Tuesday, October 16, 2007

The Lesser Traveled Road

Eighty-seven years later and the speaker of Frost's The Road Less Traveled speaks again.

* * *

Yes, yes, I know what I said, “I took the one less traveled by,/ and that has made all the difference”. Now, eighty or so years later, not one person has bothered to stop and ask me how I knew then that taking the road that wanted wear has made all the difference or any difference for that matter. Because of this people have used my words to justify all sorts of things: taking dance lessons, learning to paint, traveling cross-country. Yet, too often instead of doing what the person should do, the responsible option, people do otherwise and justify it by thinking something like, “I will do this because fewer people have taken this path. I think I read about it once in a poem.”

In fact just yesterday, as I shopped for apples in the produce section of the grocery, the very thing I just mentioned happened. A lady, mildly attractive with brown hair, glasses, and two children hanging off her like monkeys, approached me and thanked me for speaking such words. They inspired her to do something she never though she would do, she told me. She quit her job to follow her passion. Her passion: sculpting. Though she had never any experience in sculpting, she knew it was her passion and livelihood, and that was good enough for her. I told the lady, who happened to be a husbandless mother, that it was nice she was following a lesser traveled road. It is exhilarating being able to follow one’s true passion in life. However, I questioned her, is passion going to feed a hungry mouth, heat a cold house, or clothe a body? It appeared she had not paused to consider if the road was a better road. Passion was all that mattered.

I have encountered this above scenario a number of times varying in content but nearly always the same in form. It is as if the assumption is made that because a road is less traveled that it is a better road to travel. The thought seems never to occur that there might be a very good reason the road is lesser traveled. It could be the case that the road isn't traveled because it leads to certain doom. Perhaps a troll lives at the end of the road. Maybe the road leads the traveler to an unnoticed pit where the traveler might not be able to escape upon falling into it. Then again, it might just lead back to the older trail and is not used because it is a longer trail.

I should not be surprised that thoughts like these never occur in the minds of the people these days. After all, why should they? People are obsessed with new things, and the lesser traveled road appears to be newer for the fact that it looks less worn. Yet, just because something appears one way doesn’t mean that it is. It could likely be the case that the path that wanted wear was really the more traversed but most lightly treaded upon so as to maintain its appearance -- like no trace camping – wouldn’t that be a whimsical discovery. The road everyone thinks is less traversed is really the more worn. So really, by traveling the lesser traveled road nothing extraordinary would have been accomplished, because it is what everyone already does – kind of like all those silly people trying to be themselves and in doing so discover they are just like everyone else. Besides, if what the old saying says is true, that there is nothing new under the sun, then it can be quite the case that this trail is no newer or less worn than the other. I don’t know. I wasn’t there at its making.

Still, people think that by taking the road less traveled that they are doing something new and something good or better. Argh! No where did I every say the road I took was good and fortunate. All I said is that it “made all the difference.” For all anyone knows, except for me and the a few others, the road could have been dangerous, disastrous, and bad. Where each day I might have been confronted by evil and other menacing things like presidential elections, mother in-laws, and cold stale coffee. For all you know the trail could have taken me right up to the top of Mt. Everest or through the fiery mountains of Mordar. The contrary could be true also; where I encountered fields of butterflies filled with rainbows and sunshine. But whichever I encountered I’m not telling.

It annoys me that people think the road I took was good. As if the fact that it being different qualified it being a good choice or my speaking it years later after I was finished with the road is the only sufficient reason for my choice to be good. Since when did difference become a good thing? Difference for difference’s sake: why is this good? Whatever happened to the good things being what is tried, tested, and useful?

To be honest, I don’t even know if my decision was a good decision or a bad decision for that matter. All I know is that I made a choice and traveled down it. Really, any choice can make all the difference. Likewise, the choice might make no difference at all. I don’t know because I can only travel down one road at a time, and I can only reflect back upon the roads that I have traveled.

I’m not saying don’t travel down roads less traveled, I’m just saying be wise about it. Notice, I did not take the lesser traveled road in haste. I’ve seen many lesser traveled roads while on my road less traveled that I wouldn’t recommend. Jumping off a skyscraper is a lesser traveled road and so is being swallowed by a whale or walking on hot glass, but I wouldn’t suggest doing any of them. Be careful in your decision. Realize that I took one road and then the other to see the claim and lay of each before making my choice. Though I didn’t have much time to make my decision and my information on which to base my decision was limited, I used the information I had and continued down a road.

So I implore you, the reader, to be wise in your decisions, and stop using my words to justify the most ignorant things. I am happy people are inspired by my words, but saddened at their abuse.

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