Abandon hope all ye who enter here.



Never mind that Dante in his Divine Comedy inscribed these wonderfully horrifying words on the entrance to Hell…this warning should be posted at the threshold of every hero’s journey.

Oh, sure, we’re full of hope for a while. That’s what the middle of a story is all about. Try, try, and try again. All for naught. By any definition of drama, the antagonistic forces must be greater than the hero’s efforts.

In my weekly class, “Don’t Get It Right, Get It Written”, I’ve been hammering away at the importance of seeing the protagonist’s journey as a necessarily tragic one – all the way to the Act II crisis. If you could interview a worthy protagonist at this threshold, she must (by definition) consider this to be the very “gates of story hell”.

Why hell? Because ye who are determined to go ‘all the way’ (see previous post, “Perfect Laughter“) must leave not just your shoes but also your mind outside these gates. Why the mind? Because with its one foot in the past and the other in the future, the mind is not capable of recognizing the opportunity available in a present moment that’s going…all to hell.

Unquestionably, the mind has proven insufficient for the job. The only way to divest oneself of the liability that the mind has become, is to abandon all hope of it leading to a solution. Hence:

“Abandon hope, all ye who enter here.”

At this critical point, we fall under the influence of something more akin to our soul (about which I make no claim to knowing anything).

We read novels and watch films for the vicarious thrill of living the hero’s conundrum as she is unwittingly confronted with Dante’s dictum. In real life – once we’ve lived enough life and read enough books and watched enough good movies – we can practice abandoning hope in our everyday lives.

I know, I know, it’s a paradox: give up hope in order to open to all that is hopeful about our higher natures.

Sounds like grist for another blog post. One that I promise will be less inscrutable than this one.

Related Posts Plugin for WordPress, Blogger...
Be Sociable, Share!


  1. Sarah says

    Have experienced the exact phenomenon with painting. When I most want to abandon the whole sad project, WHAM – it skips up a whole other level.


Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *