Of Choices and Meaning – Some Thoughts Inspired by Robert Frost

So much to read and so little time!

This morning I read about Robert Frost’s poem ‘The road not taken’. It’s Sunday, my time to read. My only time, pretty much. I could have read anything and had all sorts of things piled up and waiting to be read, online and off-line, and Frost was not among them. Why did I make that choice? Good ask!

Lately, I have been struggling with choosing what to read. There always seems to be more to read and to learn than I could possibly manage. A lot more. Infinitely more, I would say. Feels like a massive wall of knowledge and ideas looms all around and high over my head, and I’m just poking at it randomly, blindly…while new layers are being added constantly. All I do is scratch at this wall here and there, and if I manage to reach deeper or higher it’s only by accident.

It’s funny that Frost’s poem is about choice, and maybe not surprising that it clicked with me given these struggles I have. From what I understand, Frost suggests that our choices are quite random – and they become meaningful to us, as in ‘make a difference’ only in retrospect. So, it’s less about which specific choices we make, and more about what we do with those choices, where they take us.

But making a choice is a deliberate action and must involve some non-random criteria. When I made the choice to read about Frost’s poem and mull over it and see where that takes me, I chose not to pursue other reads awaiting me. That was not a purely random decision, so how did I go about it? Could I have gleaned a similarly deep meaning from an alternative reading, one of the other many pieces awaiting me?  Possibly. I think what kept me at Frost’s poem was the promise of meaningful learning, of personal relevance and growth. Isn’t that what we all seek?

So, the road we end up taking may be ‘not traveled’ but it must appeal to us somehow. I think our choices must be guided by some prospect of meaning, a sign that the road could lead somewhere good, the hope of getting closer to where we are headed…In other words, it can’t be random. There is a compass involved, at least there should be.

Which brings me back to my struggles. I doubt anybody would dispute that nowadays the amount of reading choices is staggering. Having a compass is as vital as ever, if not more so. Getting lost in the woods is now more likely than ever, I fear. Does anybody else feel they must rethink their compass, reset it? I’d give anything to hear Frost’s thoughts about this.

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