Put off this sloth, for shame! Sitting on feather-pillows, reclined beneath the blanket is no way to fame— Fame, without which man’s life wastes out of mind, leaving on earth no more memorial than foam in water or smoke upon the wind.
– XXIV, Inferno
Here and elsewhere, Dante suggests that a man ought to seek the glory appropriate to his place in the world. A teacher ought to seek the glory appropriate to the teacher. The student ought to seek the glory appropriate to the student. The senator ought to seek the glory appropriate to a senator.
A man seeks the glory appropriate to his station in the world so that he does not give in to the temptations of sloth, acedia, and ennui. Humility means submission to a standard of glory which has been handed down by your society. Humility does not mean refusing the work that brings glory, neither does humility mean refusing a certain glory that comes with a certain work.
No man is fit to decide how much glory he should labor for; if a man seeks a glory beyond his station, he is arrogant, and if he seeks a deficient amount of glory, he is slothful. Glory is light. Glory is knowledge. Glory is needed, then. When we speak of man’s glory, we are speaking of our reflection of God’s light. If the teacher does not seek the glory proper to a teacher, he is robbing his students of the right to know God as teacher. If the senator does not seek the glory proper to a senator, he is robbing the people of their right to know God in law, in justice, in statecraft. God’s glory is revealed to greater and lesser extents in nature (the elephant is more glorious than the ant), and His glory is revealed to greater and lesser extents in human institutions, as well. Seeking “too much glory” in one station confuses the community, for it robs the glory of other stations.
Christians often speak derisively of “seeking glory,” but there is little in the classical tradition upon which to base such condemnations. If a man would be humble, he must submit his career, his life and his labor to the forms, to tradition, to the standards of his people— pursuing the glory which God reveals and gives in such submission. God is already the fullness of glory, and we cannot add to His glory. There is no “glorification of God” apart from the glorification of God in the life of man.