Wednesday, September 10, 2014

The Road Not Taken: A Lesson's Lesson

I just finished a lesson on Frost's "The Road Not Taken." I began with a clip from the movie Dead Poet's Society in which Robin Williams's character gives an erroneously one-sided reference to the poem; the one that sees the speaker's choice as one that resulted in something positive. The poem is ambiguous and to see it otherwise is to turn it into an impotent motivational poster.

Why? Because Frost wasn't stupid enough to think being different is a guarantee to happiness. We all know, from life experience, that being different can result in immense success or in doom. It all depends how the cookie crumbles.

It's like Bradbury (and I love the man deeply) saying "jump off of the cliff and build your wings on the way down." Yeah, that's great, Ray -- it's good advice because it worked for you. What about the guy who doesn't finish the wings in time because he didn't have you talent or luck?

Yeah. SPLAT!

My dad was a lifelong musician who supported a family as a player and arranger and never achieved fame. His advice was less poetic.

The problem is, reasonable advice is not as sexy as spinning around trailing ribbons and singing "follow your heart." The hard part is that when one is really, truly different, one will have reached a place in which it is not externally apparent. One has to let go of ego in order to reap the benefits of true originality. Once you brag about your difference or try to advertise it, you are just like everyone else.

Two roads diverged in a yellow wood and I thought it over and took the one that made sense to my heart and my mind and that didn't lead to a flaming death or a slow descent into madness and starvation...

...and that had made all the difference.

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