Near the beginning of Dante’s Inferno (Canto III), Dante encounters a vile group of damned souls, a group that represents most of the people in the contemporary world. Dante and his guide, the ancient Roman poet Virgil, pass through the great gate of hell that bears the chilling warning, “Abandon all hope, ye who enter here.” All around them, they can hear the screams of torment and anguish of the souls of the damned. They find themselves in a dark, dismal landscape, the vestibule of hell, reserved for people who are rejected by both heaven and hell. Hell itself lies across the River Acheron, and Charon, the infernal boatman, is charged with ferrying the damned across the dreadful river. (The River Styx lies deeper within the circles of hell.) But here, in the waiting room of hell, a great host is permanently trapped. They will never escape through hell’s gate, and nor will they ever cross the river. They are in an eternal nowhere.
This is the Vestibule of the Indifferent, the Indecisive, the Neutrals. They are called the “Ignavi” – the lukewarm or cowardly souls who never committed themselves to any cause. They refused to make a choice in life. They were apathetic neutrals, those who remained on the sidelines while great events transpired. They were too weak, feeble and pathetic to reach a conclusion about anything.
The Ignavi are those who leave no mark on the world. They drift through life: non-committal, half-hearted, bland, dreary and grey. They make no meaningful contribution. There are billions of such people. They have never been truly alive; they have never explored their potential and have no concept of living life to the full. They are the anti-Faustians. Most people in the world of this type – zombie consumerists and office workers whose most difficult task each day is shuffling a piece of paper from the in-tray to the out-tray, or deciding what meaningless trinket they will purchase to make them feel good about themselves. They neither know nor care about great causes, about heroic struggles and campaigns to change the world. They would rather watch American Idol.”