of voice.

“Actually, young man, it has been two days since we got here. Do not worry though, this is part of the lesson; you must keep going,” said my guide with a grin.

I could not understand what was happening, and I had no time to react to this, so I just did as my teacher said and departed again. I remembered I was looking at the clocks the entire time I was moving forward that first time, and then noticed the camera my guide gave to me, and so it came to me: a crazy but plausible idea. As I continued walking, I started aiming my camera at the melting clocks and started taking pictures of them. I did this for at least ten minutes until I stumbled upon a giant organic-like object sitting on the floor. It looked like a piece of skin and so I immediately stopped and stared at it. The amorphous object started moving and took the shape of a man. The man turned around and I saw him. Renowned artist Salvador Dalí standing in front of me.

Without a second to spare and without hesitation, he started talking.

“If you reached this point, it means you understand what the lesson this place has to offer is about. But allow me to enlighten you with its meaning by referring to the parallels found in your actions. The persistence of memory. Just like in a dream, it is the erratic passage of time one experiences. Hours can feel like minutes and vice versa. How useless, irrelevant, and arbitrary our normal conception of time is inside the dream state. While awake, we rush, we worry about finishing our tasks on time, we are busy individuals. But while asleep, none of this matters. However, do not let your dreams devour your will. You have one life and one life only, so are you going to waste it thinking of what to do and never do it, just to realize it is already too late? Or are you willing to act and get where you want to go? Are you willing to let the clocks of time get in your head? Or are you willing to shoot them dead and create your own clocks?

“Pity me not like my master and friend Picasso for being trapped in a place like this. For in life I had an unscrupulous obsession with money. I would sign my own checks when paying for expensive food, knowing no one would cash an original Dalí. I was proud of my wealth and success and liked to make more even if I had enough. Pity me not, for I have sinned in life and now I am charged by him, to bring to others the enlightenment I could never achieve.”

Words were not needed here. He had taught me what my actions meant and what I had to consider as important in one single monologue. I shook his hand and thanked him for the lesson. I turned around to find the clocks were gone and the sky was of a clear, light blue. Then, my guide walked me to the exit of this realm onto our next and last stop.


Part III: Enlightenment

My guide reached into his backpack for the last time and handed me the third and last object of this journey. A pair of sunglasses. I did not bother to ask what they were for, because I knew anything he handed to me was a helping gadget, and a part of my way to clarity.

“You may want to put those on young man, you would not want to ruin your eyes before meeting our last soul, trust me,” said my guide, laughing while putting on his own, iconic sunglasses.

He smiled and pointed at something. I put on my sunglasses and turned to where he was pointing. Dear reader, believe in what is written in this next paragraph, since it is something almost impossible to explain in mere words.

The clouds opened, and from there, what I can only describe as a ray of light, slowly came down to the ground. The color of this light was not like any other colour known to the human eye. It was the first time I was looking at something so new and unknown as this radiant and warm light. I stood astonished by its beauty and challenging presence.

My guide and I approached the light and as we met it, we started, slowly to ascend towards the clouds. I felt a freedom that I had never experienced before in my life; it was like being at the top of the world. We flew above, past the clouds and as we did, I saw our next destination. A giant, imposing island. Floating in the middle of the sky as if gravity was an unknown term to apply to its existence. Completely static and in control, as if it were a normal island on the ground. We stopped floating upwards and started traveling forward, towards the island. The entrance was a big path, formed by trees that were creating arches one after the other, as if nature knew already this was to be the entrance to this sanctuary.

I had finally landed, and waiting for instructions, I immediately turned to look at my guide. But I found myself alone now. My guide had disappeared, without announcing his leave. I expected to feel worried and lost, but it was not like that at all. I was at peace and accepted it was my turn to travel all by myself with my renewed state of mind, created with the knowledge gathered in the previous realms. I was to discover this place and learn from it on my own. And so, I departed.

This island was an unbelievable place. It had every plant from every ecosystem known to humans living successfully in the same environment. There cannot be a more beautiful scene than that of all flora coexisting together in a single space. In fact, the variety of plants was so big, and they were all so close to each other, it was hard to walk and know what was ahead. The tallest trees were covering everything like a roof, and from the small gaps between the leaves, the same kind of sunlight that had appeared back in the exit from the desert could be seen coming down.

I walked for half an hour maybe, and finally came out of that thick set of plants to find a hidden open area in the shape of a circle. All around the flat, grass surface, were giant flowers of all types, all closed, and at the other side of the circle, a narrow staircase made of the same rock material, as in the ancient Mayan structures.

I started walking towards the staircase, but I was still curious about when I was going to encounter my last soul. As I walked past each flower, they started to bloom and as they opened, they revealed people lying inside of them. They were smiling and seemed to be at extreme peace. Stretching, like a baby waking up from a long nap.

I kept walking when suddenly a giant rose spontaneously grew from the soil in front of me and started opening. As it opened, I could notice the silhouette of a man. When the flower had completely opened, the man stood up and turned around. I thought I would immediately recognize this person, but I did not. It was an old man, maybe in his late fifties.

“Accompany me, amico mio. We have much to discuss.” He said this with a soft yet imposing voice.

A second path opened in the circle and so, we followed it. This path was some sort of museum created entirely by nature. It had natural divided sections where different types of flowers were being displayed.

“Isn’t this beautiful? All these living organisms have been given to us as a gift. To be smelled, to work as nourishment, to cure, and most importantly, to amaze us with their amazing looks. I can observe and study them for hours.” All this the mysterious man said, and then kept walking forward, getting ahead of me.

Further along the path, I saw a section for art only. Amazingly it was small plants gathered all together in different colors and shades to shape already existing artworks. Almost like the Pointillism art style. As I came closer, the plants came together to form the artwork and as I walked away, they moved back to their places and the image would disappear. Classics like Van Gogh’s Starry Night, Picasso’s Demoiselles d’Avignon, Edvard Munch’s The Scream, were there, and at the very end of the hall, one of the top classics of all time, Mona Lisa by Leonardo da Vinci.

1200px-Mona_Lisa,_by_Leonardo_da_Vinci,_from_C2RMF_retouchedI found the mysterious man waiting next to the Mona Lisa image. He looked as if he was waiting for me to go to him. When I got to him, he stood quietly for a few seconds, and then spoke.

“I believe that sight is man’s highest sense, because it alone conveys the facts of experience immediately, correctly, and with certainty. Without observation, what we consider to be an object or a proven fact would be no more than a phenomenon without explanation. Sight evokes curiosity of the unknown in us and curiosity of what’s around us leads to knowledge. Sight is a sense given to us, but to observe. To observe is the ability of knowing how to see. I applied that very philosophy in my art and science studies throughout my life.

“In this place we celebrate all kinds of beauty. Even beauty in oneself. A beauty which sometimes requires us to know how to really see it.

“Allow me to act as your Virgil by quoting him. “Bethink thee then how love must be the seed in you, not only of each virtuous action, but also of each punishable deed. Now, to the object of its predilection, love cannot but wish well; this means, of course, that from self-hatred no one need protection.” (Purgatorio XVII.103-108)

There is no doubt that every living thing is beautiful and perfect in its own way. But, are you able to recognize it when it is right in front of you?”

Master Leonardo da Vinci had spoken. I knew who he was now, because I knew what he stood for and the kind of wisdom this man carried throughout his life as an artist, scientist and inventor.

He guided me to the giant flower field where we came from, and with his arm, gave me the signal to keep going towards the staircase. I walked to the staircase, and on top of it, carved in marble was the word “EXCELSIOR”. A word adopted by Master Stan Lee as his all-time catchphrase. A Latin expression which means “Ever Upward”

The staircase looked endless, but that would not stop me from reaching the top. I started climbing the staircase without looking back, and with my eyes looking forward I heard Master da Vinci’s last words to me.

“He is waiting for you.”

Each step I took was like bringing my soul closer to its destination, to where I was supposed to go this entire time. Each step I took, brought more and more light my way, all coming from the very top. Each step I took got me closer to the truth. I was so close.

I’m looking at my surroundings. There are no more narrow walls around me. There is no more shadow being cast over me. The floating sky island is no more. All that’s left are translucent steps in a white space, full of light. As I reach the top, I can see a big pedestal, and on that big pedestal there is someone standing.

With my last breath I climb the last step and say, “I’m here.”

He turns around, and when he does, I see no other than myself looking back at me. I have no words, so I close my eyes to clear my sight, and when I open them, I am now on the pedestal looking down at myself. For a slight moment I understand everything and then I vanish away into the light, and as I fall back into reality, I hear a woman’s voice in my ear.

“Open thy mind; take in what I explain and keep it there; because to understand is not to know, if thou dost not retain” (Paradiso V.40-42)


I opened my eyes and found myself back in reality. Waking up like a newborn baby seeing the world for the first time, I was intrigued by my long journey.

As a result of it, I discovered that the means to escape the dark forest in which I was trapped were always within me. Using images of personalities I admire, I departed on an adventure that taught me step by step how to love oneself and one another. To accept our beautiful nature and work with it for good and like that, awaken our maximum potential which is not something we obtain, but rather something we learn to see.

Last Modified: June 13, 2021