While walking Oscar in the woods, each time I reach this point I can hear the words of the American poet Robert Frost contemplating which path to take in life. Of course this poem, below, has a universal appeal and the imagery is powerful as well as accessible. I particularly love the line “way leads on to way”; we don’t always have to be strategic or make a dramatic change merely taking one step at a time will often suffice. Focusing too much on the big picture can be counterproductive or even overwhelming. Frequently, this poem has provided a spur to take that small step, that small risk despite the discomfort.
However, most of the time particularly in this wet and snowy London, my choice is a practical one and I end up taking the least mucky route, physically if not metaphorically.
I am reminded too of the words of the British philosopher AC Grayling who said recently that someone who does not think about life is like a stranger without a map in a foreign land, lost and without directions where any turning in the road is as good as any other and, if it takes him somewhere worthwhile it will have done so by the merest chance. But a word of warning if you are risk averse and it comes from the French philosopher Voltaire (1694-1778) who suggests that those who walk on the well-trodden path always throw stones at those who are showing a new road. I’m hoping that’s not me but I can’t be sure.
Good luck on your own path whether it’s a deliberate choice or not. Just don’t throw any stones!
The Road Not Taken
by Robert Frost
Two roads diverged in a yellow wood,
And sorry I could not travel both
And be one traveller, long I stood
And looked down one as far as I could
To where it bent in the undergrowth;
Then took the other, as just as fair,
And having perhaps the better claim,
Because it was grassy and wanted wear;
Though as for that, the passing there
Had worn them really about the same,
And both that morning equally lay
in leaves no step had trodden black.
Oh, I kept the first for another day!
Yet knowing how way leads on to way,
I doubted if I should ever come back.
I shall be telling this with a sigh
Somewhere ages and ages hence:
Two roads diverged in a wood and I –
I took the one less travelled by,
and that has made all the difference.
Robert Frost 1874-1963